De Grâce, Nérée
Nérée De Grace was born on April 4, 1920, in Shippagan, a small French-Acadian village in New Brunswick. He has practiced painting and drawing since his childhood. In 1938, he received his commercial diploma in steno-typist-accounting after two years of study at the Ste-Famille Academy in Tracadie. In 1941, Nerée was conscripted and assigned to the citadel of Quebec due to his education. However, he continues his training in an autodidact manner. In 1944, he was demobilized and entered the Beaux-Arts full-time where he trained in decorative arts and advertising art. He graduated in 1948 and won first prize in drawing and sketching. He subsequently founded his advertising and screen printing workshop for which he was the main designer for 30 years. A few years later, in 1979, a significant event propelled his career. The Acadian singer Édith Butler fell under the spell of her paintings and proposed to the artist the creation of a Canadian Post Corporation stamp on the theme of Acadia, with a view to commemorating the centenary of the first Acadian convention held in Memramcook. With a print run of twenty-eight million copies, the stamp will be titled L'Acadie-Acadia , and will represent Shippagan. The painter also developed a fruitful collaboration with Antonine Maillet, a renowned Acadian writer, for whom he illustrated several of her works. The Société Radio-Canada will even devote an hour to it as part of the program Reflets d'un pays. And in 1982, the painter created an immense backdrop for La joie de Criée, a play by Antonine Maillet performed at the Rideau-Vert theater in Montreal. 1987 will become an important year for Nrée De Grace. The Michel-Ange Gallery in Montreal is putting together an exhibition dedicated solely to the artist and the book Nérée De Grâce is being published by Broquet, in the “Signatures” collection. Subsequently, he participated in several exhibitions at the Michel-Ange gallery which achieved extraordinary success. In the extreme cold, we even saw queues at the gallery door to have the right to be among the first to see the works. A maximum of one work was granted per client out of respect for Nrée De Grace fans. The art of this painter is wrongly considered “naive”. In fact, even in a restricted sense, which designates it as a popular art, of folkloric inspiration and executed by amateurs or self-taught, the pictorial art of the artist, graduated from the School of Fine Arts and who had his own advertising workshop, obviously cannot be naive. On the other hand, it is true that we find in his paintings this freshness, this spontaneity and this ingenuous, almost childish look, specific to the naive.