Read the full story here.
One day last spring Marc André J Fortier received a message on his answering machine to call the Montreal Canadiens’ organization. It wasn’t an invitation to suit up and help the Habs in their playoff run, but for Fortier, it was the equivalent of winning the Stanley Cup.
This story appears courtesy of The Township Outlet and was written by Terry Scott with the photos provided by Marc-André Fortier.
The most fabled organization in hockey history had selected the Knowlton artist to sculpt four bronze statues of Canadiens’ immortals Howie Morenz, Maurice Richard,
Jean Béliveau and Guy Lafleur. The statues, commissioned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the hockey club, were to be put on permanent display on Centennial Plaza, a concourse adjacent to the team’s Bell Centre home indow ntown Montreal.
Fortier was one of several sculptors whose name had been submitted to the Canadiens after marketing executives of the hockey club asked L’Atélier de Bronze, the prominent foundry and casting company in Inverness, Quebec, to recommend six top artists for the work.
Over the years, the 47-year-old Fortier, a Town of Mount Royal native who moved to and set up his studio in Knowlton five years ago, has established some impressive credentials. He won the distinguished Bronze Palm Medal in Paris, earned top honours in Toronto for his “The Art of the Automobile” sculpture, and his works have graced exhibitions, homes and other places, nationally and worldwide.
But now, Fortier, who played five years of minor hockey as a youth and avidly followed the Canadiens’ dynasty in the mid-to-late 1970s, was being asked to sculpt four legendary figures of an organization that is more of a sacred trust than a mere hockey team.
“Basically, it was hard work, but it was such a fantastic contract,” Fortier said last week from the Knowlton studio – a high-ceilinged space that was previously a car-and-van wash – he moved into last year. “It was 1,750 hours in a five and a half-month span. Some days, I would do it for 24 hours straight. Sometimes I would be in the studio at 4 o’clock in the morning wondering how I was going to do certain things on the maquettes. I lost several pounds in the process, because you’re constantly moving about as you make tweaks and changes to your work.”
Fortier was in his early 20s and living in Vancouver when his grandfather handed him $1,000 to encourage him to become an artist. The painting career evolved into bronze
sculpturing, a craft that Fortier plies with the determination of Morenz, the passion of the Rocket, the élan of Beliveau and the flair of Lafleur.
Ever the perfectionist, he is meticulous in carrying out his work. While doing the four sculptures, Fortier took a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, conducting hours of research on the equipment worn in the different eras of the Canadiens’ legends and looking at archival photos and other material.
He studied the players’ styles, their features – small nostrils on Richard and Beliveau, for instance, led to sculpting them with open mouths. He even measured the size of the stick each player used, and this information enabled Fortier to accurately depict the action pose on the sculpture. The Rocket has his elbows up in a “get out of the way, I’m coming through,” pose, while Morenz bears an intense demeanor,Béliveau is stately and Lafleur has his trademark flowing mane. Each of the players has a puck on the end of the stick, which, Fortier says, “is to show they are in control.”
Fortier completed his ambitious project in mid-October,and after the sculptures were cast at L’Atélier de Bronze,the finished products, weighing between 1,600 and 1,800
pounds, were unveiled on Centennial Plaza on Dec. 4. Throughout the sculpting process, Fortier said the Canadiens’organization afforded him full professional freedom. One day last summer, he received some favorable feedback from a surprise visitor – former Habs’ defensive standout Guy Lapointe, who stopped in at the studio as he was passing through Knowlton.
“When I was at the unveiling ceremony, Marlene Geoffrion, who is the daughter of Howie Morenz, told me I had captured her father just the way she remembered him,” remarks Fortier. After taking a look at the sculpture of his illustrious father, Maurice Richard Jr. told reporters he loved the work, especially because it showed another side of The Rocket’s game. Beliveau and Lafleur were effusive in their
praise, as were Canadiens’ owner George Gillett and president Pierre Boivin, who has a home in the Townships and wants to drop by Fortier’s studio.
“I’m so lucky,” Fortier humbly declares. “Some artists will put so much time into a solo exhibition, and even though it could be magnificent work, people might not
come to the exhibition. In this case, it’s four sculptures and at least a million people a year are going to see it.” Marc André J Fortier may never have donned the bleublanc-rouge but in at least one respect he can lay claim to being part of the legacy of the Club de Hockey Canadien.
This story appears courtesy of The Township Outlet www.outletjournal.com and was written by Terry Scott with the photos provided by Marc-André Fortier.
This is an awesome honor and achievement!!
Visit the artists website of Marc-André Fortier: www.majfortier.com
The unveiling of the larger-than-life statues was well covered by media and thousands of fans who crowded around Bell Center in Montreal and The Ottawa Citizen summed up the emotions and feelings of the first public showing of the awesome works of Marc-Andre:
From The Ottawa Citizen (written by Dave Stubbs, Canwest News Service):
Béliveau and Lafleur stood chilled to the bone as shrouds were pulled off their sculptures, the silky covers billowing in the wind that sweeps this square in gusts roaring over the mountain and through the canyon of skyscrapers.
On the east side of the plaza, tighter to the Bell Centre from where Canadiens owner George Gillett said they could best watch the ghosts, are the statues of the Rocket, the most exciting player of his generation, and Morenz, the incandescent superstar who went before him.
First unveiled was Morenz, under the gaze of Marlene Geoffrion, his daughter and the widow of the great Boomer. Then, the Rocket, studied by Maurice Richard Jr. Béliveau was next, accompanied by his wife, Elise, with their daughter, Helene, and their granddaughters, Magalie and Mylene.
Finally, the Flower, the newest legend in this galaxy of stars.
Gifted Quebec sculptor Marc André Fortier has nailed all four, producing the superb statues simultaneously over 10 months.
For Béliveau, who will live generations after he has left us, the unveiling was especially moving.
"I'm very honoured and happy, personally," he said. "But I'm happier for my family. My two granddaughters are going to have a chance to look at this not only for many years, but for decades to come. I'm going to come back when I have some time to really have a look at the four of them. I had heard about the statues, but I never thought they were so big."
Lafleur was equally impressed.
"I'd rather still be playing hockey than have a statue," he admitted with a laugh. "But I think the sculptor did a hell of a job. When I began my career, I never expected this."
On-site reporting much appreciated and copied from The Ottawa Citizen (written by Dave Stubbs, Canwest News Service)
Visit the artists website of Marc-André Fortier: www.majfortier.com
This story appears courtesy of The Township Outlet http://www.outletjournal.com/ and was written by Terry Scott with the photos provided by Marc-André Fortier.
For more about the latest news and events visit The Township Outlet at http://www.outletjournal.com/: the print and online newspaper serving the English community in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.