This watercolour presents a view captured at the corner of rues Bonaventure and Royale in Trois-Rivières. The artist was able to beautifully capture the surroundings of the majestic cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the construction of which was completed in 1858. Its main entrance opens onto rue Bonaventure and faces Parc Champlain. This Catholic temple contains over a hundred stained-glass windows produced by the artist Guido Nincheri.

On the corner, to the left, we can see a red brick building, the Restaurant Christo. This is one of the many buildings that are no longer part of the landscape today. A few changes occurred in this part of the city over the years. Indeed, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the municipal authorities, who wanted to widen certain streets, including rue Royale, purchased or expropriated certain properties.

As for Léonce Cuvelier, who often signed his works L. E. Cuvelier, it is through an article published in the January 11, 1936, edition of La Presse, a newspaper published in Montreal since 1884, among other sources, that we learn more about the origins and career of this artist. He was born in Paris in the 11th arrondissement on August 7, 1874, and baptized on August 9 under the first names Léonce Émile. He was the son of Marie Louise Richelet, then 21 years old, and Arthur Louis Ernest Cuvelier, a packer, who was 27 years old. Léonce lost his mother on January 3, 1878. His father had to entrust him to members of his family who lived in Étiolles, today in the department of Essonne southeast of Paris. Léonce Cuvelier mentioned remembering that, at the age of nine, he crossed paths with a painter working on his canvas and that he was so impressed by the skilful way that this artist held his paintbrush and pallet that he decided at that moment to become a painter.

At the age of 18, he had to complete his military service. Did he capture, in drawings, his stays in the French colonies of North Africa, then in Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam), at that time the capital of the Cochinchina colony, then that of French Indochina (1887-1901)? Upon returning to France, Cuvelier obtained a job as a draftsman at the maritime prefecture of Cherbourg in Normandy. He dreamed of other ambitions and other landscapes. America fascinated him.

According to the List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the U.S. Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival, Léonce Cuvelier (29 years of age) arrived at the port of New York on December 13, 1903. He disembarked from the liner La Savoie, which was described as “large, fast, and luxurious.” This ship made the crossing in nine days from the port of Le Havre in France. Marie, a 30-year-old Frenchwoman identified as his wife (a note in the register mentions “wife”), accompanied him. The form mentions that they planned to visit a friend, Henri Legoll, who lived at 286 7th Avenue in New York.

Cuvelier enrolled at Columbia University to study drawing, architecture, and perspective. He had the opportunity to participate in stage decoration work at theatres in New York thanks to Ernest Gros, a stage artist.

In 1908, still according to the report of the interview given by Cuvelier to La Presse in 1936, he became homesick; he returned to Paris, where he wanted to improve his skills in the art of theatrical decor. It is unknown what happened to Marie. However, we know that he married Joséphine Albertine Jondot on August 19, 1908, at the Saint-Maur-des-Fossés town hall without any indication that Léonce Émile Cuvelier had been a widower.

Whatever the case may be, in February 1909, Léonce Cuvelier, who was at that time 34 years old, again appeared on the List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the U.S. Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival. Indeed, he had returned to New York. This time, the form provides the indication that he had resided in the La Varennes Saint-Hilaire district in Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, France. Cuvelier had made the crossing on the La Bretagne liner accompanied by (Joséphine) Albertine Jondot (28 years of age), his wife, who was a few months pregnant. The couple also appears in the American census conducted in April 1910 for New York City. It is mentioned there that they had a son named Léonce who was 10 months old.

For a few months, Léonce Cuvelier, Sr. did an internship as a stage decorator at the Manhattan Opera. The little family then chose to settle in Montreal. The family cannot be found in the 1911 Canadian census. In addition, the name Léonce Cuvelier first appears in the Montreal address directories in 1912. However, according to the 1921 Canadian census for the city of Montreal, Saint-Jacques district, which reveals that the Cuvelier family lived at 239, rue Wolfe, it is indeed the year 1910 which was indicated by the census taker in the column devoted to the year of obtaining their Canadian citizenship. 1910 is therefore both the year that Léonce, Sr., Albertine, and Léonce, Jr. immigrated and the year that they obtained Canadian nationality. The 1921 census also tells us that the couple had welcomed two other children to the family between 1910 and 1912: a daughter named France and a second son named Jean-Jacques.

Hired as a decorator at the Théâtre Le National, the Théâtre des Nouveautés, then the Théâtre Impérial for 8 years, Léonce Cuvelier produced watercolours and taught at the Jesuits, on rue Bleury, for 2 years. In addition, when French theatre troupes came to give performances in Montreal, he helped create the sets.

In late 1933, while Trois-Rivières was abuzz over the celebrations planned for the following year to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of the city, Cuvelier was invited to come settle and open a studio there. With his son Jean-Jacques, among others, he produced a considerable number of works depicting places and buildings in his adopted city and its history.

Cuvelier would leave Trois-Rivières in the late 1930s. In July 1937, Le Soleil, a Quebec City daily newspaper, announced that the artist was holding an exhibition at the Palais Montcalm, a performance venue in Quebec City. Until 1945, he painted a few portraits, places, buildings, and old monuments of Quebec; he also enjoyed painting ships related to the maritime history of the St. Lawrence.

With his wife, Cuvelier would go on to settle in Pont-Rouge, in Portneuf county. Furthermore, in March 1951, Le Soleil, announcing the death of Mrs. Albertine Jondot Cuvelier, specified that, although she had recently lived with her son Jean-Jacques on rue Crémazie in Quebec City, her funeral would be held at the Pont-Rouge parish church and her remains would be buried in the cemetery of this parish, since she had resided there.

In March 1955, Léonce Cuvelier still lived with his son Jean-Jacques, his daughter-in-law, and their daughter, Lyse, who lived on avenue Cartier in Quebec City.

Cuvelier died in October 1959 and was buried in the Pont-Rouge cemetery.

In the March 19, 1976, edition of Le Bien public, a weekly newspaper published in Trois-Rivières, under the pseudonym Villeray, Raymond Douville expressed his memory of the painter in these terms: “A fully fledged artist, testy, always displeased with himself and others. An ‘impossible’ character, as the saying goes, but what an artist full of resources and talent!”

Donation from a collector
Musée Pierre-Boucher Collection
2006 762 D