Montreal Catholic school minstrel show circa 1940/41

Martin Julien Photo(r) copy 2.jpg

My father, Leo Julien, as the Interlocutor in his anglophone Montreal Catholic school minstrel show. He told me he was twelve years old in the 8' X 12" black-and-white picture. He was born in April 1928, so this is probably 1940/41. No other identifying information except for a rubber stamp on the back: " "Photo by Cyril Cassidy." My father ended up estranged from much of his large Irish-French family in later years, and so spoke of his youth haltingly, with gaps. I know that he did live off rue Clark at this time, near Parc Jarry and the Jean Talon Market. My father always said about this picture, ironically, that he never met a black African-Canadian until a very young Oscar Peterson played his high school dance a few years later. My dad was a great social dancer, so he and Oscar had, in his words, "hit it off". 

Written by Martin Julien.

Hodge Playbill

Hodge Playbill.jpg

This Playbill is a part of the history of the Peters Family, a large group of early settlers in Southern Ontario, stretching back to the early 19th century.  This particular document describes the performance of a boy, probably no more than twelve years of age, as a comedian, ventriloquist, character singer, and magician.  The source is southwestern Ontario, likely from the Chatham area.  The bill is from the early twentieth century, likely 1900-1905, based on the date of birth of this 'Boy Comedian.'  Herbert Omer Hodge was born in April 8, 1887, and would have been 13 in 1900; the bill itself advertises the entertainment as 'a rollicking twentieth century play,' as if that was something new. 

The only context to this document is oral history, through the grandchildren of this boy.  According to these stories, William Hodge, the 'director' of this performance, was a farmer and house-painter, who in the wintertime travelled to the rural communities with this son to raise additional funds for he family through performance.  Although information is difficult to confirm, there are some reasonable assumptions to be made.  They would have travelled by sled, the only means of transportation at this time of year in southwestern Ontario.  They would have performed either in church basements or halls, or in people's homes, the assumption being that the communities would have been too small for anything like a 'town hall.'  They would have had a minimal means of advertisement, primarily this handbill, which would have been distributed shortly before the performance.  This assumption is based on the fact that no post or advance announcement would have been possible--although it may be that the phone was then a means of advance warning.  The entertainment would have been family oriented, and wide-ranging, for an audience that was steeped in an English cultural tradition, but without any exposure to touring performance.  All performance they experienced would have been self-created, for each other.   

This kind of performance--the locally touring semi-professional--is particularly difficult to find.  There would have been on newspaper to advertise in; and in any event, the performers would not be able to afford to advertise, and no newspaper would have been delivered to potential audiences prior to the rather sudden appearance of the performers.  This kind of performance, in effect, was an elaboration on the kinds of amateur entertainments that were most prevalent, by default, at this time in the rural areas of the country.  A particularly enterprising (and needful) parent decided that his son was particularly talented--that is, capable of attracting a local audience, and perhaps more widely known than in his own community because of this.  News travelled from church to church during regular regional events, and a name might be 'known.'  There is little evidence of this kind of performance, making this document of particular importance.  It speaks to a local culture that had hierarchies of entertainment, from local amateur through local and regional touring, that was both an education and a preparation for touring professionals when they did come through town.   

As an addendum:  I have an eyewitness account that saw a performance by Fred Hodge, Herbert Hodge's brother, circa 1948, in the Odessa Methodist Church Hall.  The performance was a marionette show, using puppets that were family heirlooms, as I understand it from other accounts, belonging to the father, William, and to Herbert.  These 'puppets' (as they were called--not marionettes, which is what they were), were well-remembers in the Peters family, as a part of the expertise of one part of the family, as a regular feature of the family and the community performance experience, and as artifacts.  I have recollections of performances in the 1950s at home, and one reference to seeing the puppets in disarray in a garage later.  They are long gone.  What is of interest is that the culture of performing, and the expertise, persisted so long.  It is also of interest to compare the existence of these marionettes with the handbill, which mentions no puppetry, and yet in the family memory is closely tied to those other, long disappeared artifacts.  It may be that the puppetry was a later addition to the 'act'; surely if they had been a feature of this performance, they would have been advertised! 

If further research was to be done on this subject, a tour of archives in southwestern Ontario would be important, a look through local newspapers (just in case), and a concerted effort to find the descendents of this family, in case there are family archives.   


