(Sainte-Sophie-d’Halifax, Quebec, 1850 – Westmount, Quebec, 1917)
Famille d’Abénaquis ou La halte dans la forêt
[Abenaki Family, or A Halt in the Forest]
Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec
Photo: Jean Gagnon
Louis-Philippe Hébert’s monumental sculpture Famille d’Abénaquis [Abenaki Family] stands in front of the National Assembly building in Québec City. Unlike the heroes of French-Canadian history that adorn the building’s façade, the Abenaki are not identifiable as individuals. The partial nudity of their idealized bodies associates the four stereotypical figures with the notion of “noble savages” living in the wilderness and still untouched by European civilization. Canadian artists at the turn of the 20th century often portrayed Indigenous people in this way, which years later prompted a response in the work of the artist Jeff Thomas.
The sculptural oeuvre of Louis-Philippe Hébert includes both religious works and national monuments. Recognized as Canada’s first commemorative sculptor, Hébert played a major role in statuary in the final third of the 19th century, when he produced some of the works that stand on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. In 1887, he was commissioned to decorate the façade of Quebec’s new legislative building with a visual national history focused on prominent figures. His Famille d’Abénaquis won a bronze medal at the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition, a first for a Canadian artist.