Dr. François-Marc Gagnon (1935–2019)
Dr. François-Marc Gagnon, who passed away on 28 March 2019, was the Founding Director and Distinguished Research Fellow of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art. Dr. Gagnon was internationally recognized as an outstanding senior scholar in Canadian visual culture. In 1999, he received the Order of Canada. In June 2012, he was honoured by the Historical Society of Canada with the Sir John A. Macdonald prize, a Governor General’s History Award for Scholarly Research. In 2013, has won the Canada Prize in the Humanities for The Codex Canadensis and the Writings of Louis Nicolas. He was a teacher, researcher, writer, and lecturer, and a tireless promoter of Canada’s visual heritage. A dynamic and inspiring teacher, he taught at the Université de Montréal for thirty-five years. He was also a lecturer in Concordia’s graduate art history program. Dr. Gagnon was a prolific researcher and received the Governor General’s Award for his 1978 critical biography of Paul-Émile Borduas. His other books include La Conversion par l’image (1975), Paul-Émile Borduas: Ecrits/Writings 1942-1958 (1978), Paul-Émile Borduas (1988) for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Chronique du mouvement automatiste québécoise 1941-1954 (1998), Jean Berger : Peintre et complice? (2010) and The Codex Canadensis and the Writings of Louis Nicolas (2012). Other numerous monograph studies span the history of Quebec art, including such publications as Premiers peintres de la Nouvelle-France (1976) to writings on Riopelle. Dr. Gagnon also wrote a substantial number of essays for exhibition catalogues and curated a number of these exhibitions. In addition he regularly contributed chapters to a lengthy list of books on Quebec visual culture. He was also a regular contributor to the Journal of Canadian Art History/Annales d’histoire de l’art canadien and was a member of its editorial board, among others. Two issues of the JCAH/AHAC 32:1 (2011) and 33:1 (2012), are a tribute to his extraordinary accomplishments in all aspects of the discipline of Canadian art history; guest-editor Sandra Paikowsky commissioned scholars in the field of Canadian art history whose work, in one way or another, intersected with Dr. Gagnon’s own writings, lectures and teaching. Many of his publications have received awards and all of his writings take pride of place in the history of Canadian and Quebec art. In addition, Dr. Gagnon was an honoured speaker at numerous scholarly conferences across Canada and also reached the wider community through his television series entitled “Introduction à la peinture moderne au Québec for Canal Savoir.” From 2001–2014, he presented a series of annual lectures on aspects of Canadian art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in conjunction with the Jarislowsky Institute. He served on various boards of museums and was constantly called upon as a consultant to art and academic institutions. He taught two brilliantly conceived e-Concordia courses: “Introduction to Canadian Art” and “From Realism to Abstraction in Canadian Art.”
A pillar of Canadian art history, an adventurous and penetrating scholar, an inspiring teacher and public lecturer, François-Marc Gagnon was an indomitable spirit, a force for the importance of visual art and its understanding. The leading expert on the work and life of Paul-Émile Borduas – the pioneering author of the Borduas catalogue raisonné – François-Marc Gagnon threw his net much wider into Quebec and Canadian art, focussing his curiosity, rigour, empathy, and wit on a remarkable range of topics, including natural history – The Codex Canadensis – and historiography – the Writings of Louis Nicolas.