Written by Stephen Johnson, with information supplied by family members James Johnson (brother), Pearl Johnson (mother), and Terry Johnson (cousin).  The original of this playbill has not been located, but early photocopies are extant.   


Clement Cantin

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 2.50.34 PM.png

This photograph shows Québec singer Clément Cantin in performance. It comes from the personal collection of Nadia Cantin, Clément Cantin’s daughter. It is undated and the location of the performance is unknown. Given what we know about Clément Cantin’s artistic career, it is safe to assume that this photograph was taken during the early- or mid-1960s at one of Gérard Thibault’s cabarets in Québec City. Photo credits: Roussel.

Known on stage as Endré Clément, Clément Cantin livened Québec City’s nightlife through his performances as a singer and as a master of ceremonies during the late 1950s and the 1960s. It is unclear when, where, or how Cantin began singing professionally. According to an article published in Dis-Q-Ton, some time in 1961 or at the beginning of 1962, Cantin started “dividing his time between La Porte St-Jean, Chez Gérard, and Chez Émile.” All three were cabarets in Québec City and were owned by Gérard Thibault. The article continues:

Before this, he was applauded in a dozen other cabarets of Québec City and its surroundings, and at Château Deblois in Trois-Rivières. He also presented his singing act at Goose Bay in Labrador to entertain the American and Canadian troops that were stationed there. We have also seen André [sic] Clément on several television programs, including “La Boîte aux chansons.” (L. Cantin 27)

As a singer, Clément Cantin was known for his versatility and the possession of a “well-balanced voice, a great deal of personality, and a remarkable stage presence” (Ibid.). His repertoire

comprised Canadian, French, and American songs that he liked. It included songs by Connie Francis, Billy Daniels, and Frank Sinatra, the last of whom was one of his favourite artists (L. Cantin; N. Cantin).

As a master of ceremonies, Clément Cantin would have had to expand his skills beyond music. The role would have obliged him to introduce guest artists to the public, entertain the audience in between acts, and sometimes participate in sketches with other performers. According to Gaston Boileau, who worked as a master of ceremonies at Chez Émile during the 1950s, the following would have been an emcee’s typical duties:

In the mid-1950s, the master of ceremonies facilitated the performance, sang three or four songs, told a few jokes, and then introduced the novelty act and the star. […] We generally changed the show every week unless it was a great success, as was the case with Ti-Gus and Ti-Mousse for example. The new programming started on Monday […] During the six years I worked [at Chez Émile], the place was always packed. (Qtd. in Thibault and Hébert 117)

A francophone, Clément Cantin also spoke English, something that would have helped him communicate (and mingle) with guest artists coming from the United States and from the rest of Canada to perform at one of Thibault’s venues. His linguistic abilities might also have been helpful when addressing English-speaking spectators from Québec City and American tourists.1

Cantin would have been within a minority among Québec residents who could understand both languages. According to data collected in the 1951 census, only 28.5% of francophones and

32.4% of anglophones aged 5 years and older in the province of Québec reported being able to speak both French and English; by 1971, these numbers were 27.6% and 38.9% respectively (“L’évolution du bilinguisme”).2

During his years as a performer at Chez Gérard, À La Porte St-Jean, and Chez Émile, Clément Cantin was approached twice by American scouts who offered him the opportunity to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show (N. Cantin). He declined both invitations. By the time he married in 1968, Clément Cantin had retired from the stage. What survives of his performance days are documents—including several photographs, handbills, personal letters, and music scores, many of which have been preserved by his daughter—and the memories of those who performed with him or heard him sing.

Written by Gabrielle Houle

1 According to data collected in the 1951 census, 8,006 of the 164,016 people living in Québec City at the time reported that English was their mother tongue (Dominion Bureau of Statistics Ninth Census 5). And of the 171,979 people residing in Québec City who participated in the 1961 census, 6,048 reported having English as their mother tongue (Dominion Bureau of Statistics Population 36). 2 Between 1951 and 1971, the percentage of Canadians aged 5 years and older who reported speaking both French and English was much higher in Québec than in the rest of the country. In 1951, 7.5% of Canadians residing outside Québec declared they had the ability to speak both French and English. In 1961, the percentage raised to 7.6%, and in 1971, 8.5% of the Canadian population aged 5 years and older residing outside of Québec declared they had the ability to speak both languages (“L’évolution du bilinguisme”). Works Cited: Canada. Dominion Bureau of Statistics. Ninth Census of Canada 1951 – Population by official language and mother tongue. Ottawa: DBS, 1952. Canada. Dominion Bureau of Statistics. 1961 Census of Canada -- Population: Mother Tongue, Counties and Subdivisions = Langue maternelle, comtés et subdivisions. Ottawa: DBS., 1970. Cantin, Lucille. “Nos artistes de Québec.” Dis-Q-Ton, vol. 6, no. 12, p. 27, December 1962. Cantin, Nadia. Personal phone conversation. August 2017. “L’évolution du bilinguisme au Canada de 1901 à 2011.” Statistique Canada. Accessed on 18 September 2017. Thibault, Gérard and Chantal Hébert. Chez Gérard: La petite scène des grandes vedettes. Les Éditions Spectaculaires Enrg, 1988.


