There are places that draw the soul out of its state of lethargy, places covered and bathed in mystery, chosen from eternity

Maurice Barrès

The Perce of the... Art

At the very tip of the Gaspe Peninsula, the breathtaking beauty of Perce's landscapes is ostensibly a gift from the gods...The amazing creations of many international artists are clearly a tribute to so much beauty.

Here are for the record a series of dates, events and names that show the rich art inspired by Perce:

We owe the oldest known images of Percé to talented cartographers who travelled along with expeditions, out to discover new lands. Some maps dating as far as the early 16th century, visibly locate the site under the so-called names of Cap Pratto or Cap du Pré as well as the more obvious one of Isle Percée (Pierced Island).Early travel logs, which include those of Jacques Cartier (1534-1542), Samuel de Champlain (1603-1629), Nicolas Denys (1672) and Chrestien Leclercq (1691), helped to better know the region. Circa 1685, the oldest and very first illustration of the famous Perce Rock was entitled Rade de l'Isle Percée (Haven of Pierced Island)

Rade de l'isle de Percé

During the British Conquest of 1760, Captain Hervey Smyth drew the View of the Pierced Island which states: A remarkable Rock in the Gulf of St Laurence. Two Leagues to the Southward of Gaspé Bay.


Towards the end of the 19th century, the untamed landscapes of Percé fascinated painters and poets as well as emerging photographers in search of picturesque views. Thomas Pye 1864 photographs of Percé were used two years later for the lithographic drawings of Images de la Gaspésie au XIXe siècle (19th Century Images of the Gaspé).

Thomas Pye

Around 1870, photographer Louis Fontaine of the Studio Livernois and William Notman, one of Canada's most prominent photographers, took beautiful pictures of the area landscapes as well as of hardworking fishermen cutting cod. The site dramatic mood gave birth to many legends such as La Légende du Rocher Percé, a tale of love between Blanche de Beaumont and Raymond de Nérac, and Le Prisonnier du Rocher, a sad love story between Méjiga and a young Iroquois Chief.

Towards 1887, American painter Frederick James (1845-1907) built his residence on top of Cape Canon where his workshop soon became the meeting place of famous American artists including painter Georgia O'Keeffe and photographer Paul Strand.


At the beginning of the 20th century, Percé lived its so-called Golden Age of the Arts as it attracted numerous film directors, painters, photographers, poets and writers. In 1936, artist Edwin Holgate painted Vue vers le rocher Percé. In 1938, Paul-Émile Borduas worked in Percé as a photographer. For many years, Percé inspired some of Canada most prominent artists whose works now grace the walls of top Canadian museums and who include:

PointBercovitch, Alexander PointBlackwood, Frederick
PointBorduas, Paul-Émile PointBreton, André
PointBruneau, Kittie PointCloutier, Albert
PointDesaulniers, Gonzalve PointDésilets, E. L.
PointDumouchel, Albert PointFortin, Marc-Aurèle
PointFraser, John-Arthur PointHamel, Théophile
PointHarris, Robert PointHenderson, Hedley V.
PointHolgate, Edwin PointHébert, Adrien
PointHurtubise, Jacques PointMount, Rita
PointO'Brien, Lucius PointPilot, Robert
PointPye, Thomas

While exiled in New-York during World War II, French writer André Breton spent the summer of 1944 in Percé where he found the inspiration for Arcane 17. In 1946, poet Yvan Groll wrote Le Mythe de la Roche Percée. Towards the 1950s, tourism in the area definitely soared. American photographer Lida Moser gave immortality to Percé in her 1950 pictures. Robert Choquette wrote Suite Marine. while spending time in Percé in 1953. As of 1957 and for several years thereafter, the Charles Robin Company old barn became the Arts Centre of Alberto Tommi (1917-1959) and Suzanne Guité (1927-1981), housing a café, a cinema, a dancing area, an exhibit room and a theatre. In 1961, painter Kittie Bruneau lived year-round on Bonaventure Island until the expropriation.

Grande Charle Robbin
Drawing : Jacques Harvey

Skies in Percé took on the colours of political turmoil during Québec counter-culture movement of the 70s: Eloquent graffiti remain today as the record of this important page in the history of Québec politics. Since its opening in 1983, the Chafaud Museum has presented each summer the works of artists inspired by Percé: Paul Béliveau, Paul-Émile Borduas, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Francine Simonin, Françoise Sullivan, just to name a few. Well worth mentioning is the exclusive exhibit at the Chafaud in 2000: Les très riches heures, by Canada's most prominent artist, Jean-Paul Riopelle. Today, painters and sculptors welcome visitors in their workshops while many art galleries have opened in and around Percé. In the summer of 2002, Laval University International Summer School of Visual Arts and Architecture launched its summer classes at the Frederick James Villa.

Facade Le Chafaud

Kittie Bruneau Kittie Bruneau
Lovers of the Island
Year 2002
Moser Lida Moser
Gaspésie : Earth of images
Year 2005
Sullivan Françoise Sullivan
The Myth of Rocher Perce
Year 1996