In 1948 Borduas stunned Quebec with his radical manifesto, the Refus Global. The manifesto was a complete rejection of the social norms and values of the era in Quebec at the time, especially under the oppressive rule of Maurice Duplessis. The Refus Global called for uncensored thought and the separation of the church and the state. The manifesto is considered to have been one of the fundamental causes of the Quiet Revolution in Quebec. There were fifteen signatories to the Refus Global, many of whom were memebers of the artistic group, the Automatists.
The Automatists were a group of non-figurative Québécois artists, which was founded by Borduas in the early 1940s; they were influenced by Surrealism and its theory of automatism. The Automatists would meet in Borduas’ studio to discuss Marxism, surrealism and psychoanalysis, all subjects that were condoned by the Catholic Church in Quebec. The Automatists held a number of exhibitions, notably in New York in 1946 and in Paris in 1947. What had begun, as a dissident student group became an important cultural movement.
Quebec artist, Ozias Leduc, recognized Borduas’ talent, and hired him as his assistant in 1920, when Borudas was 15 years of age. In 1923 Borduas entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Montreal, enabling him to teach in Quebec elementary schools. Borduas began teaching in 1927. In 1937 Borduas became a Professor at the Ecole du Meuble in Montreal; however, the publication of the Refus Global in 1948 resulted in his dismissal. At the time Borduas’s only sources of income came from his paintings and the children’s art classes which he taught. Borduas left for the United States in 1953, settling in New York, in preparation for his first solo show in New York City at the Passedoit Gallery. Despite his ailing health Borduas moved from New York to Paris in 1955, where he stayed until his death in 1960.