Al W. Martin's Mammoth Production


Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-24432

This advertisement from 1898 similarly describes “Al W. Martin’s Mammoth Production,” and the same company continued to produce and grow Uncle Tom’s Cabin until at least 1912 in one form or another (For more information, see also Stephen Railton’s site from the University of Virginia for details of the company and two maps of its tours in the United States). The vast size of this production also points to the presence of a Canadian market interested in such performances; audiences of a certain size, and sufficient enough popularity to warrant such a large-scale show touring to Canada, are implied. Further research to be undertaken might consider mapping the routes of popular touring companies through Canada using resources such as the Canada West database as well as additional primary source examination.


New York Dramatic Mirror, 5 January 1907, pg. 11

This artifact is a short snippet found in a theatrical trade newspaper, the New York Dramatic Mirror, in its January 5th 1907 issue. A special column titled “Christmas in Stageland” contains one sentence mid-way through the column that reads “The members of Al W. Martin’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin company had a Christmas dinner in the Boston Café, Montreal, Can.” While the entry is perhaps slim on details at first glance, it provides several suggestive pieces of evidence when considered more closely. There is, first, its suggestion of the presence of large-scale touring companies from the United States in Canada, including minstrelsy performances. The company was to perform in Ottawa from December 31 to January 2 after its brief stay in Montreal, as detailed in a different section of the same edition of the New York Dramatic Mirror, before heading back down to the United States (5). The company described in the column, Al W. Martin’s, was also evidently popular enough to warrant the details of their Christmas activities being published, and indeed other secondary sources corroborate this. John W. Frick’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the American Stage and Screen (2012) details that “Al W. Martin’s Famous Ideal Uncle Tom’s Cabin Company was so large that it required three railroad cars to transport the performers, animals, and scenery,” which reportedly included sixty performers along with a veritable menagerie of donkeys, oxen, dogs, and ponies (Frick 141).

Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) devoted its first year of conception, 1918, engaging both the public and also the small blind community made up of mostly veterans in post-War Toronto. The organization was providing rehabilitation services for blind and partially sighted people around Ontario at this time, while specifically focusing on supporting Toronto’s blind community with living and working opportunities.  This period in Toronto explored the needs of blinded soldiers and others, and was attended to by a staff who took into consideration the varying conditions, and developed programs and staff positions for support which ultimately stands today as a primary infrastructure for an organization that still develops and support blinds people in Canada.

 The Bulletin, which began in October 1918 acted as a public notice for changes within the organization, its staff and board, and the programs that they were beginning to develop.  These materials were discovered after a trip to the CNIB archives where the experience was beyond visual and became a tactile experience.  Whereas many elements of the archive were braille documents, writers, and propaganda from the ast 100 years. The Bulletin exsts in the National Archive in Ottawa, Ontario, and was shared from the generous Jane Beaumnt, CNIB’s current Archivist, upon preparations for the upcoming Centennial Celebration for the Organization. Beaumont and her team are creating a “living history” exhibit based on these documents and many like them to celebrate the conception of the organization, its growth, and pointing to the future. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 9.08.12 AM.png

An example of this would be in the November 1, 1918 issue pictured here The Bulletin editors chose to showcase an exhibit in which blind people show “what they can do” at a local event called “Carnival of Nations”.  Real blind people performing real blind activities in a curated setting, possibly a small hint of freak show, but more prominently the CNIB gravitates towards advocacy in showing a successful blind person doing those “normal” things. These performances act as the first recorded instance of shared experience between the private and public lives of blind Canadians and the public in Toronto, but also suggests a context and relationship between the two as well.  The need to “prove” their competence while also showcasing their exoticisized private lives creates an idea of what the CNIB believed the public thought of blind people, but also possibly hints at what needed to happen in order for their experiences to be understood and supported.  The organization has developed over the last 100 years but continues to showcase blind skills today in various ways.

