Chartier, 1912-2004 : Albert Chartier was born in 1912 in Montréal, the son of Joseph Chartier, a travelling salesman, and Rose Tessier. He had two sisters: Jeannette (born in 1917) and Yvette (born in 1922). He grew up in a bilingual family and put his language skills to good use: after studying at Collège du Mont Saint-Louis and the École des beaux-arts de Montréal, he attended the Barnes School in Montréal and took drafting courses by correspondence with the Meyer Both Institute of Chicago. He married artist Suzanne Martel in 1940.
His commercial career began around 1930 at the McKay Studio in Montréal, where he created advertising posters for the nightclubs of the day. In the years that followed, he developed advertising artwork for the McKim and Vickers & Benson agencies, Dow's and Molson's breweries and Nugget's wax.
As an illustrator, Chartier founded and produced Can-Can magazine (similar in style to The New Yorker) with his friend Marcel Tessier from 1935 to 1937; many cultural figures contributed, including Gratien Gélinas and Louis Francoeur. Between 1942 and 1963, he created covers and cartoons for weeklies like Le Samedi, La Revue Populaire, Le Petit Journal, the Montreal Star and Weekend Magazine. He also illustrated serialized fiction like Dollard des Ormeaux.
Chartier's career as a cartoonist began in 1937; based on a script by journalist René Boivin, he created the Bouboule series published in the La Patrie newspaper until 1938. Around 1940, Chartier travelled to New York, where he drew for two comic book companies: Columbia Comic Corporation and Big Top Comic.
He returned to Canada after the attack on Pearl Harbor and worked on comic strips and cartoons to entertain the troops for the Wartime Information Board in Ottawa. In 1943, the Bulletin des agriculteurs hired Chartier to illustrate the stories of Gabrielle Roy, as well as novels and news. Around November, he was offered the opportunity to create a comic strip.
This was the start of the series that made him famous: Onésime. Centred on the type of rural community targeted by the magazine, the artist created a chronicle of country life that, at the same time, became a history of changes in mentality and society in Quebec. The comic strip grew into one of the most popular in Quebec's history, and Chartier kept it going for almost 60 years.
Equally impressive, Chartier was offered the chance to visually adapt the novel Un homme et son péché by its author, Claude-Henri Grignon, around 1952. Published in the Bulletin des agriculteurs from 1954 to 1972, the comic strip, entitled Séraphin, l'Ours du Nord, was a major hit and ultimately influenced the television adaptation of Belles histoires des Pays d'en-Haut.
Chartier also published comic strips for an Anglophone readership. In 1965, he created a historical, bilingual comic strip entitled Les Canadiens, published in 35 English-language newspapers to promote bilingualism. Similarly, the bilingual comic strip Suzette, featuring a mute character called Suzy that he created, appeared in the Toronto Telegram around 1966. The newspaper's closure a year later brought the strip to an early end; however, the mute character would reappear, with the name Kiki.
Following the closure of several newspapers, including the Toronto Telegram and the Saturday Evening Post, Chartier moved to the Expo 67 site, where he produced nearly a thousand charcoal and pastel drawings of visitors. After Expo ended, the director of the École des arts et métiers commerciaux de Montréal hired him to teach fashion drawing and physiognomy.
Chartier's work finally received wide recognition in the 1970s. In 1973, his panels were first exhibited in Europe at the international comic book festival in Angoulême, France. In 1977, he retired from teaching physiognomy and fashion drawing at the École des arts et métiers commerciaux after nearly 10 years, and his work was featured in a travelling exhibition of Quebec comic books in Albi and Toulouse in 1982.
In 1985, his close friend Robert LaPalme paid tribute to him at the International Humour Pavilion at Man and His World. In 1990, the Montréal Comic Arts Festival created two awards in his honour: the Albert Chartier award recognizes contributions to the advancement of the comic arts in Quebec, and the Onésime award honours a work or person contributing to the advancement of comics in Quebec.
In 1999, Chartier received an honorary doctorate from the Université du Québec à Hull in recognition of his artistic and cultural work. Finally, in 2004, the year of his death, the Festival de la BD francophone de Québec created the Albert Chartier award honouring a person or organization of lasting impact on Francophone comics in Quebec.