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Brownstein: 450 years of Quebec history depicted in one painting

Brownstein: 450 years of Quebec history depicted in one painting

From afar, the painting could almost pass as a Baroque classic. Streams of celestial light pouring down. Dramatic depictions of battle and romance figuring prominently. Birds soaring through the sky with noble men and women entering the fray on terra firma.

(Article en Anglais seulement) October 31, 2017 | Last Updated: October 31, 2017 4:24 

Has the McCord Museum managed to get its mitts on a Rembrandt or Rubens? No. That would require fundraisers until the end of this millennium.

On closer inspection, it’s clear this is a more contemporary work. René Lévesque and the Trudeaus, père Pierre and fils Justin weren’t flitting around parlours of Europe during the 17th century. But they are among the dozens of players who appear in a stunning and massive painting by American artist Adam Miller, which will be officially unveiled Thursday evening in a private vernissage at the McCord. It will then be on display to the public from Friday to Sunday at the McCord before moving on for a spell to the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec in Quebec City. A permanent home for the painting is being sought.

“This is clearly not something that was done overnight," Salvatore Guerrera says of Adam Miller's Quebec. "But it also expresses at the same time my beliefs on humanity.”

Decoding Quebec by Adam Miller: Who’s in the oil painting? The companion book, Quebec: A Painting, by Adam Miller (McGill-Queen’s University Press) will also be launched Thursday at the McCord. The painting, partly inspired by artist Benjamin West’s 1771 work The Death of General Wolfe, is simply titled Quebec. It is a chronicle of sorts of 450 years of Quebec history, covering such events as the deaths of generals Montcalm and Wolfe and the Battle of Long Sault through to the October Crisis and the relatively current politicking of Couillard and Marois.

Think of it as a historical undertaking without words and somehow all incorporated into a nine by 10-foot canvas. And think of the 37-year-old artist Miller as a new Old Master. The painting, three and a half years in the works, was commissioned by Montreal entrepreneur and philanthropist Salvatore Guerrera, who wanted to pay personal tribute to the various anniversary milestones being celebrated here this year. 

“I owe so much to this country,” says Guerrera, recently named to the Order of Canada. “My family arrived here from Italy with nothing,” he said. “I don’t think we would have had the same opportunity in many other countries. I just wanted to give back. And I feel this painting is a piece of history, which does just that.”

Guerrera has done well here. His company SAJO, based here, is world renowned for designing and creating interior environments — with clients like Apple, Aldo and Nike, among scores more, around the planet. Guerrera has also given back to the community. He is the vice-chair of Procure, a charitable organization dedicated to fighting prostate cancer. Along with his wife, Diane, Guerrera also is involved with the Cure Foundation, which supports breast cancer research, and the Miriam Foundation, which supports people dealing with autism spectrum disorders.

But art has always been one of Guerrera’s major passions. He has also commissioned other paintings by Yehouda Chaki, J.C. Vilallonga and Geraldo Pace, now on display at Concordia. Adam Miller’s painting titled Quebec will be on display at the McCord Museum. Guerrera sees the Quebec painting as breaking down into distinct parts, from early history to the present, and is in awe of Miller’s ability to bring it together.

“It’s so rare to see this much action in one piece,” Guerrera says, while pointing out details both large and minute — including a nearly microscopic image of Charles de Gaulle — on the canvas. “This is clearly not something that was done overnight. This is epic. But it also expresses at the same time my beliefs on humanity.” “For the last 10 years,” Guerrera adds, “I had been reading about figurative art. Abstract and contemporary pieces can be nice to look at, but when you look at figurative, it’s a different.

“I had come upon a figurative painting of (Miller’s), Arcadia, and was so taken by it. I visited his studio and told him I would buy it on condition that I could commission another piece. He had no idea what it was going to be, but he agreed. And I couldn’t be more delighted with the outcome.”

AT A GLANCE

The painting Quebec, by Adam Miller, is on display at the McCord Museum, 690 Sherbrooke St. W., Friday from 10 to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, call 514-861-6701.

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Retrieved from Montreal Gazette http://montrealgazette.com/entertainment/local-arts/brownstein-450-years-of-quebec-history-depicted-in-one-painting

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