Armand Filion graduated from the École des beaux-arts de Montréal (1927–31), which he entered when he was 17. When he was barely 21, he became a drawing teacher at the Commission des écoles catholiques de Montréal. His encounter with French architect Dom Bellot was decisive, as it turned him toward sculpture. From 1942 to 1968, in addition to producing a number of religious sculpture projects and integrations with architecture, he taught at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal, where he founded the sculpture department.
From left to right, bas-reliefs retrace the life of Bernadette Soubirous. By 1951, Filion had been a professor of sculpture at the École des Beaux-Arts de Montréal for almost a decade and was renowned as much for his studio sculpture as his “architectural sculpture”, a term of the time which described the link between the sculpture and the building. This art-architecture relationship was expressed by Filion through his technique of working directly on the stone at the construction site for the school.
At the time, the originality of the bas-reliefs commemorating this saint came from the modern style of this religious art. From the moment it was completed, the artwork solicited warm praise, receiving the greatest amount of attention from well-known art and architecture critics of any architectural sculpture. They appreciated the modernity of the shapes and the simplified surfaces, without perspective yet still expressive. As well, they lauded the liberty taken by the artist with regard to resemblance to the subject of the commission.