Jean-Paul Lemieux 1904 - 1990
- Jean-Paul Lemieux
- Country Club
- signed and dated '72 lower right
- oil on canvas
Exposition Jean-Paul Lemieux, Musée du Québec, Québec, 1974, cat. no. 67. Also shown in Moscow, Leningrad, Prague, Paris and Antwerp.
Lemieux, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 15 November, 1974 - 5 January, 1975, cat no. 66
The society of Quebec City that Lemieux grew up and lived in was a sophisticated and venerable one in the 1920s and 1930s. The city itself was old, settled, and the population in it was greatly varied but highly structured. As the seat of government, the home of Quebec's senior courts, the hub of a marine industry and a major seaport, a military base of considerable size and importance, a university town, and a tourist destination, it was cultured, economically robust, and active when it came to sports and recreational activities. The presence of the church was ubiquitous and the cathedrals, churches, convents, and seminaries were an integral and powerful part of the city's life and therefore of Lemieux's world.
Not surprising was it, therefore, that Lemieux's wide curiosity and his keen observation might encompass any or all parts of that complex community. Certainly he felt compelled to record the religious activities that so dominated and frequently controlled the populace. But he just as often turned to other subjects: the farms and farmers nearby, the landscape up and down the St-Lawrence River, men, women, and young people going about their business or just meeting with each other. And of course the city and its people in the winter, when everything is swathed in white and people bundle up.
A large number of Lemieux's paintings are of people: young people, old people, people going to church, people showing off a new red sweater, perhaps, people walking alone in the snow, people gathering for family picnics, people picking flowers, people talking to other people. Indeed, it was this last that was in many ways the most important for Lemieux, because he attached a great deal of importance to the act of conversation and the business of communication between and among people in society. For him this was an activity that somehow made it possible for us all to exist in a vast and inexplicable universe. He often explored in his paintings what seems to be either loneliness or an antidote to loneliness.
In this exceptional painting Lemieux has found the perfect subject for his considerable abilities to address that aspect of his society that meant most to him: a conversation – in this case of two ladies lunching at the country club. Their elegant dresses, and their splendid and attractive hats make them among the most wonderful of all of Lemieux's countless figures. And their facial expressions and their poses, while perhaps slightly exaggerated because his intent may have been slyly critical, are painted with great subtlety and with genuine affection. What's more, the detail of everything around them is both apt and so adroitly presented, from the plates of fruit and the cutlery before each of them, to the small plate of candy to come after the fruit placed just so on the table, to the white ceramic vase of white flowers with their yellow centres, to the dog sporting in the background. Lemieux has also been exceptional in his composition, in which the figures are set against three large divisions of the canvas: the table with its starch-white tablecloth, the green lawn stretching off to a horizon line, and the darker 'sky,' which provides the perfect backdrop for the ladies' faces. Lemieux even includes two ancillary figures walking out of the picture on either side, a device that complements the other elements of the painting.
This painting has not been seen publicly for many decades, but its bracing freshness and its embracing charm provide a distinct and ample pleasure that will never wither or fade.