Hanging Fred and a Few Others, in Richmond
Over the last few years, the Richmond County Historical Society has initiated a number of fundraising events which have also served to contribute to both cultural awareness and cultural expression. The society, in the past 3 years, mounted a memorable multi-media presentation on the life and art of Frederick Simpson Coburn, preserved local history in a Time Vault and commissioned a sculpture evocative of the area’s history, and involved much of the entire community in a visual arts project that culminated in the sale of over 100 small works of art, most of which were created locally.
Perhaps no one should be surprised that the Society’s fundraiser this year is a celebration and a promotion of the arts. This year it is a joint project with the Centre d’Art de Richmond, like the RCHS, a local organisme à but non-lucratif, although one which operates a music school and annually presents as many as three dozen shows in its concert hall. It also houses a small art gallery and rents studio space to musicians and visual artists, as well as to community groups.
“The event we’re co-hosting this year,” said RCHS president Beverly Taber Smith, “is an Art Gala which will be held in Richmond on Sunday, September 28. It’s a unique event because it brings together both literature and art. We’ll be holding a reception, from 5:00 to 7:00 at which we’ll have a book signing and an art auction.”
If the event is unique, its origins are similarly unusual and can be traced back to the RCHS production of Café & Coburn. Nick Fonda did much of the research for the presentation and all of the writing. The new material he discovered on the Eastern Townships’ most famous painter eventually led him to write his third book, a work of non-fiction entitled Hanging Fred and a Few
Others, published by Baraka Books of Montreal. The book’s subtitle, Painters of the Eastern
Townships, reveals that the shock of the first word in the title is really a double-entendre. The hanging is of paintings—those of Fred Coburn for the lucky (and wealthy) few— but also those of other
artists, and in this information-rich book, Fonda introduces the reader to 13 other painters who call (or called) the Townships home. Of the 13, two were approximate contemporaries of Coburn and 10 are still active.
Hanging Fred and a Few Others is a curious but very successful juxtaposition of the past and the present, the old and the new, the famous and less famous, the representational and the abstract. At one moment Fonda has the reader exploring the relationship between painting and religion (who even knew the two are linked!), and on the next chapter he is passing on gossip which is almost as juicy now as it was 80 years ago. The book’s 26 chapters alternate back and forth between its main subject and the other 13 painters, all woven together not only by the most unexpected of comparisons and contrasts but also by Fonda’s seamless prose.
Fonda’s treatment of Coburn is at once respectful (he frequently quotes from or refers to Evelyn Lloyd Coburn’s selfpublished Beyond the Landscape) and revelatory. His biography of Coburn focuses largely on the sixth decade of the artist’s life, the years following his wife’s death. Fonda dispels the myth that Coburn was romantically involved with his favourite model, the dramatic dancer Carlotta, and then reveals that the artist was emotionally involved with a completely other attractive young woman. As if to dispel any possibility that this story might be fiction, the book contains 16 pages of photographs, either of Coburn or taken by Coburn, which substantiate the narrative that Fonda unfurls. The special hardcover edition, of which a limited run of only 150 copies are being printed, is being pre-sold and will include an additional colour supplement of 16 colour plates of paintings by “Fred and a few others,” the artists featured in the book.
Frederick Coburn (1871-1960) was once Canada’s best-known painter. The “few others” referred to in the title are: Madeleine Audette, Pauline Boudreau, Aaron Edson, Minnie Gill, France Jodoin, Madeleine Lemire, Stuart Main, Mary Martin, David Nortcliffe, Denis Palmer, Kevin Sonmor, Stephan Starenkyj, and the late Gordon Pearson. All, to a greater or lesser extent, have created works of art that have drawn critical and popular acclaim. Many were, or are, elected members of different art societies. Thanks to the generosity of the contemporary artists featured in the book, the paintings which appear in the special edition of “Hanging Fred and a Few Others” will be put up for sale by auction to raise funds for the Richmond County Historical Society and the Centre d’Art de Richmond. As many as eleven lucky benefactors and art lovers will leave the Gala, the proud owners of both a quality painting by a recognized Eastern Townships painter and a very interesting book about artists of the Eastern Townships.
The launch will be part of the Art Gala at the Centre SteFamille, 155 Craig St in Richmond on Sunday, Sept 28, 2014 from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. A wine and hors d’oeuvres reception will feature music by Francine Beaubien. There are two ways that patrons, friends and supporters of the two not-for-profit organizations can take part. One is by pre-ordering a limitededition, hardcover copy of “Hanging Fred and a Few Others” before September 21 (or while copies last) at a cost of $60 and receive free admission for two to the Art Gala and Auction. The other is to attend the Gala, at a cost of $30 per person. To order
Hanging Fred and a Few Others , or to attend the Gala, contact Le Centre d’Art de Richmond, either by phone at 819-826-2488 or by email at centredartderichmond.ca or by contacting Simon Langeveld at 819-826-1923. This is an exceptional opportunity to celebrate Townships artists and support local organizations.