Christian Vachon - Curator, Paintings, Prints and Drawings - McCord Stewart Museum

Collections and Research

Photo: © Laura Dumitriu, 2017

Christian Vachon

Head, Collections Management
Curator, Documentary Art

My interest in all forms of Canadian illustration led me to develop a real passion for editorial cartoons. As both an art and a manifesto, caricature combines drawing and satire to offer a political, sociological and psychological interpretation of an event. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I would venture that a caricature is worth an entire chapter.


Art historian Christian Vachon specializes in Canadian illustration from the 18th century to the present day, specifically in the fields of graphic satire and printing processes. He has researched the development of printing in the 19th and 20th centuries to understand its fundamental role in the dissemination of iconography produced in Canada. An in-depth study of Canada’s illustrated press ignited his passion for political and editorial cartooning.

After earning a master’s degree in art studies from the Université du Québec à Montréal, he joined the McCord Museum in 1989 to organize the layout of new reserves in the Paintings, Prints and Drawings collection for the Museum’s 1992 reopening. He subsequently worked as the Museum’s Registrar before being named Head, Collections Management, a position he holds to this day.

In 2010, he was also appointed Curator, Paintings, Prints and Drawings, a department now known as Documentary Art. Since then, he has curated a number of exhibitions featuring this collection—notably the cartoons section, which now consists of over 45,000 drawings—including Cartooning Calamities!, Aislin: 50 Years of Cartoons and Chapleau, Profession: Cartoonist.

In 2012, Christian Vachon was named an honorary member of the Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists for his exceptional service to the association. When the organization was renamed the Association of Canadian Cartoonists in 2016, he was elected to serve on the Board of Directors as associate curator. His expertise in the history of Canadian cartooning has led him to give numerous lectures on the subject and take part in a variety of events devoted to caricatures, past and present.

As the curator responsible for the acquisition of the Allan Slaight Collection, which contains posters on the theme of magic along with numerous archival items documenting the career of Harry Houdini, he worked on documenting these collected works as part of preparing the 2017 exhibition Illusions – The Art of Magic.

He is currently conducting research on Montreal painter James Duncan (1806-1881) for an upcoming publication and exhibition scheduled for 2023. Duncan was Montreal’s leading painter in the mid 19th century, faithfully chronicling the life of the city. He is known for his watercolours of landscapes and street scenes.
More about the Documentary Art Collection
Explore the collection online

Selected Publications

Co-writer of texts and historical and iconographic research for Chapleau: depuis mes débuts, by Serge Chapleau, companion book for the exhibition Chapleau, Profession: Cartoonist. Montreal: Les Éditions La Presse, 2020, 304 pages.

“Dating the Impossible.” In Magicol – A Journal of Magic History and Collectibles, No. 194 (September 2019): 9-26.

“Uncle Sam, a Not-So-Distant Cousin: Canadian Contributions to the Genesis of an American Allegorical Figure.” In Sketches for an Unquiet Country: Canadian Graphic Satire, 1840-1940, edited by Annie Gérin, Dominic Hardy and Lora Senechal Carney, 75-97. Montreal; Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2018.

“Magic in Montreal.” In Illusions – The Art of Magic, edited by Suzanne Sauvage, Christian Vachon and Marc H. Choko, 38-48. Milan; Montreal: 5 Continents Editions; McCord Museum, 2017.

“The Art of Magic Posters.” In Illusions – The Art of Magic, edited by Suzanne Sauvage, Christian Vachon and Marc H. Choko, 166-177. Milan; Montreal: 5 Continents Editions; McCord Museum, 2017.

“Notman, Creator of the First Halftone.” In Notman: A Visionary Photographer, edited by Hélène Samson and Suzanne Sauvage, 152-157. Paris & Montreal: Éditions Hazan & McCord Museum, 2016.
Award of Outstanding Achievement in Research – Cultural Heritage from the Canadian Museums Association (CMA).

“L’oncle Sam, un cousin pas si éloigné. Quelques jalons d’une affiliation canadienne.” In Collecting Knowledge: New Dialogues on McCord Museum Collections/À la recherche du savoir : Nouveaux échanges sur les collections du Musée McCord, edited by Joanne Burgess, Cynthia Cooper, Céline Widmer and Natasha Zwarich, 241–256. Montreal: Éditions MultiMondes, 2015.

Selected Presentations

Une collection muséale de caricatures canadiennes accessibles dans l’espace numérique,” Caricatures et cultures numériques, conference organized by Université de Lausanne, Université de Lyon and Université du Québec à Montréal (CASGRAM/CRILCQ), Lausanne, February 5, 2022.

Montréal avant la photographie,” Festival d’histoire de Montréal, McCord Museum, Montreal, May 14, 2021.

“Chapeau Chapleau!” Fondation culturelle Jean-de-Brébeuf, Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, Montreal, November 30, 2020.

“Quand la caricature et l’histoire se rencontrent,” launch of the journal Traces, Revue de la Société des professeurs d’histoire du Québec, McCord Museum, Montreal, October 8, 2020.

Drawings in a Dangerous Time: Norwegian and Canadian Cartoonists,” round table organized by the Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la littérature et la culture québécoises, moderated by Dominic Hardy and Christian Vachon, McCord Museum, Montreal, November 21, 2018.

“Aislin : le Québec contemporain en caricatures,” Fondation culturelle Jean-de-Brébeuf, Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, Montreal, April 30, 2018

“Dating the Impossible,” 44th Magic Collectors Weekend, Magicana and McCord Museum, Delta Hotel and McCord Museum, Montreal, May 25–27, 2017.

“The Duncan Macpherson Collection,” Association of Canadian Cartoonists Convention, Ryerson University, Toronto, May 6, 2016.

La collection de caricatures politiques du Musée McCord : accès et valorisation,” Le patrimoine politique du Québec : un état des lieux des traces documentaires, BAnQ and Société du patrimoine politique du Québec (SOPPOQ), BAnQ, Montreal, May 22, 2015.
Slide Presentation

“Uncle Sam and the McCord Museum,” Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists Convention, Havana, May 13, 2014.

“De la main à l’écran : les différents états de la caricature actuelle,” L’histoire de l’art aux limites du satirique, UQAM, Département d’histoire de l’art/CASGRAM/CRILCQ, UQAM and McCord Museum, Montreal, April 22–23, 2014.

L’Oncle Sam, un cousin pas si éloigné. Quelques jalons d’une affiliation canadienne dans la genèse d’une figure allégorique américaine,” Collecting Knowledge: New Dialogues on McCord Museum Collections, Montréal, Dynamic HubSpace: History, Heritage, Future and the McCord Museum, Montreal, November 7–9, 2013.

Not to be missed!

Not to be missed!