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July 6, 2007

Clermont Duval Mattawa’s Magical Master Artist


I have wanted to write about and recognize some of the many outstanding regional artists in our area for a long time to add to my stories on the late Gordon Dufoe and T.C. Cummings.  One of the problems is that there are so many good artists that it is hard to choose.  A good place to start is with a couple of artists I know and admire like Clermont Duval from Mattawa and Jack Lockhart from Corbeil.  Both are highly productive artists who have their own galleries and sell their paintings, prints and associated framing.  Today I will look at the work of Clermont Duval. 

Clermont Duval in his Gallery on Main Street, Mattawa with his paintings in background.  D. Mackey photo.

I have know Clermont since 1989 when I was curator of the Mattawa Museum and sponsored an exhibition of 35 of his early works at the Museum for a month 18 years ago this month.  The show was a part of the then recently formed Mattawa and District Arts Council.  In those days Clermont painted in his spare time while working with his brother Gaetan in their jewellery store on Main Street Mattawa.  His interest in art goes back to his childhood and continued when he came to Mattawa from Quebec with his family in 1959 when his father set up a saw mill on Snake Creek and on Hwy 17 W. 

In 1973 he suffered severe burns on 50% of his body including his hands and his art seemed in jeopardy.  Within a year he was combining his passion for writing and art in graphic books he illustrated like comic books.  His best known book was his 6th, about Marie Chapdelaine, Louis Hemon’s heroine.  Three hundred of his drawings are in the Hemon Museum in Quebec. 

Shortly after his Mattawa show he began to create paintings based on imaginative stories he wrote  and to start to produce prints of these paintings.  Along the way the completely self-taught artist took courses from Bruce St. Clair and Robert Bateman.  By 1994 a section of the jewellery store became an art gallery and his business has grown and prospered.  He now paints every day and works in the gallery part time.  His work has sold widely and some of his limited edition numbered prints are sold out.  Articles on his work have appeared in several American art magazines.  For information on his work log on to his website www.clermontduvalartgallery.com or drop in afternoons at the gallery and talk to him personally.  The gallery also offers framing and a full fine art printing service on archival paper and canvas. 

As mentioned there are stories behind some of his paintings a summary of which appears below each such painting on the frame.  Samples are available on his website.  In 2005 author Rod Kelly took some of Clermont’s stories and expanded on them and added eleven of Clermont’s beautiful coloured prints of the paintings to produce a fascinating book, Children in the Wilderness.  Copies are available in the Gallery. 

I enjoyed a talk by Clermont at a North Bay Arts Council event a couple of years ago where he talked about his art and about another of his remarkable creative explorations.  His interest in illusion and fantasy, shown elsewhere in his work was expressed in a couple of paintings with a brilliant and unique twist.  The painting with its story was expanded upon when a light was projected from behind adding additional startling images to the painting animating it powerfully.  Ask for a demonstration at the gallery. 

Clermont Duval (rt) and brother Gaetan presenting painting of Anahareo at Anahareo’s 100th birthday in Mattawa in 2006.  D. Mackey photo.

I should also mention that Clermont did a painting of Mattawa’s Gertrude Bernard, Grey Owl’s Anahareo, whose 100th birthday was celebrated in Mattawa in June 2006.  The painting remains in the Mattawa Museum as a part of the Anahareo display.  Prints are available.  Dr. Kristin Gleeson who is writing a book on Anahareo was in Mattawa recently and was presented with a print of the painting.  Ask to see a copy if you visit the gallery. 

I should also mention that Clermont’s son Costel is developing as an artist and has his paintings available at the gallery.  The only non Duval work available is an occasional Gordon Dufoe painting that Clermont sells when available.  If looking for a Clermont Duval painting (or a Gordon Dufoe) bring your chequebook and get a remarkable original or print for your home (and a good investment for the future).  In Mattawa you will see Experience Mattawa signs encouraging a tour of the town including the Museum on Explorers’ Point overlooking the Ottawa River.  The Gallery at 313 Main Street is open 9:30-5:30 Monday to Thursday, Friday 9:30-8pm, Sunday 12-4. 

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