Honorary degree citation - Jean Paul Lemieux*
By: Russell Breen, June 1984
Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Jean Paul Lemieux, eminent Canadian painter, an artist who has defined with boldness and imagination the very essence of our identity as a nation.
Born in Quebec City in 1904, Mr Lemieux studied at Loyola College High School from 1919 to 1925. During his formative years, he spent time in California and Europe, where the exposure to artistic currents prevalent at the turn of the century undoubtedly had a marked influence on his later work. He was a graduate of l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Montréal in 1934, and taught at l'Ecole du Meuble de Montréal from 1935 to 1937. In 1937, he was hired at l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Québec, where he taught painting until his retirement in 1965. He now spends his days in l'Ile-aux -Coudres, where the haunting beauty of the landscape undoubtedly still inspires his unique vision of the world.
Jean Paul Lemieux's reputation on the national and international scenes is well established, and the many honours he has received bear witness to his artistic genius and stature. A member of the Order of Canada and the Académie royale canadienne de l'art, he has received awards from the Canada Council and the Société Saint Jean Baptiste de Montréal. Both l'Université Laval and Bishop's University have conferred honorary doctorates upon him. Mr. Lemieux's works have been exhibited in museums throughout the world, from Paris to the Soviet Union to New York to Latin America. His paintings form part of many Canadian and international collections, including that of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Both UNICEF and the Canadian post office have issued reproductions of his work. Today, in honouring one of our own, we also honour a Canadian creative spirit of the first magnitude ... a man who, in colour and on canvas, tells us who we are and how we see ourselves, in flashes of stark simplicity.
Cette vision si spéciale du monde que nous propose Jean Paul Lemieux se rattache à cette quête sans fin de notre identité collective. Je cite ces quelques paroles d'Anne Hébert, romancière québécoise, en guise d'hommage à cet artiste remarquable qu'est Jean Paul Lemieux: "L'oeuvre de Jean Paul Lemieux, si particulière et personnelle qu'elle soit, n'en demeure pas moins la meilleure introduction, la plus précise, la plus exacte, la plus rêveuse et la plus poétique de notre pays, immense et désert, habité, de ci, de là, par des créatures éprouvant la vie et la mort, dans l'étonnement des premiers jours du monde. Le cour mis à nu, sans faute, dans son évidence irréfutable." Voilà, mesdames et messieurs, le génie créateur de cet homme : il nous met en présence de cette condition humaine que nous partageons tous, et nous représente avec force et honnêteté.
Jean Paul Lemieux is not a man of many words. His is a private world. He defined his outlook in an interview several years ago: "I paint because I like to paint. I have no theories. In landscapes and figures, I try to express the solitude in which we live. In each painting, I try to recall my inner memories. The milieu which surrounds me interests me only because it allows me to depict my inner world... What fascinates me most is the dimension of time; time which passes on and man before this passage of time. I am not in tune with the latest fashions. I am not part of the general current." We are grateful for the solitude which nourishes this rich artistic temperament. It has inspired one of the most remarkable and significant contributions to our cultural heritage.
Mr. Chancellor, it is a distinct honour and privilege for me, on behalf of the Senate and by authority of the Board of Governors, to present to you Jean Paul Lemieux, that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.