A stained glass window by Quebec artist Marcelle Ferron

Article by Rosalind Pepall

HERE ARE MANY stained glass windows in the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts-Gothic, Renaissance, William Morris, and Tiffany examples-but it was unusual for a museum to be offered an entire coloured glass wall of a living room from a modest but uniquely designed house. The telephone call offering the window as a gift to the museum came from a man in the Montreal suburb of Candiac. He told me that it was a stained glass window by the well-known Quebec artist Marcelle Ferron (1924-2001). In her early career, Ferron had been part of the Montreal circle around Paul-Émile Borduas, one of Canada’s most progressive artists of the 1940s and 1950s.

Borduas was the leader of Quebec’s Automatiste group of artists who experimented with non-figurative painting. In 1948, spearheaded by Borduas, sixteen of these painters signed the manifesto Réfus Global, which denounced the conservative traditions of education and social politics in Quebec’s government institutions. Ferron was one of the seven women signatories, who were striving for a more independent, creative role for women in Quebec society.1 The manifesto was radical for the time, and the rebellion of these artists had serious repercussions, causing some of them to leave Montreal.2 Ferron went to Paris in 1953 and lived there for thirteen years. It was in France that she grew interested in stained glass design as a way of making modern art accessible to a large public.

Excerpted from Fall/Winter 2015 Ornamentum. Click here to subscribe.

Rosalind Pepall has recently retired as Senior Curator of Decorative Arts at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. She would like to thank Marie-Claude Saia and Danielle Blanchette of the museum for their help.

1 Patricia Smart, Les Femmes du Refus Global (Montreal: Éditions de Boréal, 1998), p.11.
2 Paul-Émile Borduas lost his teaching position at the École du Meuble and eventually left for the United States in 1953.

Marcelle Ferron
Coloured glass, PVC 194 x 863,5 x 2,5 cm 1972
Collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine arts, gift of Raymond and Alicia Levesque
Photograph: the montreal Museum of Fine arts, Christine Guest