Arthur Villeneuve

Sometimes qualified—rightly or wrongly—as art naïf, art brut, or folkloric art, Arthur Villeneuve’s œuvre resists categorization with any major art movement that has marked Quebec in the 20th century. Villeneuve made his first drawings in a school notebook in 1946. Eleven years later, he abandoned his barbershop trade and began painting the entire surface, inside and out, of his 510-square-metre home in “Le Bassin,” a popular borough of Chicoutimi (now Saguenay). For the next two years, Villeneuve worked obsessively on his project, spending up to 100 hours a week painting his colourful frescoes depicting the history and attractions of his region, as well as other imaginative subjects. In 1959, he opened his house to the public as a tourist attraction, and captured the attention of Stanley Cosgrove who introduced him to a broader public. In addition to his house, which was the subject of a National Film Board documentary in 1964, Villeneuve created a prolific body of work composed of some 4,000 paintings and 2,000 drawings. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts held a retrospective of his work in 1972, and he received the Order of Canada that same year. In 1994, four years after his death, his famous house was moved and put on permanent display inside the Musée de la Pulperie, in Chicoutimi.