Dr. Paul Carmel Laporte (1885-1973) was undoubtedly “the” pioneer of visual arts in Madawaska.1 A native of Verchères, Québec, he came to settle in the region in 1909 and practiced medicine in Grand Falls, Connors, Clair, and then in Edmundston.2 Before arriving in Madawaska, Dr. Laporte had already learned woodcarving. During his high school years, he studied sculpture, painting and fine arts. Thereafter, he became an apprentice to a wood sculptor and a cabinetmaker from Montréal.3 Upon finishing his courses, he worked as a sculptor for forty cents an hour to pay for his medical school studies.4 His medical career did not prevent him from engaging in this art. He carved and taught sculpture until poor health stopped him three years before his death.
Young people in the region were able to benefit from his commitment to the arts. Around 1933, he opened a workshop and once a week, offered free sculpting courses. Those who showed some talent were introduced to him and from that time on, were given tools, lessons and much encouragement.5 Inventor and very skilful handyman, Dr. Laporte invented a piece of furniture for sculptors and painters, which appears on the Bicentennial canvas. It was a workbench to sculpt, a drawing table with toolbox and a seat forming a very solid and condensed whole to provide maximum comfort for the artist at work. He guided three artists from the region: Claude Picard, Albert Nadeau and Claude Roussel.6 Mr. Roussel states:
"Having the chance to see a well-equipped workshop, sculptures and documentary evidence in books and magazines was a remarkable stimulus at that time. During these years, he was the only source of encouragement in Edmundston and his enthusiasm with technique (...) motivated me to take on increasingly complicated problems."7
On a personal level, Dr. Laporte considered art as a hobby. However, he produced numerous wood carvings, the most important being the bas-reliefs of the Anglican pulpit in Edmundston.8 We also credit him for the crest of the Republic of Madawaska9 His influence, through the works of his protégés, is evident in northwest New Brunswick. The paintings of Claude Picard adorn the walls of Centre universitaire Saint-Louis Maillet (St. Louis-Maillet University Centre). The Way of the Cross in Our Lady of Sorrows Church (Église Notre-Dame-des-Douleurs) in Edmundston was sculpted by Claude Roussel.10
For over forty years, Dr. Laporte taught the technique of woodcarving. To promote the works of his students, he organized expositions.11 He also published a handbook on learning how to carve wood.12 In 1940, he founded the “Musée Laporte” at Collège Saint-Louis13 and in 1951, the “Fédération des sculpteurs canadiens” (Federation of Canadian Sculptors).14 His most important legacy was to have instilled in the population of Madawaska a respect and appreciation of sculpture and taste for the arts in general.
He became interested in radio and was a founder of Radio CJEM with the Honourable J. Gaspard Boucher and the Honourable Judge J. Énoïl Michaud. (CJEM is nothing other than the initials of the late J E Michaud with the letter C for Company).
- Our text focuses solely on the influence of Doctor Paul Carmel Laporte in the field of visual arts in Madawaska. In the background, artist Claude Picard painted the Madawaska Historical Museum. Located in Edmundston, this museum was built in 1979 thanks to a regional development project funded jointly by the federal and provincial governments. New Brunswick assumed administrative responsibility at that time. In July 1988, the province signed an agreement with the University of Moncton (CUSLM). The University accepted to administer the museum for a period of 10 years, in return of an annual subsidy of $70,000. The University promised not to change the mission of the museum in order to preserve the legacy collection in the region and to give greater attention to local art. Refer to: Denise D'Astous Morin, "Le Musée du Madawaska cédé au CUSLM" [The Madawaska Museum Transferred to CUSLM], Le Madawaska, July 6, 1988, pp. 1-2a. Denise D'Astous Morin, "Le transfert du Musée bénéficiera à la région" [Transfer of the Museum Will Benefit the Community], Le Madawaska, July 6, 1988, p. 2a.
