NORMAND, FRANÇOIS (baptized Nicolas-François), wood-carver, carpenter, joiner, and architect; b. 8 Dec. 1779 in Charlesbourg, Que., son of Augustin-Nicolas Normand and Marie Lessard; d. 11 Oct. 1854 in Trois-Rivières, Lower Canada.
François Normand belonged to a family of craftsmen in wood who were living in the Quebec region at the end of the 1770s. The records provide no information about his childhood and training but, on examination, his works reveal a style and technique much closer to those of Louis Quévillon* than to those of François Baillairgé*. On 2 Feb. 1802 Normand married Claire Dufresne in Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, where his parents then lived; the couple was to have three children. Normand’s whereabouts suggest that he may have made contact with Quévillon, the master of the workshop at Les Écorres, who in 1801 was working at the village next to Boucherville with his students.
In 1803, having completed his apprenticeship, Normand was entrusted with a few minor pieces of wood-carving for the tabernacles of the church of Saint-Denis, on the Rivière Richelieu. Rather clumsy in his initial efforts, he confined himself to copying some of Gilles Bolvin*’s work. Normand rented a house at Trois-Rivières from Ezekiel Hart* in 1809, and when Jean-Baptiste Boucher de Niverville granted him land there in 1811 he lost no time in setting up his workshop. That year the fabrique of La Nativité-de-Notre-Dame at Bécancour contracted with him to supply the church with several pieces, including a retable (the decorated structure housing the altar), with payments extending to 1827.
It was not until the years just before and after 1820 that Normand produced his most notable work. In partnership with François Lafontaine, a joiner and wood-carver, he began in 1817 to decorate the interior of the church at Trois-Rivières with a large baldachin; he then panelled the entire nave, and produced two confessionals, a baptistry, all the balustrades, and three altars in Roman style. The work shows the influence of Quévillon. Normand carried out this contract over a four-year period during which he decided to settle permanently in Trois-Rivières.
Around the same time Normand also supplied several churches in the regions of Trois-Rivières and Quebec with decorative pieces and religious furniture: a vault, retables, a pulpit, and a churchwarden’s pew for Gentilly (Bécancour) between 1817 and 1825; a cornice and baptismal fonts at Champlain from 1819 to 1823; a high altar at Batiscan around 1820; a vault and cornice for Pointe-aux-Trembles (Neuville) in 1826 and 1827; and a churchwarden’s pew for Les Écureuils (Donnacona) in 1828. One of his sons, Hercule, whom he trained as a wood-carver and took on as a partner, helped him. François Normand had by then fully developed his own skills and did not hesitate to duplicate in broad outline some of the works produced by the team of François and Thomas Baillairgé.
When commissions for wood-carving became scarce, Normand accepted contracts for carpentry and joinery which ensured him a good income. In 1818, for example, Normand, François Lafontaine, and François Routhier, a joiner, entered into an agreement with the Lower Canadian government to work on the interior of the court-house in Trois-Rivières.
From 1830 Normand’s career apparently was on the decline. However, in 1840 the fabrique of Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire in Saint-Hyacinthe engaged him to undertake carpentry, joinery, and wood-carving projects for the new parish church. He completed work on the roof and belfry of the new church at Gentilly eight years later.
In 1853, knowing that his endeavours would be carried on in the Trois-Rivières region by his son Hercule, who was practising the trade of wood-carver there, he gave him his tools. François, his other son, had settled in Saint-Roch ward in Quebec, where he worked as a joiner. Normand died the following year at Trois-Rivières, at the age of 74.
It cannot be said that François Normand was a great innovator. None the less, he played almost the same role in the Trois-Rivières region as did François Baillairgé around Quebec and Louis Quévillon around Montreal. He managed to endow this part of Lower Canada with the kind of artistic works that already existed elsewhere in the province by the time he executed them.
ANQ-M, CE1-3, 2 févr. 1802; CN1-134, 28 mars 1808, 8 avril 1809, 1er mars 1811. ANQ-MBF, CE1-48, 13 oct. 1854; CN1-6, 21 oct. 1817; 15 oct., 1er, 18 déc. 1818; 25 janv., 5 oct. 1819; 12 déc. 1821; 18 mars 1823; 17 août 1832; CN1-7, 17 août 1832, 24 août 1835, 18 févr. 1838, 29 nov. 1853; CN1-19, 22 août 1836; CN1-32, 3 juill. 1816; 2 déc. 1817; 19 mai, 31 oct. 1818; 28 avril 1820; CN1-35, 3 juill. 1816; CN1-47, 19 oct. 1835; 3 févr., 14, 18 mars 1848. ANQ-Q, CE1-7, 8 févr., 8 déc. 1779; CN1-157, 27 déc. 1826, 3 nov. 1827. MAC-CD, Fonds Morisset, 2, N845/F825. Quebec directory, 1852. Répertoire des mariages de Trois-Rivières, 1654–1900, Dominique Campagna, compil. (Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Qué., ), 339. [Prosper Cloutier], Histoire de la paroisse de Champlain (2v., Trois-Rivières, Qué., 1915–17), 2: 298–305. Lucien Dubois, Histoire de la paroisse de Gentilly (s.l., 1935), 109. Morisset, Coup d’œil sur les arts, 41–42. Luc Noppen, Les églises du Québec (1600–1850) (Québec, 1977), 152, 212. Jean Palardy, Les meubles anciens du Canada français ([2e éd.], Montréal, 1971), 281–82. J. R. Porter, L’art de la dorure au Québec du XVIIe siècle à nos jours (Québec, 1975), 94. Sculpture traditionnelle du Québec (Québec, 1967), 128. Sulte, Mélanges hist. (Malchelosse), 18: 72–73; 19: 82–83. Léon Roy, “Nos plus anciennes familles Normand et Normand, dit La Brière,” BRH, 57 (1951): 9–16.