Jacques De Tonnancour

Montreal-born Jacques de Tonnancour was an art critic, writer, painter, teacher, photographer, and entomologist. From an early age, his interests shifted between art and science, and at age 20, he enrolled in the École des beaux-arts de Montréal. However, he became deeply dissatisfied with the school’s strict academic approach and left after three years. De Tonnancour continued his training under Arthur Lismer, a member of the Group of Seven, and joined the Contemporary Art Society. He was also greatly influenced by William Goodridge Roberts and later wrote a monograph on the artist’s work. After a sojourn in Brazil in 1945–46, he turned his attention to still life and portraiture, under the influence of Pellan, Matisse, and Picasso. Staunchly opposed to aesthetic dogmatism and any restrictive notion of the avant-garde in painting, he co-published, with Alfred Pellan, the Prisme d’yeux manifesto. De Tonnancour’s return to landscape in the mid-1950s after a four-year absence from painting. From the 1960s onward, his work became increasingly abstract as collage became his primary means of expression. De Tonnancour began teaching at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal in 1954, then at the Université du Québec à Montréal in 1969. After retiring in 1982, he ceased painting to devote himself entirely to his passion for entomology. Among his many distinctions, de Tonnancour was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1979, and an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec in 1993. He received the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002.