March 31, 2019

Remembering François-Marc Gagnon

The Art Canada Institute remembers one of the country’s most revered and beloved art historians.

The Art Canada Institute is saddened by the loss of François-Marc Gagnon (1935 to 2019), one of the country’s most revered, accomplished, and influential figures in Canadian and Québécois art history. A Member of the Order of Canada, an Officer of the National Order of Québec, Dr. Gagnon was the author of numerous publications on Canadian art history, including two Art Canada Institute books, Paul-Émile Borduas: Life & Work and Louis Nicolas: Life & Work.


For over 50 years Dr. Gagnon played a pivotal role in Canadian art. As Dr. Brian Foss stated, his intellectual rigor and his infectious enthusiasm “inspired countless colleagues and students, both French and English.”[1] An educator through and through, Dr. Gagnon took immense joy in bringing art to everyone—not just specialists in the field. To do this, in addition to being a scholar and professor, he worked as a curator, a radio and television host, and was a tireless member of numerous boards, committees and juries, to which he lent his expertise.[2] In 2013 Dr. Gagnon became an important advocate of the Art Canada Institute. He was excited about wanting Canadian art history to appear online in a scholarly but accessible format.


In 1966 Dr. Gagnon began teaching at the Department of Art History of the University of Montréal, where he was the first Canadian professor to be hired. In 2000 he retired from the University of Montréal to become the Founding Director and Distinguished Research Fellow of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art at Concordia University. Dr. Gagnon authored, co-authored, and contributed to more than two dozen books and exhibition catalogues and produced numerous authoritative articles. Among his vast areas of expertise, Dr. Gagnon was an expert on Paul-Émile Borduas (his 1978 publication on the artist won a Governor General’s award), the Québécois art group Les Automatistes, and European depictions of members of the First Nations, among many other subjects too plentiful to list here.


Along with so many who admired Dr. Gagnon and who had the privilege of working with him, the Art Canada Institute is grateful for his passion for art history and his tremendous generosity of spirit. In a 2011 autobiography, Dr. Gagnon wrote, “I truly must have been born under a lucky star.”[3] Those who knew him and his work felt equally fortunate for all that he taught us.



1. Brian Foss, Presentation of François-Marc Gagnon to the Chancellor of Concordia University on the occasion of his receipt of a degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, June 1992,


2. Ibid.


3. François-Marc Gagnon and Peter Feldstein, “Critical Autobiography and Analysis of the Work/Autobiographie critique et analyse de l’œuvre,” Journal of Canadian Art History / Annales d'histoire de l'art Canadien 32, no. 1 (2011): 13-47,

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