Antoine Plamondon

"His expertise as a painter and as an analyst of human character make Plamondon a faithful and revealing chronicler of Quebec high society in the middle of the nineteenth century."

John R. Porter

Antoine Sebastien Plamondon is primarily remembered for his portraits of members of the rising middle class in Quebec society and for his paintings of religious subjects. He considered himself to be a pupil of the French school, and his academic neo-classical training is evident in work produced after 1830.

Plamondon apprenticed to Joseph Légaré from 1819 to 1825, restoring paintings saved from the French Revolution. Later he studied in Paris (1826-1830) with Jean-Baptiste Paulin Guérin, who was a student of neo-classical painter Jacques-Louis David and court painter to King Charles X. Plamondon returned to Canada in 1830 and began a successful painting career. His most productive years were 1835 to 1845 when he produced commissioned portraits of the secular and religious bourgeoisie of Quebec City, including portraits of four young nuns from prosperous families who were serving at the Hôpital-Général in Quebec City.

In Sister Saint-Alphonse (1841), the nun's habit provides the basis for the triangular composition. The book she holds signals her religious devotion, and the lines of the chair frame the subject and strengthen her visual presence. The neo-classical style is apparent in the composition, the use of light and the modelling of the subject.

In 1850 Plamondon retired to Neuville, outside Quebec City, where he opened a studio and lived as a gentleman farmer. During this later period, he painted a number of secular works including Still-life with Apples and Grapes (c.1870) and The Flute-player (1867). Later, in 1871, he began to paint portraits from photographs. He outlived the currency of his classicist assertions and is said to have been a stranger in the world of late-Victorian art. He painted his last work in 1882.

Photography: M.O. Hammond Collection, National Gallery of Canada Archives

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