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In the House of Paul-Émile

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Musée des beaux-arts de Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Quebec

In the house of Paul-Émile
This lesson's main objective is to communicate and appreciate the importance of Paul-Émile Borduas on an artistic and social level.
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Learning Object Collection: In the house of Paul-Émile
Activity 1: A place for art, a place to live
Questions (first view the video sequence):

- Which architectural style does the house remind us of?
- Who did Borduas think about when planting trees?
- Where did most of the furniture come from?
- Who does the house become a meeting place for?
- How could the environment of Saint-Hilaire have influenced the work of Borduas?

Learning Objectives:

- Learn about the location of Paul-Émile Borduas’ house.
- Appreciate the importance of the house environment on his family life and artistic production.
- Visualize the harmony between elements of the house, from architecture to furniture.
- Learn about the influence that european architecture from the 1920 to 1940 period had on the house’s design.
Activity 2: A cherished mountain

- What were some of the Borduas family activities over the seasons?
- Identify three themes from the work of Borduas that are characteristic of Saint-Hilaire.
- How did Borduas perceive nature?
- During his first trip to France in 1928-1930, what was it that Borduas never forgot?

Learning Objectives:

- Appreciate the changes brought on by the seasons in the life of the Borduas family.
- Understand the influence of St-Hilaire and its environment on Borduas’ work.
- Learn more about the nostalgia felt by Borduas towards his native St-Hilaire all through his life.
Activity 3: A global refusal

- What is the social climate after World War II?
- Where does the nickname of "Automatistes" come from?
- Why were printers reluctant to print the "Global Refusal" manifesto?
- What were the consequences of the manifesto's publication on Borduas' life?

Learning Objectives:

- Understand the social context of post-war Québec.
- Discover the origin of the Automatists and the manifesto’s genesis.
- Learn about the manifesto’s publication.
- Appreciate the impact that the manifesto’s publication had on society at that period.
Activity 4: Exploring Borduas' art

- How can we describe stylistically the Stations of the Cross in Rougemont?
- Name some of Borduas' work influences.
- What does Borduas want to express through his work?
- What are the characteristics that the artist tries to integrate in his work "Self Portrait" (1928)?

Learning Objectives:

- Discover the artist’s evolution through his work.
- Learn about Borduas’ apprenticeship with Ozias Leduc.
- Learn more about Borduas’ artistic influences.
- Visualize the various techniques used by the artist in the context of his stylistic evolution.
Activity 5 : Artistic project on automatism
First explain the notions of surrealism and automatism in painting.

- Surrealism: Expression invented by artists to describe images that are beyond logic, similar to dreams. The Surrealists are influenced by the dream universe, as if the artist was illustrating one of them.
- Automatism in painting: The artist lets his hand run freely on paper or canvas as if colors and shapes had a life of their own.
Pencil, gouache, crayons, oil pastels, marker pens, colored pencils, paper
Ask students to let their pencils run freely on paper without thinking and by using one color only. Then, with the help of available material, students fill in the blank spaces and shapes created by the lines.
Learning Objectives:

- Help understand visual automatism through an artistic project.
Activity 6: The river of time
Questions (first view the video sequence):

- What is the first contact Borduas has with art?
- Why did Borduas travel to France in 1928?
- From 1942, what characterizes the artist's work?
- What event marks the life of Borduas in 1955?

Learning Objectives:

- Understand Borduas’ chronology of artistic development.
- Appreciate the influence of Borduas’ travels on his artistic opinions.
- Discover a young Borduas’ work.
- Understand the impact of the "Refus global" manifesto’s publication on Borduas’ life.
- Learn more about the last years of Borduas’ life in New York and Paris.
Activity 7: Looking back

- What is the major contribution of the work of Borduas on Canadian art?
- How has the perception of his work changed since Borduas' time?
- What has been the impact of the "Refus global" manifesto on Quebec society?

Learning Objectives:

- Learn about the importance of Paul-Émile Borduas in canadian art history.
- Understand the impact of the artist’ and publication of the "Refus global" manifesto.
- Appreciate the influence of Borduas on today’s artists.

Learning Objectives

Lesson’s objectives

This lesson’s main objective is to communicate and appreciate the importance of Paul-Émile Borduas on an artistic and social level. Born in Saint-Hilaire, a village located South of Montreal, Borduas designs and builds a house that was unique for its time. The house is first used as a summer cottage from 1942 to 1945, since the Borduas family lives in Montreal during the rest of the year. In 1945 they move to Saint-Hilaire permanently until 1952. This house, whose style evokes the "De Stijl" movement and the architect Le Corbusier, becomes the strategic headquarters of the intellectual and artistic avant-garde of the time. Borduas not only produced an impressive number of works but also wrote Refus global, a manifesto that 15 contemporary avant-garde artists contributed to and signed.


Students may work individually or in teams, according to the teacher’s decision and the availability of computers for the consultation of digital assets.

To begin with, verify with a discussion the class’ perception of:

- who was Paul-Émile Borduas,
- what was the social landscape in which he created,
- what is the importance of art for a society,
- what can stimulate the writing of a manifesto,
- what are the influences of an artist’s environment on his creations.

Write of the blackboard the artist's name and the village where he was born and lived, then locate it on a map, between river and mountain.