Various elements are spread out on a wooden table: a charcoal drawing on yellowed paper, paint brushes in a glass of water, tubes of paint, a compass and a bust. In the background is a painting of a group of women.

Ozias Leduc

(Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, 1864 – Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, 1955)


La Phrénologie



Oil on wood panel

33.8 x 27.2 cm

Purchased in 1992

Collection Lavalin of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, A 92 644 P 1

Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay

La Phrénologie [Phrenology] is an illusionist still life. Although the title refers to phrenology, the real subject seems to be painting. In depicting paint tubes, brushes, a painting in the background, an anatomy book and a phrenology bust, the work deals with painting as both a craft and a science. These biographical and symbolic references represent Leduc’s musings on his own work as a painter. Like other of his still lifes and genre scenes, La Phrénologie is part of a broad reflection on that subject.

Ozias Leduc was a prolific Quebec painter. Between 1890 and 1955, he decorated more than thirty church and chapel interiors in Quebec, Nova Scotia and New England. In addition to religious works, Leduc produced many spiritual paintings, such as La Phrénologie. He also contributed to Le Nigog (1918), a nonconformist arts magazine. His work teems with contradictions in a subtle blend of conventional and experimental, sometimes in the subject matter, other times in the treatment. As a paradoxical result, the painter is known as both a traditionalist and an ultramodernist.


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