Clarence Gagnon was born in Montreal and studied with William Brymner at the Art Association of Montreal, the Academie Julian in Paris and under Jean-Paul Laurens. He became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1922. Gagnon became well known for his etchings and his 54 original paintings for the book Maria Chapdelaine by Louis Hemon as well as Le Grand silence blanc by Louis-Frederic Rouquette in 1929. He lived in France from 1924 to 1936. Gagnon was known to advance the modernist painting in Canada.