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A long-time advocate of public art, Lewis Pagé was the city’s first contemporary sculptor to earn a living from his trade. He was a devoted and partly self-taught artist, working relentlessly to forge a name for himself throughout his career. He opened a first art foundry in the inner courtyard of his home on Rue Richelieu in 1968. A number of his works can still be found in the Saint-Jean-Baptiste neighbourhood to this day.
In 1966, in one of the first interviews he gave to a Québec City journalist, Lewis Pagé wished that artists be given free expression while working with architects who seemed to think of everything—except for decorating their buildings with works of art.
No surprise then that over the years several of his pieces ended up on public display. They include La Petite liseuse, a bronze of a young girl reading at the entrance to the Saint-Jean-Baptiste branch of the Québec City library. Two more of his pieces can also be found in the neighbourhood: Colloque, the statue of three people standing on the grounds of Québec’s Ministère de la Culture et des Communications building at 225 Grande Allée Est, and La Dispute philosophique beside Grand Théâtre on Boulevard René-Lévesque. Four more of his sculptures are scattered around the city, including the enormous Marie Immaculée looking out over the St. Lawrence River outside St. Michael’s Church in Sillery.
Lewis Pagé devoted himself entirely to sculpture after spending a decade working in various trades. He was introduced to sculpture by his father, who enjoyed fashioning saints and local personalities out of wood. Pagé took evening classes at École des beaux-arts de Québec from 1957 to 1961, then from 1962 his love of sculpture triumphed over everything. He turned his back on all other ways of making a living and spent 70 to 80 hours a week in his studio, sculpting metals, stone, and wood. His many creations were both figurative and abstract: men, animals, and nature in movement for the most part. When Pagé displayed his work at Québec City’s Zanettin gallery in 1965, a critic remarked that “sometimes the sculptor manages to purely express his inner rhythm in abstract compositions of an artistic sensibility that is his and his alone […] This is when he expresses himself most truly and forcefully.”
Attracted by a desire to work with bronze—an art form that few artists practiced in the province because there was no art foundry—in 1967 Pagé left to study the technique in Ontario. Upon his return to Québec City, he set up a first foundry in the inner courtyard of his home at 659 Rue Richelieu. He later learned more about lost-wax casting in Geneva, then New York City, and opened a second foundry in Saint-Roch in 1974 before helping to set up the now-renowned foundry in Inverness.
Aluminum, steel, wood, stone, and scrap metal inspired him just as much. Pagé was constantly developing his style and techniques, winning over critics along with the general public.
In 1970 Lewis Pagé was chosen to represent Québec at the world’s fair in Osaka, Japan, where his Famille assise piece attracted a lot of attention. In the following decades his hard work, quest for authenticity, and poetic and artistic creativity earned him a place among the greatest sculptors of modern Québec.
His works were inspired by his love of nature. They were original and captivating, soaring abstracts where rhythm was key, often involving objects exploding or taking flight. Lewis Pagé was a proud man, sure of his role as a trail-blazing artist in the society in which he lived and of his valuable contribution to the collective imagination. He was the latest in a line of talented sculptors to live in Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Louis Jobin and Henri Angers among them.
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