Pierre Elliott Trudeau was one of Canada’s most charismatic--and polarizing--politicians. His tenures as Prime Minister during the 1970s and 80s were marked by conflict and crisis but also by a sense of nationalism, the development of multiculturalism and Canadian pride. He is known for invoking the War Measures Act in response to FLQ terrorism during the October Crisis; for introducing the Official Languages Act to improve the position of francophones in Canada; and, perhaps most memorably, for the patriation of the Canadian constitution and the establishment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Trudeau: La Vie en Rose pays tribute to the life and career of this influential Canadian. In a series of eighty wood engravings, George A. Walker documents Trudeau’s political achievements, events of cultural significance and famous friends while also capturing Trudeau’s confidence, passion and irreverence. Presented without captions and open to interpretation in any language, it is a testament to the multilingual culture of Canada and a celebration of the man whose political legacy has had a profound influence on the definition of Canadian culture.
Trudeau: La Vie en Rose originated as a limited edition of 17 copies hand printed in Walker’s studio in Leslieville, Toronto.
Trudeau’s personality and charisma leap from these pages.
Pierre Trudeau made an indelible mark on Canadian history as its longtime prime minister in the 1970s and 80s, and George A. Walker encapsulates the famous statesman’s life in a series of stark woodcuts compiled in the graphic novel Trudeau: La Vie en Rose.
The Porcupine’s Quill has championed the undeservedly obscure art of the wordless graphic novel, having previously published several similar works by Walker, as well as Steven McCabe, Jarrett Heckbert, and others. Trudeau, like the other books, can stand solely on its illustrations without any text at all—including an excerpt from current prime minister Justin Trudeau’s eulogy for his father upon the latter’s death in 2000, and a preface by Canadian literature professor George Elliott Clarke, both of which precede Walker’s series of black-and-white woodcuts.
Such an images-only approach gives broad impressions of Trudeau, and is surprisingly effective, thanks to Walker’s careful selection of important and visually striking moments from Trudeau’s life. A simple image of the Maple Leaf flag, flying just above Canada’s former flag—the Canadian Red Ensign, with its echoes of Great Britain—tells all that’s needed about the emergence of Canadian identity, but also provides an emotional impact that a thousand words couldn’t convey. When the typically clean-shaven Trudeau suddenly appears with a beard, it immediately imparts a sense of weariness, the toll of fierce political fighting. A woodcut of Paul Rose, a leader of the Quebec nationalist movement, invokes the fleur-de-lis, a longtime symbol of Quebec, and conveys a general sense of anger without spelling out details.
Particularly for non-Canadians, these images provide a penetrating sense of Trudeau and his times, but sometimes sacrifice thorough comprehension. Thus, Walker features not only the previously mentioned text, but also a written addendum, providing context and additional insight into the woodcuts. These brief components flesh out the biography nicely, though as Tom Smart, author and curator of the Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives, writes, "Trudeau grasped the potential of emblematic actions and attitudes," making the star of this biography Trudeau himself.
La Vie en Rose translates roughly as "life through rose-colored glasses," and it’s hard to imagine a better subject for a wordless biography than the effervescent and optimistic Pierre Trudeau. Sticking his tongue out, sliding down a banister, pirouetting behind Queen Elizabeth II, or shaking hands with dignitaries and celebrities, Trudeau’s personality and charisma leap from these pages. Infused by his energy and Walker’s skill, Trudeau: La Vie en Rose proves a resounding success.
—Peter Dabbene, Foreword Reviews
George A. Walker (Canadian, b. 1960) is an award-winning wood engraver, book artist, teacher, author, and illustrator who has been creating artwork and books and publishing at his private press since 1984. Walker’s popular courses in book arts and printmaking at OCAD University in Toronto, where he is Associate Professor, have been running continuously since 1985. For over twenty years Walker has exhibited his wood engravings and limited edition books internationally, often in conjunction with The Loving Society of Letterpress (and The Binders of Infinite Love) and the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild (CBBAG). Among many book projects Walker has illustrated two hand-printed books written by internationally-acclaimed author Neil Gaiman. Walker is also the illustrator of the first Canadian editions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-Glass books (Cheshire Cat Press). George A. Walker was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Art for his contribution to the cultural area of Book Arts.
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