Jean Dallaire Figure Painting a Rare Early Canvas

Alan Klinkhoff with Jonathan Klinkhoff

Jean Philippe Dallaire, Adele, 1936

Adèle, 1936, is a striking and modern painting executed by then-20 year-old Jean Dallaire. It compares to other museum quality figure paintings by the artist.

This painting, “Adèle”, represents a unique opportunity to complement a collection of Jean Philippe Dallaire works of art with not only an early Dallaire but an extraordinary early Dallaire and one with significant aesthetic appeal. I first visited Adèle 27 years ago at her home, meeting a lady who by then was approximately 51 years old. She has recently passed away and left this outstanding portrait to one of her five children, specifically the daughter who, as a child, most resembled Adèle at a similar age, and who family friends sometimes erroneously assumed was the subject of this fine painting. With the authorization of the Dallaire Estate, Adèle’s daughter has made a reproduction of the painting and has asked that we find a next generation to become custodian of the work.

Jean Dallaire

Jean Dallaire's "Un jeune breton", 1934

In the mid 1930s young Dallaire exhibited his paintings and offered them for sale at Hôtel Chez Henri in Hull. One of the shareholders/partners purchasing the hotel out of bankruptcy in the early 1930s was retired WWI Lt Colonel Frederick G Johnston, a man who guests referred to as the owner. The sitter, “Adèle” painted by Dallaire in our 1936 painting is the daughter of Lt Col Johnston & Alice Lafleur Johnston. Anecdotally, according to Adèle’s daughter, who sold us this painting, one day while at the hotel Jean-Philippe Dallaire observed Adèle playing on the grass at the hotel said to her mother, Alice Lafleur Johnston, that if she would buy for him canvas, brushes and paints, he would in turn paint a portrait of the young girl.

Jean Dallaire

"Portrait d'un jeune homme", 1935, in the collection of the Quebec Museum.

The hôtel Chez Henri has a most interesting social history.  With prohibition prevalent in Ontario from 1916, more liberal liquor laws in Quebec permitted liquor licensing to an establishment with at least 20 rooms, which was an incentive to investors to serve the Ottawa appetite for liquor by establishing a hotel. Consequently, in 1922, Swiss-born internationally celebrated chef, Henri Burger, who had developed a following as chef at the Chateau Laurier, in partnership with other business men, bought the fine home of E.B. Eddy in Hull and then transformed it into a renaissance Chateau style property offering a luxurious Parisian atmosphere, a restaurant-dining room with fine French food and 32 rooms. One can well imagine that with the elegance of the dining environment, the quality of the food, the availability of liquor attracting an upscale and moneyed clientele, this would be an ideal place for young Jean-Philippe Dallaire to hang his paintings to attempt to sell them.

Jean Dallaire

"Le Hullois", 1936, acquired by the National Gallery of Canada in 1972.

“Adèle” is an important, early canvas, and highly contemporary in terms of its design and composition. The young girl’s pose is playful, her right arm resting on the top of the chair, a doll beside her left foot. The right arm of the chair in the foreground is juxtaposed with the vertical green in the rear right, for balance. Dallaire does not dull the surrounding to draw attention to the subject. In fact he enhances the chair with imaginative designs, drawing the viewer to Adèle with the positioning of her arms, the sight-line of the doll’s gaze, and the visible but subtle texture in her dress. The painting underscores Dallaire’s confidence and mature competence at the age of 20. Other celebrated examples of Dallaire paintings of this period are “Un jeune Breton”, 1934, “Portrait de jeune homme”, 1935 and “Le Hullois” of 1936. “Adèle” would hang appropriately in a museum. She is a magnificent modern composition and an essential addition to a collection of outstanding Canadian figure paintings, or collectors of Jean Dallaire.

Copyright © Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, 2011

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