North American Wood Carving
North American Wood Carving has probably been around about as long as man has been on the comtinent. So the history of wood carving begins at the beginning. Man has always used and manipulated wood. Many early pioneers were first wood carver hobbyists. Because we have used wood as one of our first tools, maybe for a club or a walking stick or one could have even tied a rock to a stick of wood and used it for a hammer. What do you think a man with a knife living in the forest who is surrounded by standing and fallen trees would do to pass his time? Woodcarving just got its beginning as a result of man’s creativity. Besides, carving is so much fun who would not take interest in times where hobbies were few and far between. We probably started out whittling or maybe carved other tools or utensils out of wood. After a while we discovered we could carve or make just about anything we wanted out of wood. As so the art form evolved. Carving could have been his favorite pastime, at least until Eve came along.
Let’s look a couple of master wood carvers and examples of their work.
Paul Emile Caron was a master sculptor. He was the “father” of the Caron family of wood sculptors. He worked from 1945 until the 1960s. Some experts feel that he was the artistic equal of the Bourgault brothers. Most of P.E. Caron’s character pieces were painted but not this piece. The aged pine shown here is beautiful and you can see the natural grain of the wood. Everything about this sculpture is excellent; the proportions and pose; the expressive face; the detailed hands; and the detailing on the boots and clothes, including buttons.
Fred is a self taught wood carver – he started carving and sculpting in 1992 as a hobby. He eventually managed to find a job as a wood carver in a small company which specialized in architectural wood carving in Toronto. He only worked there few months but he acquired knowledge he lacked as a self taught carver. Fred would probably stay there much longer than just a few months but his heart and mind were really into sculpting. His dreams realized when he was approached by a company producing and dealing with religious art. They were looking for a woodcarver / sculptor who would be able to create custom church carvings and religious statues. Fred worked there almost 3 years and then decided that it was time to leave and work on his own. For the past 18 year he has been working as an independent artist accepting commissions for sculpting, woodcarving, painting and antique / sculpture restorations in Canada and USA. Fred is recognized as one of the best master carvers in North America.
Marcel Guay. Sculptor. Woodcarver. Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Quebec. Active mid to late 20th century.
Marcel Guay was considered one of the master flat-plane carvers of St-Jean-Port-Joli in the 1970’s and 1980’s. After studying for 4 years at the studio of Andre Bourgault he opened a studio with two other former pupils, Noel Guay – his brother and Maurice Harvey. Marcel Guay specialized in carving Quebec people at work and play; from the farm fields to playing checkers. He became well known and often accepted commissions.
It should be noted that, like the Bourgaults before him, Marcel Guay often had students working under him learning woodcarving.
As you can tell this art form has a wide range of styles. Folk art pieces abound out there, some unmarked but no less beautiful. Here’s a very well done figurine done by an unknown artist.