Quebec sculptor Jacques Bourgault passed away Jan. 26 at the age of 77. Photo courtesy of IPIR

Quebec sculptor, who created a new vision for the cross, dies at age 77

By  Alan Hustak, Catholic Register Special
  • January 31, 2017

Quebec sculptor Jacques Bourgault, whose contemporary, carved wooden statues of a triumphant, risen Christ on the cross hang in churches throughout North America, has died at the age of 77.

Mr. Bourgault, who was born into a family of Quebec wood carvers known for their artistry, came into his own after Vatican II in the mid-1960s, when he started turning out works depicting Christ as a king and saviour of mankind rather than the traditional images of a bloodied man in anguish.

He hand-carved about eight major works a year. One of his masterworks of a pregnant Virgin, Mary of the Advent created controversy when it was unveiled in 1994, but it has since been praised a “tribute to motherhood.” His carving of St. Kateri Tekakwitha in St. Anne de Restigouche is similarly sublime.

Mr. Bourgault, who died Jan. 26, was the son of Médard, a well-known craftsman in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli.

He dropped out of school when he was 16 to begin carving animal figurines. Following Vatican II, which redefined the role of religious art and embraced more contemporary design, Mr. Bourgault developed his own style. He broke with tradition and began depicting Christ and the holy family as human figures.

Working in walnut, oak and maple, Mr. Bourgault favoured the three-dimensional ronde-bosse natural technique to create more than 1,200 religious works in his lifetime. In addition to crucifixes he carved creches and the 14 stations of the cross, many of which were commissioned by churches in Ontario and in Western Canada.

His last work, which depicts the Holy Family, was commissioned by a church in Michigan.

He closed his studio in 2004, but continued working on non-religious themes. He leaves his wife and their two children.

The funeral is scheduled for Feb. 4 in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli.

(Hustak is a freelance writer in Montreal.)

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