- Dr. Laporte graduated from Laval University in 1909. The same year, he settled in Grand Falls. He then practiced medicine for five years (1913-1918) in Connors and later then with the support of the Red Cross, founded a private hospital bearing his name in Clair. When fire destroyed the hospital was destroyed by fire in 1930, Dr. Laporte came to settle in Edmundston, where he headed the former Sanita Hospital. In 1946, he founded the "Madawaska Construction" Ccompany which built “Collège Saint-Louis”, “Centre éducatif” [Education Center] and Edmundston City Hall to name a few. In 1956, he was appointed medical health officer and coroner for the County of Madawaska. He held that post until 1962. Refer to: "L'aîné des médecins au Nouveau-Brunswick" [New Brunswick’s Senior Doctor], Le Madawaska, July 5, 1973, p. 14 and "Décès d'un Républicain de la première heure"[Death of a Highly-Respected Citizen of the Republic], Le Madawaska, July 25, 1973, pp. 1-2, and Encyclopédie du Canada, Alain Stanké and Muriel Roy, vol. 1 p. 8.
- Colin S. Macdonald (compiled by), A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, vol. 3, Paperbacks Publishing Ltd., Ottawa, 1971, pp. 742-743.
- "L'aîné des médecins au Nouveau-Brunswick" [New Brunswick’s Senior Doctor], op.cit., p. 14. R.A. Tweedie et al., Arts in New Brunswick, Brunswick Press, Fredericton, 1967, p. 263.
- Claude Roussel, Les arts visuels, in Jean Daigle (under the direction of) Les Acadiens des Maritimes : études thématiques [Acadians of the Maritimes: Thematic Studies], CEA, Moncton, 1980.
- Claude Picard (1932 - ): He turned towards painting. He developed the technique of painting by first taking correspondence courses in commercial art. Then, during his classical studies, in the 50’s, the Eudiste priests provided him studio space in the “Tour du Collège Saint-Louis” (Saint-Louis College Tower) in Edmundston. There, he completed several frescoes, which still adorn the walls of the institution. After his studies, he went for a three-year internship in Europe and worked in museums. He currently lives off his art and he often receives orders for portraits. Claude Roussel, op.cit., p. 602. Albert Nadeau (1915 - ): He followed in the footsteps of Dr. Laporte and remained committed to woodcarving. Born in St. François, he began to sculpt at the age of eight. At 21, he was discovered by Dr. Laporte, who helped him organize a workshop and his first solo exhibition at the New Brunswick Museum in February 1946. He has worked with Leonardo Ottini in Montreal and with J.J. Bourgault in St-Jean-Port-Joli, Québec, where he now lives. He is a member of the “Association professionnelle des Artisans du Québec” [Association of Quebec Professional Artisans]. Claude Roussel, op. cit., p. 601and Colin S. MacDonald, op.cit., Vol. 5, 1977, p. 1349. Claude Roussel (1930 - ): He began by sculpting. Even though he did not receive formal training from Doctor Laporte, he was influenced by him during the period 1945-1949. Roussel went beyond this influence ideologically and became swayed by contemporary artistic movements. But he still remained close to Dr. Laporte by keeping his "missionary sense" and by coming back to the area to teach his art. He is currently professor of visual arts at the “Centre universitaire de Moncton”. Claude Roussel, op.cit., p. 602.
- Claude Roussel, op.cit., p. 601.
- Ibid., p. 601. R. A. Tweedie et al, op.cit., p. 263. His work, influenced in part by Philippe Hébert and Suzor Côté, is very realistic and is sculpted on bas-relief. He uses several types of wood, plaster of Paris and metal embossing.
- The crest represents two shaking hands in a gesture of friendship. "L'aîné des médecins au Nouveau-Brunswick" [New Brunswick’s Senior Doctor], op.cit., p. 14.
- R. A. Tweedie, et al., op.cit., p. 263.
- He would reach out of the local circle and organize exhibitions elsewhere. Albert Nadeau benefitted from this as his work was displayed in the Legislative Library in Fredericton in 1937 and in a solo exhibition in the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John in 1946. Claude Roussel, op.cit., p. 602.
- The publication is "Apprenons à Sculpter / Let's Learn Woodcarving", as quoted by Claude Roussel, op.cit., p. 601.
- "L'aîné des médecins au Nouveau-Brunswick"[New Brunswick’s Senior Doctor], op.cit., p. 14. "Décès d'un Républicain de la première heure" [Death of a Highly-Respected Republican], op.cit., p. 2. « Université Saint-Louis » [Saint Louis University] awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Arts in 1961.
- "Décès d'un Républicain de la première heure"[Death of a Highly-Respected Republican], op.cit., p. 2. R.A. Tweedie et al., op.cit., p. 263. Colin S. Macdonald, op.cit., vol. 3, p. 742.