GUYON, JEAN, painter, canon of the chapter of Quebec; member of the Guyon family, originally from Perche; son of Simon Guyon, who was called “habittant” in the 1666 census, and of Louise Racine (b. at Quebec in 1641); b. 3 Oct. 1659 and baptized two days later in the parish of Notre-Dame de Québec; d. 1687 in Paris.
Entering the seminary about 1670, Jean Guyon studied the humanities there and, according to all indications, took up painting, urged along in this direction probably by the example of Brother Luc [see François], Father Pommier and, in 1675, M. de Cardenat. He entered the Grand Seminary on 8 Dec. 1677, the day that the building which still stands was officially opened, and he received minor orders four days later.
In the summer of 1678 Guyon went to France to continue his philosophical and theological studies. We learn this from a letter dated 9 March 1681 from Abbé Dudouyt to Bishop Laval*: “Mr. Guyon will travel [to New France] with the first ships.” Dudouyt added: “He [Guyon] is fairly well at present. He has benefited in his painting. He has not applied himself as much to his philosophy this year, because of his illness . . . I hope that he will do well and that he will give you cause for satisfaction.”
Returning to Quebec in August 1682, Guyon completed his theology and was ordained priest on 21 Nov. 1683. He was appointed a canon of the chapter on 7 Nov. 1684 and almost immediately left Quebec as secretary to Bishop Laval and went to Paris. He died there on 10 Jan. 1687, “with feelings of great confidence.” A letter from Abbé Dudouyt, dated 17 April 1687, gives few details about the young priest’s works. “I am sending you some lacquer which Mr. Guion had bought, having got a bargain, some plaster statues, some prints and some small tools which he used for working on the statues . . .”
There are solid grounds for thinking that Father Guyon’s production was not great. Some of his works probably perished in the fires at the seminary in 1701 and 1705; others have perhaps been so badly damaged that it is impossible to identify them. At the present time there remain a portrait in oils, of astonishing grace and charm, and some water-colours which have kept their subtlety and freshness.
The portrait (at the Hôtel-Dieu in Quebec) represents Mother Jeanne-Françoise Juchereau*, dite de Saint-Ignace. Born at Quebec in 1650, she was several times superior of her convent; she was also its annalist. Her expression – intelligent, amiable, smiling shrewdly, well-bred – makes us think of her style of writing. The artist has reproduced her face and dress with great simplicity and admirable skill, and with deep perceptiveness.
Abbé Guyon probably did his water-colour paintings to help in the teaching of botany. They represent items of the Laurentian flora. The drawing is accurate and lively, the colours fresh and transparent; the composition is arranged in an orderly but natural manner.
ASQ, Lettres, N, 52; 0, 1; A.-E. Gosselin, “Notes pour servir à la biographie des prêtres du séminaire de Québec, avec références en marge.” Caron, “Inventaire de documents,” APQ Rapport, 1939–40, 234, 248f., 254, 258, 275, 279.
Revisions based on:
Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de Québec, CE301-S1, 5 oct. 1659.