POMMIER, HUGUES, priest, missionary, painter, and portraitist; b. c. 1637 in the region of Vendôme, southwest of Paris; d. 1686 in France.
Little is known of his life before he left for New France, except that he had been ordained as a priest and that he intended to do missionary work in Canada. He sailed in 1663, stopped off at Plaisance (Placentia, Newfoundland), where he exercised his ministry for several months, and did not reach Quebec until the spring of 1664. During the 14 years that he spent in New France, he served the few parishes which were then in the making – Sainte-Famille (Île d’Orléans), Boucherville, Lauson, Contrecoeur, Sorel, and Beauport. The last mention concerning him dates from 1678. He returned to France, where he died in December 1686.
“He prided himself on being a painter, producing many pictures; no one liked them,” wrote Bertrand de Latour* in his Mémoires sur la vie de M. de Laval. It is advisable to distrust remarks of this sort. However that may be, there are in existence at the present time three pictures which were painted between 1665 and 1672 and which are certainly Pommier’s work. One is a good copy of a print by Grégoire Huret representing the martyrdom of the Jesuit fathers in 1648–49. The painting is old, and as Huret’s print arrived at Quebec in 1665, Pommier was the only painter capable of doing it at that time. This picture is in the Hôtel-Dieu in Quebec.
The same institution possesses a hallucinatory portrait, that of Mother Catherine de Saint-Augustin [see Simon], who died on 8 May 1668. At that date Pommier was still the only Quebec painter practising his art and available to paint the portrait of the deceased.
On 30 April 1672 Mother Marie de l’Incarnation [see Guyart] died at the convent of the Ursulines in Quebec. She was buried with great ceremony. But some hours later it was decided to take her body out of the vault in order to have her portrait done. At the beginning of May 1672 Pommier was the only person who could “make a perfect likeness of this gentle face which was stamped with the marks of beatitude.” The original of this portrait was lost in the fire of 1686; there is still in existence however a replica or a faithful copy.
These are the only works of this artist that are known at the present time. Even if he had painted only the moving portrait of Mother Catherine, Father Pommier would have proved his talent as a painter and portraitist.
ASQ, mss, 29, “Histoire du Séminaire de Québec,” par J.-A. Taschereau. Jug. et délib., I, 283. Auguste Gosselin, Vie de Mgr de Laval, I, 446. Bertrand de Latour, Mémoires sur la vie de M. de Laval, premier évêque de Québec (Cologne, 1761), 107. Gérard Morisset, Peintres et tableaux (2v., Québec, 1936–37), II, 23–36.