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 9.09.28 AM.png

Shown here in the May 1, 1919 issue of The Bulletin the editors announce the inclusion of blind persons with a sensory experience of the Royal Ontario Museum. The Museum offered guided and tactile tours of museum exhibits, which is a formal tour but more prominently the visceral interaction with artifacts acts as a performance of history, an experience not based on vision to introduce blind people to the historical artifacts that are primarily visual. This piece from The Bulletin explores the advocacy within the community that CNIB had been doing, but also how integrating performative qualities such as a tour guide vividly describing artifacts, blind patrons interacting with the exhibits, enlivens a museum experience that is otherwise passive.  The tactile tours at the Royal Ontario Museum have developed over the past 100 years but remain a key role in blind culture and inclusion in Toronto today, although blind patrons can request a tour at any time now and are not restricted to any particular day.  These explorations of exhibits have been integrated into the patron experience, normalizing both found performance of history but also inclusion of blind people in Toronto’s popular culture.

Girl Guides of Canada

Exhibit prepared by Heather Fitzsimmons Frey

Just prior to and during the First World War, the newly formed Girl Guides of Canada (established in 1909) did a wide range of performances to entertain, demonstrate skills, to participate in rituals created by the Guides, and to raise money for various causes (including the Red Cross, local hospitals, and going to camp).

“Entertainments:” musical concerts; dance performances; plays, operettas, and comedic sketches written by girls or their troupe leaders; Empire pageants and tableaux. The culture and goals of the girl guides suggest that girls had a great deal of control over the content of these performances, and they probably built their costumes, props, and sets themselves.

“Spectacles” of physical culture (also called “Swedish” exercises or gymnastics)

Demonstrations of First Aid skills and drills

Demonstrations of military drills, including flag signaling

Rituals, marches, and ceremonies directly related to the Girl Guides (receiving badges or honours, “flying up” to a higher level, etc.).

The following documents are from the Girl Guides of Canada Archive. Researchers are welcome to visit: scrapbooks include images and reports from across Canada, starting in 1913 and reaching to the present day. There are photographs, newspaper clippings, and performance programmes. Please contact archivist Catherine Miller-Mort at to arrange a visit or to ask questions (

Images 1 and 2, printed in Toronto Sunday World, June 29, 1913. The Girl Guides of Toronto present their original play “The Adventures of the Princess Ring,” on the grounds of Casa Loma. In image 2 the newspaper caption reads “Prince Charming Discovers Princess Virginia in her Bower.” All roles were played by girls.

Image 3 and 4 “Triangle Club Girl Guides, 14 – 18 years of age Dumbell Drill” Kenora; Burnaby Club Girl Guides “Club Swinging”. These images are two of many in the collection of girls performing physical culture drills. These exercises were intended to improve strength, flexibility, endurance, and grace. They were often performed to music. Note that the girls in Burnaby are probably wearing clothes that were not their regular Guide uniforms, but were probably specifically worn for exercise drills.

Image 5 “8th Girl Guides Club, Toronto” performing First Aid Drills. For an audience, girls had to speedily create stretchers from found objects, performing bandaging, and other safety and rescue drills.

Image 6 “Empire Pageant” Toronto. Performing “the Empire” featuring Britannia in the middle, surrounded by her colonies, was a popular form of entertainment throughout the nineteenth century. Performed in “national” dress, these entertainments offered opportunities to wear costumes and fancy dress, and to solidify a sense of loyalty to the crown. They were also used in schools as ways to teach geography. Note, for example, in this tableau on the far right that Australia is represented by a girl wearing a kangaroo dress, and next to her is a girl dress with long braids, presumably representing Canada in stereotypically “Indian” (First Nations / Indigenous) dress. The text on the back of the photo is faint, but may indicate that this photo is from 1925.

Image 7 “Do Your Bit.” For this inventive tableau and performance, Girl Guides were promoting the importance of Victoria Gardens to address First World War food needs. The scrapbooks do not indicate what the girls did while dressed as vegetables.

Image 8 Little Girl under a Toadstool. Guiding involved particular performances of rituals loosely connected to Juliana Horatia Ewing’s story “The Brownies.” Involving recitation and pledges, the girls performed their commitment to Guides and Empire.

