The poplars of Quebec have captivated me ever since my first visit. Romantically, I imagine Samuel Chaplain with his pockets full of seeds, planting the trees that reminded him of his native France. Champlain did plant a lot of things -- horticulture was one of his great interests, and he tried many of the same varieties in different locations in New France before deciding which places would be best for permanent settlements. However they originated, you see these beautiful trees everywhere in the St. Lawrence valley and near the farms that lie between Montreal and Lake Champlain -- and almost nowhere south of the Quebec border, in spite of the presence of many French-Canadians in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York. They are one of the most iconic aspects of the Quebec landscape, sometimes planted singly, but more often in rows as a windbreak or an allée of trees near a homestead. Sadly, they do struggle in our climate, and you also see bare trees, still with their characteristic shape, but now merely a tall pillar of small upward-reaching branches. The banks of the river and canal near the Expo site were once lined with poplars, but nearly all of those have died. Thy seem to do better out in the country.
I've made a few drawings, and wanted to paint them, but except for a pastel of the Charlevoix that contained some poplars, never have. I was inspired to try by a painting of John Singer Sargent's that I saw in Brooklyn; I think he loved trees as much as do because he painted them a lot, and seemed fascinated by each species' characteristics as well as the individuality of particular trees. Not surprising, from a portrait painter!
This watercolor was started yesterday afternoon and finished this morning. It's the first exploratory attempt at the subject; I'll probably do some others, trying to get closer to the emotional feeling I get when I look at these trees in the wind-swept landscape. This summery view is pretty benign!
A couple of details, just slightly larger than life size.