Week 7 - The Musée d'art de Joliette collection
Updated: May 12, 2020
The very special history of the Musée d'art de Joliette is reflected in the eclecticism of its rich collection of over 8,500 objects. Founded in 1967 by the Clerics of Saint-Viateur under the impetus of the very dynamic Father Wilfrid Corbeil, the Musée d'art de Joliette (MAJ) combines the ancient and the contemporary, the religious and the profane. In this sense, the MAJ's collection is quite unique in the Canadian museum landscape and reflects the important place of art and culture in the Lanaudière region.
An interest in avant-garde artistic practices has long been embedded in the DNA of the Musée. Already in 1942, Father Corbeil had a keen eye, as evidenced by the exceptional Exhibition of Modern Painting Masters that he organized at the Séminaire de Joliette. It was on this occasion that Paul-Émile Borduas' very first Automatist work was presented to the public! In addition to Borduas' paintings, the exhibition included works by Alfred Pellan, John Lyman, Louise Gadbois, Marc-Aurèle Fortin and Goodrige Roberts.
The Clerics of Saint-Viateur then undertook to acquire each year "paintings most representative of Canadian art," while continuing to enrich the collection through acquisitions in ancient art and major donations, such as that of Canon Wilfrid Tisdell in 1960. A great art lover, this American born to a French-Canadian mother had studied at the Séminaire de Joliette, to which he bequeathed his magnificent collection. It is thanks to him that the MAJ now has the privilege of owning precious works, such as a magnificent bronze by Rodin, The Head of Saint John the Baptist on a Platter, or the exceptional geminated wood sculpture, Virgin of the Apocalypse and the Trinitarian Saint Anne, a very rare work from a workshop in Ulm, Germany.
The priceless Tisdell donation gave our collection its special vocation: to bring together the ancient and the modern, the profane and the religious. This impetus prompted Father Corbeil to sweep through Quebec in the 1960s to salvage the works of art and architectural elements that adorned the churches of the time. The Museum's main focus then was to acquire Canadian and European sacred art, thus becoming the ultimate refuge for a heritage at risk.
Father Corbeil wanted to build a museum that would be a cathedral dedicated to the visual arts beyond movements and eras, a vision that continues to inspire us today. That is why the largest portion of our collection is in the field of contemporary art. This is a predominant axis of collecting, although we are always delighted to add exceptional ancient works to our collection.
We are proud of the eclectic nature of our collection: this exceptional richness allows us to put works and periods in conversation.
This article was written by Émilie Grandmont Bérubé, Curator of the Collections at the Musée d'art de Joliette.
Anonyme, Vierge de l'Apocalypse et sainte Anne trinitaire, between 1480-1520
Auguste Rodin, Tête de saint Jean-Baptiste sur un plat (no. 2), 1887
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