A visit to the drawings vault with Chapleau - McCord Museum

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Collections and Research

Michel Barrette (detail), cartoon published in 7 Jours on September 20, 1990. Gift of Serge Chapleau, M2003.143.220 © McCord Museum

A visit to the drawings vault with Chapleau

“What’s your secret? Is it the cold air in the vault that preserves you?” This was the first thing Serge Chapleau said to me when I met him at the McCord Museum in 1996. I had just said that I clearly remembered the fantastic cartoons he published in the magazine Perspectives in the early 1970s. I was 35 years old, and he thought I looked much too young for this to be true!

Chapleau had just given the Museum a large number of drawings, and I had been asked to take him on a tour of the vault where we preserve works on paper so I could show him other cartoons, including some by his friend Terry Mosher, aka Aislin, editorial cartoonist for The Gazette. In fact, it was Aislin who had suggested that he give his drawings to the McCord. Chapleau had previously made several small donations to the public archives in Ottawa, now known as Library and Archives Canada.

We accepted his drawings because they were created and published in Montreal, and because they complemented our growing collection of Canadian cartoons. That day, he brought 759 original cartoons published between 1972 and 1996 in various Montreal publications: Perspectives, Le Dimanche, Nous, L’actualité, Le Devoir, 7 Jours and La Presse. This first donation to the McCord has been followed by 18 others. The vault, which is kept at a constant temperature of 18°, currently holds over 7,000 Chapleau drawings.

Some 20 years later, Serge Chapleau stepped back into the vault to launch the 5th season of Viens-tu faire un tour? Broadcast on Radio-Canada, this series invites well-known personalities to revisit meaningful locations from their past, arriving in a vintage car driven by host Michel Barrette.

Christian Vachon, Serge Chapleau and Michel Barrette at the McCord Museum on October 6, 2017, for the filming of Viens-tu faire un tour? The show aired May 20, 2018, on Radio-Canada.

Click here to watch this episode of Viens-tu faire un tour?

The director, who had received special permission to enter the Museum’s high security storage areas with his film crew, wanted the visit to the McCord to end in the vault housing Chapleau’s drawings. On his cue, I pulled out some of Chapleau’s oldest cartoons in an attempt to provoke an on-camera reaction. I could not resist showing him the one of Hi! Ha! Tremblay, Barrette’s popular stand-up character, dressed as Darth Vader.

The strange similarity between Darth Vader’s helmet and the iconic hat worn by Michel Barrette’s character Hi!Ha! Tremblay raises questions about the identity of the villainous figure from Star Wars. Cartoon published in 7 Jours on September 20, 1990. Gift of Serge Chapleau, M2003.143.220 © McCord Museum

Christian Vachon, Curator, Documentary Art
April 2020

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