Clarence Gagnon was born in Sainte-Rose, Quebec in 1881. He studied at the École normale du Plateau in Montréal and at the Art Association of Montréal from 1897 to 1900. Sponsored by art patron James Morgan, Gagnon went to Paris to study in the studio of painter, Jean-Paul Laurens.
The quality of Gagnon’s engravings helped to distinguish him in his career. He received a gold medal at the St. Louis Exhibition in 1904 and an honorable mention at the Salon des artistes français in Paris in 1905. He returned to Canada in 1909 where he spent his time between Montréal and Baie-St- Paul. He was a member of the Royal Society of Canada and an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Gagnon received the Trevor Prize of the Salmagundi Club in New York in 1923.
In 1929, he illustrated Le Grand Silence Blanc and in 1933, he illustrated the deluxe edition of Louis Hémon’s “Maria Chapdelaine”. He traveled to France once more from 1922 to 1936 and upon his return he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Montréal. Gagnon died in Montréal in 1942.