Animated in Montreal

A couple cool cartoon finds to report from my recent sidetrip to Montreal. The first was my discovery of cartoonist La Palme. In one of Montreal’s many excellent used bookstores, I stumbled across a book from 1950 called LA PALME: THE FIRST 20 YEARS OF THE CANADIAN CARICATURIST. According to the bookseller, Robert La Palme is fairly well known in Canada (granted, as well as any cartoonist can be known) and this book is the only significant catalogue of his early work. In addition to being packed with caricatures, which are executed in a highly stylized Covarrubias/Garretto vein, the book also has examples of his painting, graphic design work, and political cartoons (the book says he drew over 2500 of them for the Montreal paper LA CANADA between 1943 and 1950). The political cartoons are also quite stylized, but here he employs a beautiful wavy bold brush line rather than the geometric abstractions of his caricatures. The book was published in a numbered edition of 5000 and I highly recommend searching it out to anybody interested in cartoons and caricature. There is an online obit about La Palme which says that he continued political cartooning until 1963 and that he was also the artistic director of Expo ’67: Montreal World’s Fair.

I also had a chance to visit the Cinémathèque québécoise which is a stellar organization devoted to film and animation. I’d heard of the organization before, but only had a vague idea of what they actually did. The organization was founded in 1963 by a group of filmmakers and film enthusiasts with the goal of documenting, conserving and promoting cinema in all its many forms. They have monthly screenings on a broad range of cartoon subjects, with shows this month dedicated to animators Paul Grimault and Raimund Krumme. They also house a wonderful research facility where I managed to put in a couple hours of work that resulted in the discovery of some important documents needed for my latest BOOK. If this place existed in LA, I would assuredly be spending a good deal of time there.

Another thing that must surely be recommended about the Cinémathèque is their current exhibition on French-Canadian animation pioneer Raoul Barré, who is credited with the creation of animation pegs as well as starting the first animation studio in New York City, among many other achievements. It is a first-rate exhibition that deserves a visit from anybody in the Montreal area. It’s rare to see animation treated with art gallery-type respect, but this exhibition sets a perfect example of how to elegantly present the works of an animator. A broad range of Barré’s life and work is on display, including a Felix drawing by Otto Messmer on an envelope, family photos, sketchbook drawings by Barr&eacute, sequences of animation drawings, letters, and other personal effects. Barré was a classically trained painter and while most of his paintings are lost, there are examples of his fine art work also on display.

The exhibition was organized by the Cinémathèque’s animation curator Marco de Blois and runs through October 24. In conjunction with the exhibition, they’ve also released a DVD of Barré’s early animated series “Animated Grouch Chasers” and “Fables” from 1915-1916. Show information can be found HERE. Download the PDF brochure for a nice write-up on Barré’s work in English.