This bronze bust depicts the head of artist/painter Léo Ayotte in his early sixties; he was a good friend of Henri Bordeleau, the sculptor.

Born in Sainte-Flore, near Grand-Mère in Mauricie, on October 11, 1909, Léo Ayotte was baptized the following day under the first names Joseph Rosaire Léo Ovide Ayotte. His mother was Élodie Deschênes and his father was Edmond Ayotte, a carpenter.

In addition to his primary studies at a school in his native parish, Léo Ayotte was, successively, a student of the Collège Séraphique de Trois-Rivières, the Séminaire Saint-Joseph de Trois-Rivières (1930 conventum), and the Séminaire de Nicolet.

When Léo Ayotte started painting seriously, he was already in his thirties. He settled in Montreal and obtained a caretaker position at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal and acted as a model there. He took advantage of these posing sessions to listen attentively in order to absorb the advice and suggestions that the art teachers gave to their students.

Page 26 of the April 3, 1943, edition of La Presse lists the works exhibited at the Salon du Printemps de Montréal, which was in its 60th annual show. Ayotte, among renowned fellow artists, exhibited a first work, a self-portrait, Portrait par lui-même, which the journalist described as follows: “A beautiful achievement and a passionate life – this artist may well have some surprises in store for us.”

Three years later, Raymond-J. Bériault was responsible for announcing Ayotte’s first exhibition on page 16 of the November 30, 1946, edition of Le Droit. At his studio on rue Saint-Christophe in Montreal, the artist/painter exhibited canvases that radiated life and harmony. 94 paintings were presented. “His art is quite personal, which is what gives it its full value. To those who doubt Ayotte’s value due to his lack of education, we could always quote the advice of a master from the École des Beaux-Arts, who said to Ayotte: “You’re better off never studying; you would spoil your art.” ”

His career continued. In 1952, he already had 2,000 paintings to his name.

That same year, according to page 4 of the December 21 edition of Le Petit Journal, Léo Ayotte was thinking of becoming a monk in Saint-Benoît-du-Lac. The news was surprising. In fact, the artist was the subject of fake news. Le Petit Journal published a denial, a short article entitled “A Prankster” on December 28.

In 1956, Ayotte participated in an exhibition in the entrance hall of the Gesù in Montreal. In December 1960, he held an exhibition in Saint-Jean-des-Piles in Mauricie. Then, in 1963, Ayotte completed a nine-month internship in Europe.

Léo Ayotte exhibited in 1964 at the Centre d’Art du Mont-Royal and in 1965 at the Centre Howard in Sherbrooke.

On page 12 of the October 25, 1966, edition of Le Droit of Ottawa, under the title “The Exhibitions: François Hertel and His Friend Léo Ayotte,” we learn that Ayotte, who lived in Montreal, had spent the summer in the Laurentians. He “returned with a supply of new canvases whose execution clearly indicates his customary frankness and his sincerity before nature.”

As for François Hertel, whose real name was Rodolphe Dubé (1905-1985), he was quoted in this same article in Le Droit giving his impressions of the talent of his friend Ayotte: “I place above all, in the work of my dear Léo Ayotte, this extraordinary pictorial understanding of the Canadian atmosphere. Here, the light is harsh, direct, relentless. Translating it without harshness, in all its simple poetry, is where the art becomes difficult. Ayotte has conquered this difficulty.”

Ayotte’s talent continued to impose itself. Some of his paintings presented at the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal were purchased by important visitors from various countries.

Then, he exhibited at the Centre culturel de Shawinigan in March 1972.

That same year, a popularity contest was organized by the CKAC radio station by conducting a poll among Quebecers, who were asked to vote for their favourite female artist. The winner was Andrée Champagne (1939-2020), an actor (then appointed a senator). She received from the hands of the artist, in the presence of popular singer and host Pierre Lalonde (1941-2016), a work by Léo Ayotte, a Canadian landscape.

Always so appreciated by François Hertel, a member of the Académie canadienne-française and the director of Rythmes et Couleurs (Paris), Ayotte was described as authentic, lively, and friendly.

Several exhibitions presenting his works have also been held since his death, which occurred in Saint-Hyacinthe in December 1976.

In addition, as a tribute, the exhibition centre of the Culture Shawinigan organization was named after Léo Ayotte.

Finally, in February and March 1981, the Musée Pierre-Boucher presented a retrospective exhibition thanks to the collaboration, among others, of Louise-Hélène Ayotte, known as “Varech” Ayotte, herself an artist, who was the painter’s niece. The Galerie Bernard Desroches in Montreal has also made it possible to bring together around thirty major works.

For the occasion, as recounted on page 14 of the February 21 edition of Le Nouvelliste, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Quebec purchased this bronze produced by Henri Bordeleau to offer it as a gift to the Musée Pierre-Boucher; the work was received in late 1980. Then, as planned, the work was officially unveiled to the general public on February 20, 1981, by Denis Vaugeois, Minister of Cultural Affairs (February 28, 1978, to April 30, 1981), at a preview of the exhibition entitled “A Tribute to Léo Ayotte” in the presence of the sculptor Bordeleau and many guests.

Donation from Denis Vaugeois, Minister of Cultural Affairs of Quebec
Musée Pierre-Boucher Collection
1980 192 S