Gagnon began working on a series of illustrations for the Louis Hémon novel Maria Chapdelaine in 1927, but did not devote himself exclusively to it until 1931. The entire project, which included 54 illustrations, was completed in 1933. Many of the sketches depict people and landscapes from Baie-Saint-Paul rather than Péribonka, the village in which Hémon’s story is set. These idealized scenes show the daily lives and labours of farm folk from one season to another. Unlike Hémon’s book, in which “all spoke of a harsh existence in a stern land,” Gagnon provides us with a vision of a serene, peaceful countryside.