Creation of a television network

In the summer of 1952, after I got back from Mexico, Ghylaine heard on the radio that Radio-Canada was creating a television network. She encouraged me to apply. Jean-Paul Ladouceur had left the National Film Board to work as the new network’s head of youth programming, and he took me on in the titling department. I quit my position at the École du Meuble, to the great chagrin of Jean-Marie Gauvreau, who liked me. I took a drop in salary and lost months of time off, but the need to work was too strong. The titling department already had two employees, Hubert Blais and Jean-Paul Boileau, reporting to Robert Sarrazin, who had also worked in titles at the NFB. Doing titles didn’t interest me much and right away I began adding drawings to the lettering. It worked, and soon I was being told, “Never mind the titles, just do the drawings.” The demand for illustrations was growing, and we were working in a kind of closed shop where we experimented with the potential of this new media. There were about 80 of us in all, working closely with artists who had come from the fields of theatre, film and music. Robert Prévost and Jac Pell were experienced set designers and I learned a great deal watching them fine-tune their creations during rehearsals. Jean-Paul Boileau was an ingenious builder, and we made paper models, and puppets to illustrate the Félix Leclerc song “Le petit train du Nord,” for example. I brought two of my illustration students on staff, and bit by bit the Titling Department became the multidisciplinary Graphic Arts studio.

Ghylaine and Christian Back Ste-Rose, 1952
Poster announcing Radio-Canada’s 1954 season. Credit: Frédéric Back, 1954
Illustration for the Radio-Canada broadcast of Claude Champagne’s Suite canadienne. Credit: Frédéric Back, 1953
The Technicians, Radio-Canada’s Studio 40. Credit: Frédéric Back, sketch, 1954