Quebec’s Master Sculptors: “Les trois berets” Médard, André and Jean-Julien Bourgault

The Bourgault family of St.-Jean Port-Joli in the Province of Quebec is central to Quebecois art history of the 1900's.  The three brothers – Médard, André and Jean-Julien are known as “les trois bérets".  They were, and continue to be, the catalysts for the wood carving industry in St.-Jean Port Joli. 

Médard  Bourgault (1897-1967) is best known for his religious sculptures which were commissioned by numerous Catholic churches in Quebec.  Médard self-taught himself to carve with a pocketknife during his time as a sailor and became a full time sculptor in 1927. Médard Bourgault created many reliefs of the Stages of the Cross, and statues of the crucifixion. He sculpted 50 statues for “l'église de Saint-Viateur d'Outremont” in Montréal. 

Jesus carry lamb sculpture by Medard Bourgault 

Médard in his studio carving the Jesus Carrying Lamb sculpture (above) currently in the Langford Gallery Folk Art collection:

Medard Bourgault article

Médard is considered the founding father of the Bourgault family of sculptors and ran the family business with his brothers and sister.  For many years Médard and Jean-Julien operated a studio/company together. 

The brothers’ had many apprentices but Médard and Jean-Julien also founded the “École de sculpture de Saint-Jean-Port-Joli” in 1940 with the support of the Quebec government which helped to further the sculpting industry in Quebec.

André Bourgault (1898-1958) worked in his youth as a sailor, lumberjack and woodworker. He distinguished himself with sculptures of rustic rural life in Quebec based upon his own experiences with subjects such as sailors, lumberjacks and farmers.  His sculpting career began in 1932 and he established his own atelier in 1935.  He was the director of the carving school beginning in 1952.  A number of André Bourgault’s sculptures are exhibited at the Canadian Museum of History, Musée de sculpture sur bois des Anciens Canadiens de Saint-Jean-Port-Joli and the McCord Museum in Montreal.

Andre Bourgault Folk Art Carving bookends - Langford Gallery Collection

Langford Gallery Folk Art Collection
      bookends by André Bourgault

Jean-Julien Bourgault (1910-1996) is known for his large reliefs and religious sculptures.  He lived several decades longer than his two brothers and he is credited with popularizing a renaissance of woodcarving in the twentieth century.  Jean-Julien exhibited widely within Canada and internationally.  He received the Ordre National du Mérite (France) in 1964, the Order of Canada in 1970 and a Grand Officer or the Order of Quebec in 1993.   In 1991 he participated with Jean-Paul Riopelle in the Montmagny l'exposition Riopelle-Bourgault which had more than 25,000 visitors.  His works were exhibited at Musée du Louvre in Paris.

Jean Julien Bourgault Folk Art carving of Christ on Cross - Langford Gallery Collection

Large Christ on a Cross by Jean-Julien Bourgault
    from the Langford Gallery Folk Art Collection

Jean-Julien Bourgault’s sculptures can be found in ‘la Cathédrale de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière”, “l'église Saint-Charles Garnier de Sillery” and “l'église de St. Jean-Port-Joli.

The Bourgault’s family legacy also includes master sculptors from later generations, including Lucien and Jean-Raymond (Médard’s sons) and Roger (André’s son).

Roger Bourgault Folk Art Carving Diorama of Two Hunters - Langford Gallery Collection

Diorama of Two Hunters by Roger Bourgault from
                    the Langford Gallery Collection

The Bourgault family has left a significant legacy in Quebec.  St.-Jean Port-Joli is a mecca for the art of wood sculpture. There is also a Museum of wood carving “Musée des Anciens Canadiens”. Art enthusiasts can also take tours of the churches around St-Jean Port-Joli and Quebec City to see Bourgault family carvings.

The Langford Gallery is proud to present a number of the finest sculptures from the Bourgault family legacy.  Médard is represented in the collection by a large Jesus carrying a lamb shown above.  André’s work includes the pair of large elderly couple bookends (above) and a relief of a sailor at the steering wheel.  There are two sculptures by Jean-Julien: the large Jesus on the cross (above) and a large political relief of a school classroom, created at the time of the referendum, with the question posed on the blackboard “Le Canada c’est un pays (sic)?”  Other works in the gallery include a pair of hunters by Roger (above) and the stages of the crucifixion by Lucien Bourgault.

Comments on post  (3)

John says:

J’ai un tee par Andre bourgault

Andrée Castonguay says:

Ma famille a toujours été proche des Bourgault. Dès le début des années, ma grand’mère passait 6 mois par année dans la route de la station. Mon frère Jacques était grand ami avec Jean-Julien qui avait sculpté pour mon frère, son propre portrait. Au Musée de Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, mon frère Jacques a contribué de diverses façons et particulièrement par le don de plusieurs de ses propres écrits au pays de nos ancêtres.

Esther Bourgault says:

Thanks for this touching publication… about my family and the woodcarving. A little sad you don’t have any sculpture from my father(Jean-Raymond) but it’s okay.
Do you know you can visit the house, the home of Médard Bourgault in St-Jean-Port-Joli ? With large sculptures covering the walls of the living room… and many other wood carved pieces, small or bigger, here and there everywhere ? Here, you can have a view… :-) A book will be launched soon, as you can see(I hope you can read French or find someone to translate it for you…)
You’re welcome if you wish to visit !

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