As the winter of 1797 drew to a close . . . François Baillairgé got to work, choosing . . . a specific verse from the Gospel of Saint John (19:26): “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!”
—René Villeneuve, 2003
François Baillairgé’s work and artisanship in ornamental sculpture was a major influence on later generations of Quebec artists.
Son of a master-carpenter and architect, Baillairgé became an apprentice in his father’s shop when he was 14 years old. He later went to study in Paris at the Académie Royale – a unique accomplishment for an artist from the colony. After three years, he returned to Quebec with a strong foundation in European sculpture and architecture, as well as a solid base in painting.
Baillairgé was commissioned to produce altarpieces and decorative works for many Quebec churches as well works for private collections. He was known for creating highly expressive pieces that blended neoclassicism with the dramatic baroque style of the 17th century. His son, Thomas, later trained with him, and the family continued to have a significant presence in the Quebec art world for decades.