Collection of Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, Wilcox, SK.The college is a co-educational school grades 9-12; its excellent athletics program has produced a disproportionate number of NHL players and fine professional athletes
Nicholas de Grandmaison. Jean Beliveau
Nicholas de Grandmaison RCA, O.C. Canadian (1892-1978) Jean Béliveau c. 1960s Pastel on paper
N.B. Exhibition ends January 30, 2013.
In sports they are referred to as ‘walk-ons’, potential players who just turn up unannounced at the practice field to try-out for the team. MOCA Calgary experienced something the same this week. Amidst the success of hosting Andy Warhol’s the Athlete series, two compelling sports pictures literally turned up on our doorstep. Through the kind recommendation of friends we add to our exhibition two outstanding athlete portraits by renowned western Canadian artist Nicholas de Grandmaison. The artist was commissioned to make pastel portraits of legends Jean Béliveau and Ron Lancaster. They are lent courtesy of Murray Athol College of Notre Dame, Wilcox, Saskatchewan: a respected school with an outstanding history of producing fine athletes.
MOCA artistic Director Jeffrey Spalding welcomed the unexpected addition to the exhibition:
“de Grandmaison is one of the most highly regarded portrait painters in the history of western Canada, and these athletes are pinnacle Canadian icons. De Grandmaison’s signature style within the grand traditional methodologies of the academies makes for a striking comparison with the contemporary renditions by Warhol. Though evidently different, they share amazing numbers of shared traits. Art lovers of all stripes will find this juxtaposition of great interest.”
Jean Béliveau visited Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in the early 1960’s. In this photo he signs autographs for students in the presence of Father Murray of Notre Dame. (note: over hi s shoulder is a first nations pastel portrait of “Wolf Tail” (Peigan ) 1930 also painted by de Grandmaison). These portraits were in all likelihood commissioned by Father Murray; the school owns an extensive collection of portraits by de Grandmaison.
Béliveau born 1931 was the towering 6 ft. 3 in. centre for the Montreal Canadiens (1950–1971). As a player, and captain of the Canadiens he won the Stanley Cup 10 times, and as an executive he was part of another seven championship teams, the most Stanley Cup victories by an individual to date. He was the team's all-time leader in points, second all-time in goals and the NHL's all-time leading playoff scorer. He scored 507 goals and had 712 assists for 1,219 points in 1,125 NHL regular-season games plus 79 goals and 97 assists for 176 points in 162 playoff games. His jersey number (#4) was retired on October 9, 1971. He is the second all-time leading scorer in Canadiens history, behind Guy Lafleur. Only Henri Richard (1256 games) and Larry Robinson (1202 games) played more games for the Habs. He was named to the NHL First All-star team 6 times and Second All Star team 4 times.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame, 1972 and was awarded the Order of Canada.
Nicholas de Grandmaison RCA, O.C. Canadian (1892-1978)
Ron Lancaster c. 1960s Pastel on paper
Collection of Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, Wilcox, SK. The college is a co-educational school grades 9-12.
At 5’ 5” Ron Lancaster was something of a football marvel. Overlooked by the NFL because of his height, he found a home as star quarterback with 16 seasons played with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders(1963–1978), he led the team into the playoffs 14 consecutive times, to the CFL's Western Football Conference final 12 times. During that period, Saskatchewan represented the West in the Grey Cup five times (1966, 1967, 1969, 1972, and 1976); winning in 1966.
He was the first quarterback in CFL history to reach 50,000 career passing yards, was a finalist for the Schenley Award as most outstanding player in 1966, 1970 and 1976, (winning in 1970 and 1976), was an All-Canadian in 1970, 1973, 1975 and 1976 and a Western all-star in 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1975 and 1976.
These outstanding de Grandmaison portraits were likely made in the 1960s. They make for useful comparison with the method and approach selected by Warhol for his more contemporary project of 1977-79. Nevertheless there are areas of confluence and similarity. Clearly de Grandmaison fits within a grand tradition of excellence and craftsmanship and artistry in the handmade portrait. The artist creates striking resemblances of the sitters, rendered in a deft, skillful yet economic way. In this way they harken to old masters methods and techniques. De Grandmaison commences with a blank sheet and works his way towards achieving a satisfactory likeness, stopping short of full photographic exactitude. Warhol comes at it from the inverse angle. His source start is a fully descriptive photo negative. He chooses to eliminate details reduce and remove elements to make the work wore oblique, more abstract. In a sense both artists move towards the same intended middle ground.
They use some related mannerisms. Both decided to bring resolution and high definition to key facial features, while allowing peripheral areas to dissipate and break down into scantily traced outlines and incomplete gestures that only suggest and imply the completion of the figure rather than entirely encircle and finish every exacting detail. In the Warhol Gretzky print he isolates the face by a surrounding solid square ‘halo’ of strong colour. Similarly, de Grandmaison heightens and darkens the colour of the area immediately outlining the face. Both artists use artistic license in the gentle way in which they introduce subjective colour choices to overlay, colourize and otherwise adorn their subjects. Both show flair of application of dashes of lines and cross-hatching to add visual and textural interest to the page.
Jeffrey Spalding CM RCA