Image 9 “The Magic Kiss” by Jean McConnell Casa Loma. In 1914, Lady Pellatt invited the Girl Guides to perform another play at Casa Loma, the perfect performance space for a fairy tale. The images were printed in The Globe on June 20, 1914 and Toronto Sunday World, June 21, 1914, but it was performed on June 13.

CHEZ GÉRARD: A Glimpse into Québec City’s Cabaret Scene.

1_Houle_Handbill_Chez Gérard_recto.jpg
2_Houle_Handbill_Chez Gérard_verso.jpg

These images are digital copies of a bilingual handbill for performances at Chez Gérard and À La Porte St-Jean, with an advertisement for À La Page Blanche. All three establishments were founded by Gérard Thibault (1917-2003), who was Québec City’s “king of cabaret” from the late 1940s to the late 1970s (Boivin-Allaire). While undated, this document is from the summer of 1963; it was shared with the Theatre Documentation and Reconstruction Project by Nadia Cantin, daughter of Clément Cantin (1933-2013). Clément Cantin, whose nom d’artiste was Endré Clément, performed in several of Thibault’s cabarets as a singer and master of ceremony in the 1960s.

On 10 July 1938, Gérard Thibault, with his brothers Émile, Paul, and Jean, opened Chez Gérard, a small restaurant situated on rue Saint-Nicolas, in the Lower Town of Québec City.  Thibault had bought the place for $750 (Thibault and Hébert 24). At the time, it had only three tables and “a minuscule kitchen” (Ibid). “A full meal – which included a soup, entrée (among which boeuf à la mode was a favorite), desert, and beverage – costed 25 cents and, even at that price, it was profitable,” exclaims Thibault. “[We made] about $1500 in profits in the first year!” (Ibid) When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Chez Gérard opened 24 hours a day, feeding workers of the nearby arsenals and Morton shipyards, as well as “many travellers, politicians, military personnel and others, and convoys of troops that arrived by train from all over the country” (Thibault and Hébert 25). Chez Gérard eventually relocated to rue Saint-Paul, also in the Lower Town, only steps away from Québec City’s train station, the Gare du Palais.[1]

After the war business slowed down, which led Thibault to think of new ways to attract customers. In 1946, he invited Will Brodrigue’s orchestra to perform twice a week in his restaurant, on Fridays and Saturdays. On 6 November 1948, he hired accordionist Fredo Gardoni, French singer Michèle Sandry, and local radio-celebrity Saint-George Côté to entertain his clientele. “In the early days,” actor Paul Berval remembers, “Chez Gérard was not known as a cabaret. A proof of this is that we dressed in the kitchen with the pots and pans. There were no dressing rooms for the artists at first. We found ourselves standing between chickens and hors-d’oeuvres. Sometimes we laughed!” (Qtd. in Thibault and Hébert 52) The consecration of Chez Gérard as Québec City’s premier “Parisian-style” café-concert happened in 1949 when Charles Trenet offered to sing in Thibault’s restaurant. He performed there from 01 to 18 February and from 27 February to 05 March, attracting well-to-do spectators from Québec’s bourgeoisie who would otherwise not set foot in the Lower Town (Thibault and Hébert). Numerous local and international artists followed in the steps of Trenet (who returned several times to Québec City), making Chez Gérard a first-choice establishment for night-life entertainment, and an important venue that promoted French and Francophone music. Here is how French singer Monique Leyrac, who first performed at Chez Gérard in 1950, describes her experience at Thibault’s institution:

At the time, singing in Québec City, alongside friends like Saint-Georges Côté, felt like vacations. […] I knew the club by reputation, but I had never met the owner. He was approachable and extremely friendly. […] Before presenting my singing act, I rehearsed with three musicians and it took the time that it took. The musicians were not supervised by the union and it was cheaper. For my repertoire, I looked for Québécois songs. […] The rest of my repertoire was made of French songs that I liked. As for stage costumes, we wore what we wanted, […]. I had a sophisticated look. My hair was pitch-black, pulled back up into a bun like a Spanish lady. I wore elaborate custom-made dressing gowns that suited my personality. Shows unfolded according to the European model, with an artist in the first half and another, usually the star, in the second. (Qtd. in Thibault and Hébert 68-9)

For many French-speaking artists, Chez Gérard became a gateway to America:

