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Portrait of Gertrude Leduc
© Estate of Ozias Leduc / SODRAC (Montréal)

Ozias Leduc
Portrait of Gertrude Leduc 1940
Oil on composite wood-pulp board
Bequest of Gertrude Leduc, Montreal

One of the most personal and evocative Canadian artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Ozias Leduc worked principally as a church decorator. Over the span of his long career he also produced a great number of easel paintings and drawings of still-lifes, symbolist landscapes, genre scenes, and portraits. The National Gallery owns a total of sixty-sevenworks by Leduc, including a good number of his studies for the decorations for the church of Saint-Hilaire (1891) and the chapel of the Bishop's Palace in Sherbrooke (1922). Born in Saint-Hilaire de Rouville, Quebec, Leduc was the second of ten children of Émilie Brouillette (1840-1918) and Antoine Leduc (1837-1921). It was clearly a close and affectionate family, and prior to 1900, various members served as his principal models. Leduc's younger brother Ulric posed for the National Gallery's drawing (1892) and oil (1892-99) of a youngboy playing a harmonica, Boy with Bread, and Honorius Leduc posed for the canvas The Young Student (1894).

These intimate friendships continued with a later generation as evidenced in the superb portrait of the artist's favourite niece, Gertrude Leduc, generously bequeathed to the National Gallery by the sitter. The artist had first portrayed Gertrude, daughter of his brother Ulric, in a pastel portrait around 1920. Almost twenty years later he depicted her as a mature woman. In the preparatory drawing for the oil, also bequeathed by the sitter to the Gallery, the subject is seated in a three-quarter view, clothed in a housedress, her hands resting on her lap. In the painting she wears more formal attire - a green evening gown, silver shoes, a pearl necklace - and demurely holds her clasped hands in her lap. A framed canvas, undoubtedly one of the artist's landscapes, occupies the upper right corner. The pose and interpretation recall Leduc's portrait of his friend Florence Bindoff (1931-35; Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec), though his portrayals of the two subjects differ considerably. Florence appears elegant and at ease, though reserved, whereas Gertrude seems more personable if somewhat tense. Leduc has captured the complexities of his niece's personality with affection and insight.

The Gallery owns only two portraits by Leduc, both from early in his career: My Mother in Mourning (c. 1890) and the artist's self-portrait (1899) together with its charcoal study. Gertrude Leduc has also kindly bequeathed a small drawing (1893) of Ozias Leduc's sister Ozéma reading, a study related to the canvas Girl Reading (1894; Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec). Portrait of Gertrude Leduc is a wonderful complement to the National Gallery's holdings of works by one of the finest Canadian artists of the period.