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Bringing Montreal’s History to Life

August 8, 2017

This year is both Canada’s 150th and Montreal’s 375th anniversary, and as such, I recently had a small part to play in the Pointe-à-Callière Museum’s exhibit on the archaeological excavation of the first Fort Montreal, which was a very small stockade, right where the Pointe museum is today.

I myself have not seen how these drawings got used, but I hope you’ll see a few of them on the panels in the future exhibition.

This was the second set of illustrations I’ve done on Quebec history. A few years ago I contributed to a book covering pre-historic Quebec, up to first contact by Jacques Cartier.

This time, I was tasked to visualize some of the people involved in our first footfall on the island. I did paint some backgrounds for these, but I prefer the characters without.

Here we see our colonial leaders, the soldier Paul de Chomedey – who, for some reason is always called Maisonneuve. Also shown at the top of the post, doing his soliderly duty, shooting people in the face.

That image comes from a well documented story, in which the colonists came out from behind the protection of their walls (and therefore their cannons), but were swiftly driven back. Maisonneuve being the ‘last man standing’, while everyone fled.

Also shown, at Maisonneuve’s side, the colony administrator, (and nurse) Jeanne Mance. As well as their Algonquin allies – led by chief Tessouat the Second, shown here being baptized as a Christian, in return for a musket.

Interestingly, Tessouat the First is said to have had only one eye. The younger Tessouat, *also* had only one eye. Which is suspiciously convenient to me. It sounds like he sacrificed his eye in order appear to be the reincarnation of the chief.

Jean Mance is also an interesting character. She held the purse strings. And she held them very tight for years, gambling if her tiny colony could survive without the further expense of hiring professional soldiers. Eventually she did pay out, saving the remaining colonists, and their Algonquin neighbors.

This seems like a typical administrator’s move. There are never any funds, until suddenly, there are :)

I found it fascinating how well the colonists documented their expedition. We have the names and ages of all the residents of the first fort.

I had more fun imagining the ‘supporting cast’ – such as the 76 year old nobleman Pierre Puiseaux and the 47 year old Jesuit Barthelemy Vimont

Or Tessout’s bride, who’s name, I’m sorry, I can’t recall.

Last time, I was not able to sneak in a girl among the native hunters. But I still like to think the Iroquois would be equal opportunity raiders.

Way in the back – you’ll see this lady, about to take a pot-shot at Paul de C.

This project was a great deal of fun. I’ve always wanted to do a comic book – and even though these were only a few still images, I did enjoy packing them full of story telling!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2017 8:21 AM

    I enjoyed these and I think you’d do a great comic book or graphic novel.

  2. Terry James permalink
    August 8, 2017 8:38 AM

    Marc, Have always loved the balance of looseness and detail in your work.

    In fact, subscribed to one of your Craftsy courses where you demonstrate how you encourage colors to mix inside your shapes.

    Your painting of the “face shot” is so alive with energy and color…brilliantly done with the elongated pistol arm…and the captured emotion of the attacker!

    Looking forward to buying your first comic book…!!!

    Thanks! Terry

  3. August 8, 2017 9:06 AM

    Marc, your work is so awesome. Always inspired by your blog. Happy Painting to you!
    Nora MacPhail

  4. August 8, 2017 9:19 AM

    These are wonderful illustrations Marc! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Pat S permalink
    August 8, 2017 9:27 AM

    I so enjoy your blog and Etsy class. Thank you for these historic sketches and narrative. I am looking forward to my first trip to Montreal in October and am looking for a good, readable (not too long) history of the area…any suggestions?

  6. August 8, 2017 9:54 AM

    You succeed in making history come alive! Thank you for sharing your talent with us.

  7. August 8, 2017 5:17 PM

    Great job and what fun to imagine.

  8. daveyone1 permalink
    August 8, 2017 5:26 PM

    Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..

  9. Gina Bisaillon permalink
    August 9, 2017 7:30 AM

    I can’t think of anyone better to commission these works!

  10. August 9, 2017 9:22 AM


  11. rsnoel permalink
    August 11, 2017 3:40 AM

    Oh my god! These are amazing; I can’t even imagine the time put into these works of art! Great job Mr. Marc Holmes, you definitely gained a new follower who appreciates all of your work here (I went ahead and checked some of your other pieces as well, stunning work).

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