Indeed, there were many French artists who, after performing at Chez Gérard, obtained a contract in the United States. It had become usual that impresarios and owners of American cabarets-- from New York, Washington, and Los Angeles especially-- should come to Québec City, at Chez Gérard and, later, at À la Porte St-Jean, to see and hear “the best and the brightest” of French artists, and to offer them engagements that would secure a breakthrough in the land of Uncle Sam. (Thibault and Hébert 56)

Chez Gérard’s success was such that Thibault opened other cabarets in the city: Chez Émile (1942-63, first a restaurant, it started offering performances in January 1950), À La Porte Saint-Jean (1951-67, hosting its first performances in October 1951), À La Page Blanche (1958-65), and À La Boîte aux Chansons (1960-65). Between 1948 and 1977, Thibault’s venues welcomed hundreds of entertainers, including actors and comedians such as Gratien Gélinas, Ti-Gus & Ti-Mousse (Réal Béland and Denise Émond), Olivier Guimond, Dominique Michel, Denyse Filiatrault, musical comic duo Les Jérolas (Jean Lapointe and Jérôme Lemain), and La Poune (Rose Ouellette); singers, musicians, and song-writers, among them Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, Félix Leclerc, Ginette Reno, Michel Louvain, Jacques Normand, Fernand Gignac, Sasha Distel, Gilles Vigneault, Jean-Pierre Ferland, Willie Lamothe, Les Baronets (René Angélil, Pierre Labelle, and Jean Baulne), and the Duke Ellington Orchestra; as well as female impersonator and cabaret artist Jean Guilda, and global entertainer Josephine Baker, to name only these few.

Chez Gérard, Thibault’s first and longest-lasting cabaret, held its last performance in December 1977. This ended a thirty-year chapter in Québec City’s night-life.[2]

Written by Gabrielle Houle

[1] Gare du Palais is referred to as “Union Station” on the handbill.

[2] The Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Québec (BAnQ) is the repository of a large number of photographs, written documents, paintings, architectural drawings, a wide variety of audio-visual material, and other types of documents that trace the life and work of Gérard Thibault. Collections kept at the BAnQ that would be useful to anyone interested in researching the topic include the “Fonds Gérard Thibault” and “Exposition Gérard Thibault”. Further research into Thibault’s career could look into the Productions Jacques-Gérard (1961-63), through which Thibault produced shows that were performed at La Comédie canadienne in Montréal and often toured across the province. Another area of inquiry would be the performances by French and Québécois artists Thibault organized for patients at the Sanatorium Bégin between 1949 and 1962.

Works Cited:

Boivin-Allaire, Émilia. “Gérard Thibault: Le roi du cabaret.” Cap-aux-Diamants, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 27-29, Winter 1989. Accessed on 18 August 2017.

Thibault, Gérard and Chantal Hébert. Chez Gérard: La petite scène des grandes vedettes. Les Éditions Spectaculaires Enrg, 1988.

Painting by the Quebecois artist Joseph Légaré

The Object: A painting by the Quebecois artist Joseph Légaré, called in French "Paysage avec un orateur s'adressant aux Indiens" ("Landscape with an orator addressing the Indians")

Location: Musée de Beaux-Arts, Montreal, Canada

Date: ca. 1843

Joseph Légaré is today considered a minor painter of landscapes and portraits, with his chief distinction being the fact that he was the first Canadian-born person to own and operate an art Gallery. Légaré lived and worked for most of his life in the vicinity of Québec City.

Since the 1960s, this painting has been described by English Canadian historians of art and theatre as a depiction of the famous British actor Edmund Kean meeting with members of the Huron-Wendat band of First Nations in the countryside outside of Québec in 1826. John R. Porter, the author of the only catalogue raisonné  of Légaré's work, supports this attribution; and the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project categorizes it as a depiction of "Shakespeare in Canadian Art.

But is this attribution accurate, particularly since it seems not to have been made until more than a century after the work was painted? And if it is, how accurate a depiction of an event that took place almost 20 years before it was painted, and that instantly became part of the mythology surrounding the larger-than-life figure of Kean, can this image be said to be? Whatever this painting really shows, what can we learn from it about the history of British celebrity actors in Canada and the role that Shakespeare and his plays have played in the Canadian public imagination?

All of these questions, and more, are currently being investigated in a post-doctoral project being undertaken by Justin A. Blum at the University of Toronto; watch this space to see what answers and further questions he uncovers...