Pauline Boutal: An Artist’s Destiny, 1894 – 1992
by Louise Duguay, Trans by S.E. Stewart (UofM Press, 2015)
A non-fiction pick by Jean-Louis
Unless you are an artist yourself, very few Canadian artists are known besides the famous Group of Seven or maybe Emily Carr. In this wonderful book published by the U of M Press (original French publication by Editions du blé, 2008) we get to learn about the wonderful Manitoba artist Pauline Boutal.
The book features over 200 images of her work or photographs from her life as well as a lively discussion of her life, triumphs, and adventures. Mme Boutal was born in Brittany in France into a family of stained glass artists. In 1907 her family was convinced to try out Canada and they moved to the small community of St. Laurent in Manitoba’s Interlake region. While the family enjoyed this challenge, they spent only a few years there before moving into St. Boniface and the heart of French Manitoba culture.
Pauline Boutal grew up in an artistic milieu and over her lifetime she had three types of artistic careers: she spent 23 years as a fashion illustrator with Brigdens of Winnipeg working on projects such as the Eaton’s catalog, 27 years as the artistic director of Cercle Molière (the preeminent French theatre company in Western Canada), and 70 years as a visual artist.
She studied drawing at the foot of her father and grandfather, at art schools in Winnipeg, Paris, and in Maine. She produced works in many forms and was also commissioned to do portraits of prominent Manitobans. Her work garnered numerous awards and she herself was recognized both nationally and internationally for her contributions to French culture and art. The book catalogs all of her honours and major exhibitions. The narrative of the book, which is generously populated with excerpts from her own correspondence, gives us a lively view of a true Manitoba artist!