Serge Chapleau, Political Cartoonist and Caricaturist

May 17, 2007

     One of Canada's most prolific cartoonists, Serge Chapleau of La Presse newspaper in Montréal, Quebec, has been poking, er no, stabbing, politicians and prominent people from around the world for over 36 years. Through his distinctive art and sense of humour, he provokes commentary, discussion and outright laughter. Chapleau is a national treasure.

     French-Canadian, Serge Chapleau was born in Montréal on December 5th, 1945. He attended L'ecole des Beaux Arts, (now merged into University of Montréal), completing studies in graphic arts and painting. With an exceptional talent for caricature, the young man began work with Perspectives in 1971, a weekly magazine distributed with the weekend section of several newspapers. His first caricature was featured in full-colour, on a full page. Chapleau was an immediate success.

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     With such success, Chapleau easily found outlets for his cartoons:

  • Montréal Matin
  • Week-End
  • Actualité
  • Nous
  • Le Devoir (1985)
  • Le Matin (1987)
  • 7 Days (1989 - 1993)

     Chapleau returned to Le Devoir in 1991, then in 1996 made the move to La Presse, where he has made his long-term home as staff cartoonist.

     It has not been all smooth sailing for Chapleau, though.  He developed a hand disease called Dupuytren's Contracture, in which the formation of scar tissue under the skin of the palm causes fingers to curl inward and lose the motion of the tendons' ability to grip. The disease commonly affects the ring finger but may attack any or all fingers on one or both hands. Genetically inherited, it is not particularly painful but may be quite hindering.

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    Translating his cartoons into other media, Chapleau developed a character called Gérard D. Laflaque". The over-sized, hilarious character started as a puppet for the television show, Miroir Miroir. Given a career as a tv news broadcaster and political commentator, the character also became popular for his one-minute stints called "La Minute à Laflaque", and is aired between tv shows. "Laflaque" has been updated, translated into 3-D for "Et Dieu créa Laflaque".

     Using pencils, eraser and paper, Chapleau creates his wonderfully hilarious and biting views of the Canadian political scene. He then scans his work into his Mac computer, using Photoshop for the final touches.

     The caricatures and cartoons from Chapleau's pen have not escaped notice. Nominated nine times over the years, he won the National Newspaper Award in the Editorial Cartoon section five times. The selection panel found his 'toons exceptional, "works of art that combine brilliant drawing with creative, highly original ways of expressing ideas - from the hilarious to the outrageous." The judge of the Canadian Newspaper Association went on to add that "his caricatures catch not only facial expressions but posture, gestures, dress and setting to make an immediate impact." No wonder he won, with that kind of skill.

     With La Presse newspaper as his home base, Serge Chapleau continues to entertain, irritate and inspire fans and politicians alike.

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Clip from McCord Museum © Serge Chapleau

Sources:

See a video clip of Chapleau's work at the McCord Museum:
http://www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/en/keys/webtours/VQ_P4_6_EN.html

The Canadian Newspaper Association:
http://www.cna-acj.ca/client/cna/cna.nsf/web/TheCNAHome?OpenDocument&nLoc=3

Website for Gérard D. Laflaque:
http://www.laflaque.com/

La Presse (in French):
http://www.cyberpresse.ca/section/CPPRESSE

© Susanna McLeod 2007
TheCartoonists.ca