Trouvère, a fine gouache painting from 1951, unites in a single piece the formal virtuosity, favoured subject matter, and iconoclastic influences of Jean Dallaire, a painter on the margins of the postwar period’s movements and manifestos. The Trouvère, or minstrel, is a juggler and a poet who speaks in the langue d’oïl, a dialect of northern France, and who moves in the same circles as musicians, peasants, and other marginal figures, which Dallaire depicted in rural settings or against mottled backgrounds, typical of his tempera work after 1946. Here, the minstrel appears to pose for the artist in contrapposto, head held high, carried away by his song, mouth wide open revealing a set of jagged teeth like in La Folle (1952). The twilit background, its crescent moon casting a silvery light at the poet’s feet, adds to the lyrical atmosphere of this evocative work.
“Dallaire is very sensitive to the formal vocabulary that Jean Lurçat1 applied to tapestry,” notes Michèle Grandbois in her essay. “It informs the general organization of his surfaces, which he loads up with unabashedly borrowed decorative motifs” (translation ours). The consequence of a hybrid visual language, Trouvère stakes out a post‑Cubist space of flattened planes (violin case, stool, ground, etc.) to present this character, straight out of the commedia dell’arte, costumed head‑to‑toe like a street performer. Imbued with veracity and feeling, Trouvère occupies an enviable spot within the artist’s body of work.
From 1946 to 1952, Dallaire taught painting at the École des beaux‑arts in Quebec City, and exhibited at the Cercle universitaire de Montréal and at the Musée de la province du Québec. In 1951, he realized his largest mural, Québec sous le Régime français, commissioned by the Industrial Alliance insurance company. That same year, he presented four works in the Concours artistiques de la province de Québec, including Françoise lisant and Nature morte aux poissons, which both tied for fourth place.