Leon Bellefleur was born in Montreal on february 8, 1910. His father objected to his desire to study at Beaux Arts. After graduating from École normale Jacques-Cartier, he starts his career as a school teacher which will last for twenty-five years. He marries Rita Jolicoeur in 1934. They have five children together.
He starts making drawings before he is ten years old. Eventually, he goes into painting. In 1946, he holds his first exhibition presented along with the drawings of the children he is teaching to . The following year, he publishes “Plaidoyer pour l’Enfant”. (Plea in favour of children).
In 1951, he wins the first prize for modern painting at the Spring Exhibition of the Fine Arts Museum of Montreal. He previouly held an exhibition at The Agnès Lefort Gallery. He also participated in a collective exhibition of young artists in Europe and to the Sao Paulo Biennial.
In 1954, he retires from teaching and devotes himself entirely to his art. In the fall, he holds a major exhibition at the Montreal Fine Arts Museum and thereafter leaves with Rita to go and live in Paris where they will spend most of the next ten years. In 1958, his talent is acknowledged by the Arts Council of Canada which grants to Bellefleur a significant scholarship. In France, he joins the surrealists and becomes a friend of André Breton’s. In the midst of the 1960s, he comes back to Quebec which is going through its Quiet Revolution.
Bellefleur’s exhibitions multiply not only in Montreal but also elsewhere in Quebec and in Ontario. But it is in 1968 that full consecration fo his talent takes place: the National Art Gallery holds an important retrospective fo Bellefleur’s works first in Ottawa and then in London, Ontario and finally in Montreal. Bellefleur is awarded a second scholarship by the Arts Council of Canada.
His solo exhibitions continue to multiply as far as London, England in 1973 and Denmark in 1975. In 1977, he becomes the first recipient of the Borduas Award newly created by the Quebec Government. This honour is followed by the Saint Jean Baptiste Society price in 1985. In 1986, a major exhibition of his work is held in Toronto and in 1987 he is awarded a honorary Phd by Concordia University in Montreal.
In 1988, one of the most famous art writers in Quebec, Mr Guy Robert, publishes in both french and english a major book on the life, the carreer and the work of Bellefleur. This book contains unpublished writings by Bellefleur, great pictures of the artist and his family as well as numerous reproductions of the artis’s works from the various periods of his career: drawings,gouaches, etching, lithographs and oil. This book is published by Éditions Iconia and is entitled BELLEFLEUR.
At ninety years old, Léon Bellefleur still has a great enthusiasm and a profound passion for painting. He continues his work. Léon Bellefleur has been a man of great generosity and of great loyalty to people around him, family and friends. He never preoccupied himself with making money, getting honours or reaching celebrity. Humble and truthful, he always believed and said that his work would move along its own course. And he won. Without having compromised on the basic principles of integrity, generosity and respect for others.
Léon Bellefleur is certainly one the great canadian painters of the second half of the twentieth century. And a great human being.