La Maison Trestler

Interpretive exhibit for La Maison Trestler
Location: 85 chemin de la Commune, Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec, Canada J7V 2C3
Illustrations for seven interpretative stations: Frédéric Back

Preserving history

Designated as a heritage building and a historic site, the Maison Trestler was built by Johann Joshef Tröstler, a German mercenary soldier who changed his name to Jean-Joseph Trestler after settling in Montreal in 1783. He started out as a travelling merchant to the seigneuries of Vaudreuil and Rigaud, but soon opened a general store. In 1798, he built a magnificent French-influenced manor on the shores of Lac des Deux Montagnes to house his burgeoning business and serve as his family residence, adding to it in 1805 and again in 1806. Now restored, the Maison Trestler is a cultural attraction that is open year round and features interpretive exhibits, including seven panels painted by Frédéric Back in 2004. These illustrations, some an impressive two metres high, show what daily life was like during the time of Jean-Joseph Trestler. Painted in pastel and gouache, they are lively and highly detailed, often with humorous touches slipped in to amuse young visitors.

The illustrations

As on a few previous occasions, Frédéric Back took over the Maison Trestler commission when his son Francis, an illustrator specializing in historical subjects, was too busy. Since there are no visual archives of daily life in the region at the turn of the 19th century, he had to do a historical recreation. However, Francis provided much of the necessary documentation for this fastidious work. Frédéric Back also did portraits of certain people based on period paintings by the artist William Berczy.

Frédéric Back first drew relatively small illustrations, which were then digitized by his friend Normand Tessier, a technical whiz. After they had been blown up and printed on 100% cotton paper, Back reworked them in pastel and gouache.