ANGER, MARIE-ELMINA (baptized Marie-Mélina), named Marie de Jésus, member of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and artist; b. 24 Dec. 1844 in Pointe-aux-Trembles (Neuville), Lower Canada, daughter of Séraphin Anger and Rose de Lima Anger; d. 5 Nov. 1901 at Quebec.
Marie-Elmina Anger’s father was drowned in a tragic accident when she was about 13 years old, and she was taken in by an aunt who lived at Quebec. Educated by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd on Rue Lachevrotière, she also began to study drawing with them and soon showed astonishing aptitude. On 20 July 1860 she became a novice in the community. Three years later she made her vows and took the name Marie de Jésus. She initially devoted herself to teaching, but her talent for painting soon blossomed. Her first canvas, a reproduction of Raphael’s Madonna with the diadem, brought her to the attention of her superiors, including the founder of the community, Marie Fisbach*. She was encouraged to take private lessons with a Quebec portrait artist, Eugène-Joseph-Arthur Hamel, a nephew of the painter Théophile Hamel*. This step was the beginning of a long and fruitful artistic career.
Although Marie de Jésus was not the moving force behind the establishment of the sisters’ well-known studio on Rue Lachevrotière, she helped it flourish. Adults from all social backgrounds attended art classes at the studio and the sisters themselves came to develop their skills. According to the Courrier du Canada, it had 80 to 100 students in 1875. Marie de Jésus herself painted some 50 canvases of religious subjects, which now adorn churches in Quebec, Ontario, and New England. She also produced exceptionally delicate illuminations for government addresses to various dignitaries, including popes and British sovereigns.
Marie de Jésus painted numerous oil portraits. The most noteworthy are those of the founders of four religious communities: Marie Fisbach, of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd; Marie-Anne-Marcelle Mallet*, of the Soeurs de la Charité de Québec; Élisabeth Bruyère*, of the Sisters of Charity of Bytown (Ottawa); and Émilie Tavernier*, of the Sisters of Charity of Providence. She also painted portraits of Archbishop Charles-François Baillargeon* of Quebec, Elzéar-Alexandre Cardinal Taschereau*, and vicar general Charles-Félix Cazeau*.
Through her art, Marie de Jésus enriched the cultural and religious heritage of Quebec. The continuation of an artistic tradition among the Sisters of the Good Shepherd of Quebec clearly owes much to her influence. She imparted a momentum that succeeding generations have, to varying degrees, maintained.
AC, Québec, État civil, Catholiques, Saint-Jean-Baptiste (Québec), 9 nov. 1901. ANQ-Q, CE1-15, 24 déc. 1844; M 186, M.-E. Anger. Arch. de la Maison Généralice des Sœurs du Bon-Pasteur de Québec (Sainte-Foy, Qué.), Annales, 1–9; Notice nécrologique de M.-E. Anger, dite Marie de Jésus; Alice Pruneau, “Les activités artistiques des débuts de la communauté Bon-Pasteur.” La Semaine religieuse de Québec, 16 nov. 1901.