Beginning in 1915 and for the next twenty years, Marc-Aurèle Fortin would often paint from nature in his native region of Sainte-Rose or around Terrebonne, Saint-Eustache, Pont-Viau, and Sainte-Thérèse. He also painted in Montreal, from the top of Mont-Royal or from Île Sainte-Hélène (translation ours), as is the case in this 1919 sponge watercolour titled Montréal vue de l'île Sainte-Hélène. Sponge watercolour is characterized by gaps in the painted surface, which can be attributed to the way the paper dries.
A gifted watercolourist and tireless traveller, Fortin cycled through the countryside in search of beautiful vistas carrying only his watercolour box and a roll of paper. At that time, the thirty-year-old held company with the painter Clarence Gagnon and the poet Albert Ferland, who wished to highlight the richness of the Quebec terroir by setting the picturesque landscapes of every region at the heart of their work. Above all else, Fortin admired trees; their enveloping and majestic presence cradles this watercolour.