DUGAL, OLIVIER (baptized Charles-Olivier), wood-carver; b. 4 Nov. 1796 in Saint-Michel, not far from Quebec, son of Louis Cotin (Cottin), dit Dugal, a tavern-keeper, and Madeleine Bernard; d. 5 May 1829 in Terrebonne, Lower Canada.
One of Olivier Dugal’s ancestors was Dugal Cotin, who had come to settle in the Quebec region at the end of the 17th century. In the course of time his given name became the nickname and then the surname of his descendants. Olivier had at least two sisters and three brothers, among them François, two years his senior and also a wood-carver.
Olivier and François received their professional training in Louis Quévillon’s workshop, which was located in the vicinity of Montreal. Under Quévillon’s guidance wood-carving, which at that time was focused on decorating church interiors, was taught according to a new aesthetic standard that combined elements drawn from well-known examples of decoration in the colony and from earlier European rococo styles. The Dugals must have been recruited by Quévillon some time between 1805 and 1814, during the visits he made to Saint-Michel to do work in the parish church. In the atelier, where there were a number of master wood-carvers, it was probably René Beauvais*, dit Saint-James, who taught them, judging by the close bonds that in subsequent years linked François to Saint-James.
While his older brother stayed to begin his career in the Montreal region, Olivier started out in the Quebec area. He must have followed Pierre Séguin, a colleague in Quévillon’s workshop who had returned in 1815 to the area he came from. On 24 Feb. 1816 Dugal, Séguin, and Louis-Thomas Berlinguet formed a company to specialize in wood-working. On 8 June, however, Dugal left his partners, at the same time promising them that he would execute Séguin’s design for the vaulting of the church of Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures. The vaulting, which was of a type not widely employed by wood-carvers trained in Quévillon’s workshop, was distinguished by alternating diamond-shaped and octagonal coffers in the chancel. This is the only piece of work by Olivier Dugal still extant.
Upon its completion he settled near his brother François at Terrebonne. In 1817 both of them were married there, François to Félicité-Zoë Séguin on 7 January, and 20-year-old Olivier to Marguerite-Hortense Limoges on 16 September. From then on Olivier’s career as a wood-carver cannot be untangled from that of his brother, who, through the good offices of his former master Saint-James, had a successful career. In 1816 and again in 1823 Saint-James passed on to François his contracts for making liturgical furnishings and doing the interior decoration in the churches of Sainte-Thérèse-de-Blainville (Sainte-Thérèse) and La Présentation, near Saint-Hyacinthe. François worked for more than 9 years in the first place and for nearly 26 in the second. The decoration at La Présentation, the only extant example of his work in this field, gives evidence of Quévillon’s artistic concepts in the pulpit and the churchwardens’ pew and of the Baillairgés’ ideas in the retable (the structure housing the altar) and the tabernacle; its vaulting displays the emerging neo-baroque style that would become fashionable in the second half of the 19th century. François also did similar works for the church of Saint-Benoit (Mirabel) in collaboration with his former master in 1824 and 1825, and for the church of Sainte-Rose (Laval) in the period 1828–32. Even though the records do not mention Olivier’s presence on the sites, the number and scope of the works make it plausible to assume that he took part in creating them. In fact, in November 1828 the Dugals jointly bid for the contract to do the wood-carving in the new church of Notre-Dame in Montreal, but without success. The collaboration of the two brothers came to an end in 1829 with Olivier’s untimely death at the age of 32. Subsequently François continued practising his craft in numerous churches of the Montreal region.
The few pieces of work by the Dugal brothers that have survived make it possible to appreciate not only their skill but also their openness to the diverse aesthetic currents in Quebec during the first half of the 19th century.
AP, Saint-Louis (Terrebonne), Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 7 janv., 16 sept. 1817; 7 mai 1829; Saint-Michel, Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 1794, 5 nov. 1796. MAC-CD, Fonds Morisset, 2, dossiers François Dugal, Olivier Dugal, Pierre Séguin; 6, dossier Saint-Michel (de Bellechasse). Quebec Gazette, 14 May 1829. Lebœuf, Complément, 1re sér., 3: 46. Mariages de la paroisse de St-Michel de Bellechasse (1693–1974), J. A. Turgeon, compil. (Montréal, 1975), 87–89. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, 1: 141; 3: 154. André Laberge, “L’ancienne église Notre-Dame de Montréal: l’évolution et l’influence de son architecture (1672–1830)” (thèse de ma, univ. Laval, Québec, 1982), 154–89, 218–19. Gérard Morisset, Coup d’œil sur les arts en Nouvelle-France (Québec, 1941), 36. Émile Vaillancourt, Une maîtrise d’art en Canada (1800–1823) (Montréal, 1920), 12, 16, 19, 28, 37.