Depicted at the heart of the ruins left behind by the terrible fire in downtown Trois-Rivières that occurred on June 22, 1908, the statue of Laviolette is blackened by smoke on its pedestal.

This statue, which is six and a half feet high, not counting its base, had been commissioned by a committee of Trois-Rivières citizens from artist/sculptor Louis-Philippe Hébert so that it would be ready for the city’s 250th anniversary celebrations in 1884. Made from a porous material (a type of concrete), it had trouble withstanding the elements. Repaired several times, it was the subject of a long legal saga by Hébert, who had claimed amounts due from the City of Trois-Rivières. The City finally ended up paying. In the fall of 1919, the statue was irrevocably destroyed—“pulverized under the sacrilegious pick of the wrecking machine,” as lawyer Joseph Bernard recounts in Le Bien public on October 23. The following year, the place was occupied by the 1914-1918 War Heroes monument.

There is no doubt that this charcoal drawing, created by Rodolphe Duguay in 1928, was produced from a photograph, a postcard, or his imagination. Furthermore, the architectural elements around the statue do not seem to be entirely consistent with reality.

Rodolphe Duguay (1891-1973) was a native of Nicolet. He studied at the École des Frères, then at the Séminaire de Nicolet, in Quebec. As early as September 1908, he left for Montreal. He took fine arts classes there. He met painter Marc Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Côté, for whom he produced around forty works that Suzor-Côté would sign.

Duguay then set sail for Europe in September 1920. He kept a diary in which he recorded in broad strokes most of the elements of his artistic and touristic journey in Europe. With his friend Octave Bélanger, also an artist enrolled in the same academy, he enjoyed himself capturing a good number of landscapes. In 1924, Duguay was awarded the first scholarship offered to an artist/painter by the government of Quebec.

Upon returning to Canada in June 1927, Duguay asked his father to build him a workshop adjoining the family home in Nicolet; he envisioned it as the one he had known in Paris. This place would take the name of Ermitage.

Rodolphe Duguay had a good friend in Montreal, Armand L’Archevêque. The latter would also go on to marry Duguay’s sister. Duguay would also meet Armand’s sister, Jeanne L’Archevêque, who was ten years his junior. She was pretty, educated; she was a pianist and one of the first bachelors of philosophy of the Université Laval de Montréal, as it was known at the time. She also wrote for newspapers. At first, she thought of becoming a nun. She changed her mind after falling deeply in love with Rodolphe and married him. They would go on to have six children, several of whom would inherit the artistic talents of their parents.

He would always remain faithful to his beliefs, and he held some major exhibitions in Montreal and Trois-Rivières. Msgr. Albert Tessier greatly encouraged him and commissioned several works from him, including this one.

Duguay received the Order of Canada in 1973 a few months prior to his death.

The Musée Pierre-Boucher has named one of its galleries after this artist to pay tribute to him.

Donation from Msgr. Albert Tessier
Musée Pierre-Boucher Collection
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