VINCENT, ZACHARIE (Telari-o-lin), painter and sketcher; b. 28 Jan. 1815 at the Village-des-Hurons, Lower Canada, son of Gabriel Vincent and Marie Otis (Otisse, Hôtesse); m. 14 Aug. 1848 Marie Falardeau, the Iroquois widow of Édouard-Sébastien Falardeau, and they had three sons and one daughter; d. 9 Oct. 1886 at Quebec City.
Zacharie Vincent’s Huron name, Telari-o-lin (which translates as “not divided” or “unmixed”), was not a hereditary one: the chieftains’ council granted each child of a certain age an epithet corresponding to “his particular aptitudes . . . , his qualities, and his occupation.” The Indian name he received suggests that Vincent was a pure-blooded Huron. However, a newspaper of the period claimed that his father, whose Indian name was Ouenouadahronhé, was the last such Huron: “He was the sole Indian of the village who was of unmixed blood and directly descended from the original tribe inhabiting the shores of Lake Huron. He was also the only one who had retained his forefathers’ customs, and reared his family in [their] language, the younger inhabitants of the village at this time speaking only the French language and not knowing their own.” But the fact that the paternal side of the family included the name of Bergevin and the maternal that of Otis, both European names, suggests that neither Gabriel Vincent nor his son were pure-blooded Hurons. Whatever the case, Zacharie inherited Huron features, and they, together with his determination to maintain the traditional way of life, helped to reinforce the notion that he was the last of the Hurons. A painting by Henry Daniel Thielcke, done in 1838 and now in the Château Ramezay Museum in Montreal, shows Vincent sporting “headgear of his own manufacture,” while the other important figures of Huronia are wearing the tall beaver-skin hats of the white man. This distinction was a sign of “the historical memory of the race,” according to Abbé Lionel-Saint-Georges Lindsay.
During the same period, Antoine Plamondon*, who came from Ancienne-Lorette (Que.), painted a full-length portrait of Vincent which won him a medal from the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec in 1838. The painting, acquired by Lord Durham [Lambton*] and sent to London in 1840, has been lost, but it inspired François-Xavier Garneau*’s poem “Le Dernier Huron”: “Triumph, destiny / Your hour at last is come, / O nation, thou shalt be no more . . . .” The poet found in the portrait “the expression of thoughtful resignation.” The interest aroused by the impending destruction of Huron culture was not unrelated to that aroused by the expectation at this time that the French speaking people would disappear in North America. “May we erect a few monuments of ourselves before being drowned in the flood of immigration,” exclaimed a journalist upon seeing Plamondon’s portrait.
Influenced by Plamondon’s canvas, Vincent began to paint self-portraits, in a desire to record his own image and thereby to keep alive the remembrance of Huronia. According to historiographical tradition, the Huron artist’s training was confined to a little artistic advice from Plamondon. Vincent’s work falls into three main groups: portraits of himself in traditional costume, sketches depicting traditional activities of his people, and landscape paintings of Ancienne-Lorette. Some of his canvases are in the Musée du Québec, and others in the Musée du Château Ramezay and the Musée d’Odanak. According to an author of the day, Vincent produced more than 600 drawings and paintings, many of which were bought by governors general such as Lord Durham, Lord Elgin [Bruce*], and Lord Monck*, as well as by Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne, and others. Legend also attributes to Vincent some small carved objects for the church of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette in the Village-des-Hurons, which are said to have been destroyed in the fire that devastated the church in 1959. However, there is no documentary evidence to substantiate these claims.
Although Vincent wanted to capture the traditional image of the Hurons, elements borrowed from European civilization can be seen in some of his paintings and sketches, which thus reveal the assimilation to which his people were already subject. Undeniably naïve, his work possesses enduring interest because of its intensity and sincerity. It reflected Vincent’s desire to capture the spirit of a Huron America forever lost.
[We have been unable to identify any of Zacharie Vincent’s sculptures. A few of his paintings – self-portraits, landscapes, and scenes of Huron life – are on display at the Château Ramezay Museum in Montreal and the Musée du Québec in Quebec City. d.k., m.-d.l., and s.t.]
AC, Québec, État civil, Catholiques, Saint-Roch (Québec), 14 oct. 1886. AP, Saint-Ambroise (Loretteville), Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 15 févr. 1808, 28 janv. 1815, 23 nov. 1848, 20 juill. 1850, 3 juin 1852, lermai 1854. IBC, Centre de documentation, Fonds Morisset, 2, V775.5/Z16. F.-X. Garneau, “Le dernier Huron,” Le répertoire national ou recueil de littérature canadienne, James Huston, compil. (4v., Montréal, 1848–50), IV: 172–75. Le Canadien, 12 août 1840. Le Journal de Québec, 21 déc. 1878. Le Populaire (Montréal), 14 mai 1838. Star and Commercial Advertiser (Quebec), 8 April 1829. Mariages de Loretteville (St-Ambroise-de-la-Jeune-Lorette), 1761–1969, Village des Hurons (Notre-Dame-de-Lorette), 1904–1969, G.-E. Provencher, compil. (Québec, 1970). Harper, La peinture au Canada. L.-S.-G. Lindsay, Notre-Dame de la Jeune-Lorette en la Nouvelle-France, étude historique (Montréal, 1900). Gérard Morisset, La peinture traditionnelle au Canada français (Ottawa, 1960). Monique Duval, “Petit musée de la Huronnie à Loretteville,” Le Soleil (Québec), 23 août 1972: 20.