Biography of Claude Roussel
Claude Roussel was born in 1930 in Edmundston, New Brunswick. He was ten years old when he began sculpting wood, and he had his first exhibition at the young age of 17. From 1950 to 1956, he studied visual arts at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal where he received diplomas in sculpture and art education. In 1961, the Canada Council for the Arts awarded him a grant to travel and study in Europe, especially architectural decoration in England, France and Italy.
After completing his education, he was an art education teacher in the francophone schools of the Edmundston area, a first for the public school system in New Brunswick. Between 1959 and 1961, he was Assistant Curator at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, during which time he also sculpted his first major work, Les deux castors (1959). The Province of New Brunswick presented this piece to Lord Beaverbrook as a gift for his 80th birthday. In 1963, Roussel became the founding professor of the Visual Arts Department at Université de Moncton, where he taught until his retirement in 1992. He directed the university’s Visual Arts Department from 1963 to 1971 and again between 1976 and 1979.
He was deeply involved in the advancement of the arts in Acadie and at the Université de Moncton particularly. His efforts led to the establishment of an art gallery at Université de Moncton and he organized the exhibitions Sélection 65 and Sélection 67, showing works by Acadian artists. He is a former member of the Maritimes Education Foundation and former board member of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and the Jack Chambers Memorial Foundation. Until 1991 he chaired the Louise Reuben Cohen Purchase Fund of the Galerie d’art de l’Université de Moncton.
A very prolific artist, he participated in over 115 exhibitions including at least 40 solo showings and several traveling exhibits. Throughout his career he has created more than 30 works of monumental sculpture. Several of his works are part of private and public collections including Dyna Bolts/Énerloizes (1988), part of the permanent collection of the Sculpture Garden at the Seoul Olympic Park in South Korea; the Monument to Clément Cormier (1990) honouring the founder of the Université de Moncton, and the Moncton 100 Monument celebrating the centennial year of the City of Moncton. His sculptures also grace public buildings, churches and university campuses across New Brunswick and Quebec.
Roussel has received numerous prizes, awards and distinctions: the Allied Arts Medal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (1964), the Canadian Centennial Medal(1967), Chevalier de la Pléiade de l'Ordre de la Francophonie (1972), Olympic Symposium (1976), Queen’s Commemorative Medal (1977), medal of the Ordre de la Pléiade (1982), Order of Canada (1984), Canada 125 Medal (1992), first place in the Marion McCain Exhibition competition (Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, 1989). He was also the recipient of the Current Award for his contribution to Visual Arts Education in New Brunswick. The Canada Council for the Arts awarded him grants in 1961, 1963 and 1965. In 1987, he was the subject of a book by Herménégilde Chiasson and Patrick Condon Laurette, Claude Roussel, sculpteur (Éditions d’Acadie).
Since his retirement, Roussel’s time has been entirely dedicated to creative production. In 1993, an exhibition entitled Roussel en Relief covered four periods in the artist’s career, with over 80 relief works on exhibit. More recently the exhibition Sélection 1997, organized to highlight the 30th anniversary of Sélection 67, showed works by five of the nine artists represented in the original event, including Roussel.
Beyond his art, through his commitment to teaching and writing, Claude Roussel has made an invaluable contribution to the development of visual arts in Acadie that continues to this day.