The Murals of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Murals
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470 Boulevard Provencher    Location Map
  

The East and North Faces of this beautiful Mural; which depicts the arrival of the voyageurs and settlers to St. Boniface.


Location: SW corner Provencher & La Fleche; East, North and West Face

Occupant: Aurele's Hairstyling

District: St. Boniface

Neighbourhood: Tissot

Artist(s): René J. Lanthier

Year: 2004

Sponsors: Provencher BIZ, Take Pride Winnipeg!

Painters: Annia M., Cdric L.

 

Ren Lanthier: "I approached Take Pride Winnipeg about the possibility of doing more Mural work, and I was put in touch with Aurele's. They were interested in something to embellish their building. They've done a lot landscaping there, but the building was starting to crack and peel and look a little rundown. They really didn't have too much of an idea of what they wanted, but had thought along lines of a landscape with perhaps some woods and a stream. We decided we also wanted something that would reflect the community and have something to do with the area and the French history or community it was situated in. I was known for having done some historical renditions that people seemed to like. We wanted the mural to reflect some of the history of the area and its people."

"Aurele's is situated on land, if not directly on it then very near the land that was given to Jean-Baptiste Lagimodire by Lord Selkirk. His wife is quite well known too, Marie-Anne Gaboury (Lagimodire Gaboury Historical Park is situated just a block northeast of the Mural site). She was basically the first white woman to settle in Western Canada. Both are very well known characters in our St. Boniface history. We know that they settled on land by the Seine River at the junction of the Seine and Red Rivers; and that they had farmland, though we don't know how much land. A respectable size of land would've included the land that Aurele's is on."

"There's a lot of history that speaks of the men of the area but not so much about the women. I thought it would be neat to bring out a woman of importance to the community's history. She's the great great-great-grandmother of so many people in this area, or is related to them in some way or other. They were the grandparents of Louis Riel- their daughter married Louis Riel's father."

"From there I did some reading on Marie-Anne Gaboury to learn about her past and her voyage here; and some of the events that happened once they were established here and tried to pull out some images to reflect these events. Her coming from the East was the reason for that East Wall (Photo 4). There is a depiction of that on the wall, of the Canadian Shield country: a river and rocks and forest- representing coming from the East. Lagimodire had gone to Montral- he was a fur trader, and met and married Marie- Anne. He had promised her that his life as a Voyageur was over and that he would be a family man and establish themselves in Qubec. But as soon as the spring thaw occurred he changed his mind. She consulted with her priest and then decided to go with him rather than worry if she'd ever see him again. Women had never traveled in these Voyageur companies before, it was unheard of, and they faced many hardships on their long journey to the west. In her own words she described it as being as gruelling as everyone warned her it would be. She was lodged in the bottom of a huge canoe packed around with mountains of supplies and couldn't even shift positions without precipitating a tip-over. The hundreds of portages covered rough ground through mud, bogs and over rocky outcrops. They encountered two storms crossing Lake Superior, and even the most hardened Voyageurs were unnerved. At one point a canoe tipped over and several men drowned. She later recited the details of the journey again and again to her grandchildren, including Louis Riel."

"The East Wall is my interpretation of a part of this trip where they are doing a portage. Eventually she became very strong woman and learned to do a lot of things for herself. Sometimes it is mentioned that he would carry her; but I'm sure that he had his own load to manage most of the time so that she would have to carry her weight. The right side of the wall shows the Prairies opening up through the trees. So they are arriving to the lands that will soon be their new home. They arrived in approximately 1805. I wanted to include natives to show that Voyageurs did need the natives as guides and for labour. I wanted to show that, and also show their clothes- the moccasins and such. There's no one figure on this wall that is clearly identifiable as Lagimodire, but one of them is probably him! I purposely did that because I wanted the focus to be on HER."

"How was I going to portray Marie-Anne without pictures? Was she dark hair, short, stocky? I did find some descriptions: by all accounts she was gorgeous, with bright eyes, lovely golden hair and a pale complexion, petite and dainty. And back then, they did wear those big long dresses almost regardless of the circumstance like European women did. She did mention in letters to her family even much later on that she still dressed like a 'proper French woman.' That's why I have her depicted that way here, although of course a lot of it has been left to my own imagination. I tried to bring out as much of the factual things to make it as real as possible."

"For years after they arrived there, they were constantly on the move- they would go all the way up to Fort Edmonton hunting and trading furs. Once she had three or four children she could no longer follow him so he built her a small house. It wasn't much: just a few boards, dirt floor and she stayed there for a few years."

Photo 3: "While travelling in the prairies one day in August 1808, Marie-Anne was riding a new horse. There was a bag of provisions hanging on one side, counterweighted by her child in a papoose sack on the other. The horse had often been used in buffalo hunts. As soon as the horse spotted a herd in the distance, it took off in wild flight. Marie-Anne clung desperately to the mane of the horse until Jean-Baptiste cut across the runaway's path and halted it. It took him quite a while to accomplish this! Only hours later, she gave birth to her second baby. It was a boy who they named Jean-Baptiste Elzar, but was nicknamed 'LaPrairie', a label that stuck with him all his life."

"For the final panel (Photo 2), you have a bison herd with the Manitoba landscape. I was tempted to put some trace of either natives or of European settlers, but I decided to keep it a pure Manitoba scene with a bison being the important element."

"Some people will say I have a particular style, but I tried to attack each painting on its own. I guess there are similarities between this one and some of my landscape paintings. I really enjoy canoeing and hiking in the Manitoba landscape; so I guess that's an influence that can't help but manifest itself in the rendering. Some of the logs and rocks were perhaps somewhat influenced by certain Group of Seven paintings."

"If you really look hard, you can often see changes within the painting. You kind of get pulled into your work and it starts to influence you back: you start projecting what the painting is giving back to you. This happened to me when I was working on the trees. After a while I developed a real feel with what I wanted to accomplish with those trees, and they slightly changed and the way they feel changed! If you look far away it's impressionistic, but looking closer it's painterly and expressive. It's all about getting the mood of the situation and trying to set the mood of what's going on."

"There was lots of rain. The wall did need to be prepped a lot. It was a stuccoed wall that had been painted before. In the process of cleaning the wall, a lot of the paint came off so almost the entire surface of the wall had to be peeled before I could start painting because the stucco was deteriorating under the paint. I could touch the wall and feel that there was movement between the stucco and the paint."

"I didn't use projection on any of the three walls. I had them all drawn to scale beforehand with the windows and doors measured out, and used a grid system. I didn't actually have to draw out a grid on the wall because there were sufficient windows and edges that could be used as points of reference, so that part was basically freehanded. I developed a pretty good relationship with the owners and staff; and I stored all my supplies in their garage. And there was quite a bit more walking traffic there that I would've thought, so there were lots of people stopping to chat and take a look. Pretty much all the comments were favourable!"