Among the outstanding art forms of early colonial Canada was French-Canadian wood carving, chiefly figures of saints and retables for the churches. This art flourished from 1675 (when Bishop Laval established a school of arts and crafts near Quebec) until c.1850. The art reached its height after the separation from France when, freed from the French Renaissance tradition, it developed a local character beautifully exemplified in such work as that in the Church of the Holy Family on Orléans Island and in the Provincial Museum at Quebec. The two great Quebec families of carvers were the Levasseurs (18th cent.) and the Baillairgés (19th cent.).
The colonial period also produced fine embroidery (examples are kept at the Ursuline convent, Quebec) and several outstanding portraits executed in a naive folk-art style. Before 1880 most of the only other paintings and drawings produced in Canada were those by the colonial topographers, many of them English army officers. Most of this work is purely documentary.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.