Owen Chicoine, painter, 1916-1982

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Photograph of painter Owen Chicoine.

Owen Chicoine was born in the Gaspé village of Belle-Anse on July 4, 1916. He was the youngest of the seven sons of Annie Girard and William James Chicoine, descendants of Irish and Jerseyese who settled in the Gaspé Peninsula in the 19th century.

Drawing and painting interested Owen as a child, but as he says, "In those days there was little time for painting; A young person was required to earn a living." Thus, he left school at a very young age to work in different professions. However, his short school education left him with a taste for knowledge that he would later satisfy.

On December 4, 1942, Owen Chicoine married Thelma Lego of Belle-Anse. A few days later, he voluntarily enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces to avoid being conscripted. The couple had one child, James Edward, who was born while his father in England was waiting for the signal for the Normandy landings. The war would indirectly play an important role in Owen Chicoine's artistic journey.

Wounded in June 1944, near Caen, he was repatriated and had to be hospitalized for three years. Owen learned to paint during these long years of hospitalization. She is particularly interested in the courses taught by Marian Scott. Cyril Hotton, a friend from the Gaspé Peninsula and a literature student at McGill University, introduced him to the world of arts and letters. In the meantime, his marriage was dissolved.

Once he recovered, Owen turned resolutely to painting. He enrolled at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts School, then under the direction of Arthur Lismer. He spent three years there rich in research and encounters. After completing his first class, he taught at the School of the National Gallery, as well as at McGill University.

In 1953, he left Montreal for a training trip to Mexico. This trip is made easier for him by a scholarship. He frequented the Instituto San Miguel d'Allende as well as some artistic circles in Mexico City. But homesickness overtook him and he returned to settle in the Gaspé Peninsula. He worked in Murdochville and painted in his spare time. It was during this time that he met Clara Arsenault, whom he married on August 13, 1956. The couple immediately embarked for Europe with the intention of moving to Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Owen spent long periods of time in the galleries and museums of Holland, England and France. Even though their plan to live in the Alpes-Maritimes did not come to fruition, the couple made a decisive decision: Owen would devote himself solely and entirely to painting.

Thus began a period of creative effervescence. It was the beginning of the sixties, spring years when Quebecers were giving birth to a new country. Owen set up a first gallery, open to visitors, under the eaves of Captain Duncan's store. Facing the small seaport of Mal-Bay, Owen Chicoine found his inspiration, his truth. All shapes, all the play of light and shadow would come from the sea. He would not deviate from this throughout his career.

After choosing Mont-Saint-Hilaire as his permanent home, he returned to paint and exhibit at the Moult Baies, which he had built in Mal-Bay overlooking the sea, a few nautical knots from Bonaventure Island.

The sixties were the painter's most prolific period. Exhibitions followed one another, although he worked away from the currents and fashions, and did not receive official critical acclaim. Owen Chicoine painted more than five hundred paintings. Struck down in 1970 by an illness that did not remission, he continued to paint on small formats. But from the middle of the decade, he spent many years in hospital. Owen Chicoine died on December 23, 1982. (Source: Clara, Louise, Marc, Nathalie and Hans Chicoine, "Un grand texte de mer", Gaspésie, June 1990, no. 110, p. 37-39.)

Reference :

Musée de la Gaspésie. Série Owen Chicoine. P57/28/5.

1 Comment

Marilyn Thibeault

My grand-mother passed away and left us with two original Owen Alexandre Chicoine paintings.

She smoked, so they would need some restoration. Would you know where we could appraise them?

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