The Quebecois painter Jean Paul Lemieux (1904–1990) once said, “Childhood is light and joy, the age of perfect happiness. It is possible to be happy before the age of ten, and after the age of fifty. Between those two ages it is all struggle and bitter combat.” The artist’s symbolic universe is crystallized in 1910 Remembered. In the work he is flanked by his parents, both rendered in side view, facing each other across the canvas. Veritable pillars of a tenderly happy childhood, they frame the little boy in the tight pictorial space, giving him their benevolent protection.
Did Lemieux mean to evoke his father’s frequent absences from home by showing him half in and half out of the picture? At age six a child’s consciousness of self is mediated through their parents. Behind the family trio smaller figures move away over the low horizon and into the park—their comparatively tiny shapes emphasizing the immensity of the luminous, cottony sky. Clouds pass over the scene and balance the masses of colour that would otherwise be overwhelmed by the light, flat area that extends over almost the whole surface.
This Spotlight is excerpted from Jean Paul Lemieux: Life & Work by Michèle Grandbois.