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First Person: Gilles Pelletier’s paintings coloured an era

June 18, 2012

Gilles Pelletier used colour to enchant viewers with scenes from city and country life.

BY SANDRA SCHACHTER

Each day on my way to the office, I pass an antiques store and take a brief moment to gaze at the magical paintings displayed in the window. They start my day with sunshine. But as I walked by recently, I noticed that the paintings were no longer there.

Sensing something was amiss, I stepped in to inquire, only to learn that, sadly, the artist Gilles Pelletier had passed away due to illness at just 55. His works of art had been quickly sold with the news of his death.

Several years ago I interviewed Pelletier for The Senior Times and found him to be refreshingly accessible, soft-spoken, expressive and wonderfully generous with detail on his background, his art, and his vision.

Pelletier’s paintings, capturing brilliant shades of orange, dazzling raspberry reds, luminous yellows, indigo blues and lush greens, took us on journeys through lively scenes full of tradition and memories of times past. Through his art, he invited us to the countryside, with grazing horses and cows and pecking hens, rainbow quilts airing on clotheslines, picket fences, verandas and rich-shaded barns and rooftops. Trees boast leaves in sunset orange, emerald-green grass spreads across the landscape, figures always on the move engaged in farm activity, all in bold, right out-of-the-tube cheerful hues—a feast for the eye.

He also invited us to the city, to neighbourhood skating rinks and kids playing hockey, to landmarks like the Orange Julep, Schwartz’s, Fairmount Bagel and the old Forum. He took us on nostalgic tours to the Imperial, Loews and St. Denis theatres, rides on a horse and buggy, a cable car. Hints of humour that surprise and please. Quintessential Pelletier.

The cadence, the small details of everyday life invariably captivated his imagination, giving us an appetite for more.

“It doesn’t matter to me how crooked I see things,” he said during our 2005 interview, commenting on the sometimes disproportionate nature of the subjects he depicted.

Pelletier characterized his art as “naive.”

That charming innocence exemplified his artistry, always entertaining, always visually sumptuous. How fortunate we are to have such a treasure of Quebec art, enchanting us with the beauty and flavour of our city and country lives.

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