Born in the Quebec village of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli in 1910, the master sculptor Jean-Julien Bourgault was one of “les trois bérets" (the three berets), along with his brothers André and Médard. Jean-Julien joined the workshop of his two brothers in 1931 and in 1940 they officially opened their school of sculpture, Le École de Sculpture de Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. Jean-Julien was the director of the school from 1957 until 1986, when he retired. His wooden sculptures, inspired by Quebecois folklore, became increasingly popular and were exhibited at the Louvre Museum. He is listed in "The Historical Dictionary of Quebec Sculpture in the 20th Century" and his sculptures are in public and private collections in England, Canada and the United States. He received several honors including the French National Order of Merit (1964) and the Order of Canada (1970), and he became Grand Officer of the Order of Quebec in 1993. We've included a photo of him in his trademark beret; he died in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli in February 1996. Based on research, we believe these figures were done in the 1950's.
These two 8 inch tall sculptures were expertly carved from one piece of butternut, a soft, lightweight wood light in color and easily worked. One of the figures is a hobo with his pack on his back, a scarf around his neck and a crumpled bucket hat on his head. The other man is a fruit picker; he's wearing a battered fedora, a fruit-picker's bag slung across the front of his body and his right hand holds a round piece of fruit. Monsieur Bourgault was especially famed for his ability to create expressive faces and both these statues prove the point.
Both figures are signed on the rear of the octagonal bases in his script: "Jean. J. Bourgault." They are in outstanding condition, with no cracks or chips or stains. The fine details on them are fascinating. What appears at first glance to be chipping along the edges of both hats and on the hobo's beard are actually deliberate strokes by the carver to create a genuine likeness. These sculptures come from a member of the family that are considered founders of the wood carving industry in Saint-Jean- Port-Joli that still flourishes today. Bourgault's works are only occasionally found for sale; this pair will bring enduring pleasure for the art lover.
***The Longwy faience bowl shown in our photo is available here: