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De Grace, Nérée

Nérée De Grâce was born on April 4,1920, in Shippagan, a small French-speaking Acadian village in New Brunswick. As a child, he loved to paint and draw. In 1938, he completed a two-year commercial diploma in stenography, typing and bookkeeping at the Académie Ste-Famille in Tracadie. In 1941, Nérée was conscripted and assigned to the Citadel of Quebec, but continued his self-taught artistic training. In 1944, he was demobilized and enrolled at the Beaux-Arts arts school full-time, where he studied decorative and commercial arts. He graduated in 1948 and was awarded a first-prize commendation for drawing and sketching. After graduating, he founded an advertising and screen-printing studio, where he was chief designer for 30 years. In 1979, a milestone propelled his career. Acadian singer Édith Butler fell under the spell of his paintings and suggested that he create a Canadian postage stamp to commemorate the centennial of the first Acadian National Convention held in Memramcook. Twenty-eight million "L'Acadie-Acadia" postage stamps representing Shippagan were printed. Nérée also developed a fruitful collaboration with Antonine Maillet, the renowned Acadian author for whom he illustrated several books. The French CBC devoted an hour to De Grâce as part of its “Reflets d’un pays” series. In 1982, the artist created a huge painted backdrop for "La joyeuse Criée", an Antonine Maillet play, which was performed at the Rideau Vert theatre in Montreal. 1987 was an important year for Nérée De Grâce. The Michel-Ange Art Gallery in Montreal prepared an exhibition dedicated solely to his works, and produced the book "Nérée De Grâce", which featured pieces from his "Signatures" collection. He subsequently participated in several highly successful exhibitions at the Michel-Ange Art Gallery. Even in the bitter cold, fans and collectors of this artist’s work would gather at the art gallery’s door to be among the privileged to see the new collection first. This painter’s style is wrongly considered "naive" and could be described as folk art or folkloric. His paintings offer a unique freshness and spontaneity, and feature almost childlike subjects.

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