Nelson Surette: le retour

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Curated by Ray Cronin

Nelson Surette was born 1920 in Yarmouth County, and lived most of his life in the Clare area.  He taught himself to paint, beginning at the age of eight.

Nova Scotia is renowned for its folk art, but Nelson Surette has never easily fit into that genre. A self-taught outsider artist, his work does not reflect the bright, optimistic and humorous work that has become the primary style of folk art in this province. Instead, Surette’s work is rooted in a compulsion to tell a story about a people and a place, and as such is part of the long storytelling tradition of the Acadians.

Nelson Surette’s works have earned him a unique place in Canadian art history and in the Permanent Collection of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. His paintings have been exhibited across the country, including at Nova Scotia’s Government House. He twice received the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Medal before his death in 2004.  This collection is drawn from works selected by Nelson and Julia Surette to represent Nelson’s oeuvre, paintings they held back from sale to show the complete spectrum of his work to future generations.

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is honoured to be hosting this exhibition, marking the 250th anniversary of the Treaty of Paris, which permitted the Acadians to return to Nova Scotia after their expulsion in 1755. Surette painted a series of large works on the subject of “Le grand dérangement,” depicting in paint the enduring power of the Acadians’ return, which can be seen at the Clare Municipal Hall.

Image: Nelson Surette, Acadian Village at Sunset: French Shore, Oil on Masonite, 45 x 55 cm.
Permanent Collection of Nelson and Julia Surette.




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