LOT 040

1923 - 2002

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1962 and on verso titled and dated on the Roberts Gallery label
35 x 45 3/4 in, 88.9 x 116.2 cm

Estimate: $200,000 - $300,000 CAD

Sold for: $253,250

Preview at: Heffel North Vancouver Facility – by appointment only

Galerie Jacques Dubourg, Paris
Roberts Gallery, Toronto, 1964
Private Collection, Toronto
By descent to the present Private Estate, Ontario

Canadian Art, September – October 1964, reproduced page 320
Jean Louis Prat, Gilles Vigneault et al., Jean Paul Riopelle, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1991, quoting Herta Wescher, page 34
Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 1, 1939 – 1953, 1999, quoting the artist, page 42
Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 3, 1960 – 1965, 2009, quoting Yves Michaud, pages 53 and 56, reproduced page 169, catalogue #1962.050H.1962

Jean Paul Riopelle’s distinct approach to matter was a key part of his modus operandi throughout his oeuvre, but the first half of the 1960s was a watershed moment in this respect. While his dense all-over compositions grew larger and more ambitious during the 1950s, they became more spacious in the 1960s. And his slender, mosaic-like strokes of the palette knife became elongated and looser. Art historian Herta Wescher wrote at this time, “The dense mosaics characteristic of his paintings of ten years ago have been broken up, allowing space to enter from all sides. Now, order and chaos intermingle, diagonals, curves and sharp hooks attach the verticals, voids are trapped at the heart of incredibly crowded centers.” Lianes, a large oil on canvas executed in 1962, is a stunning example of this—its pictorial space is organized, yet the gesture remains intuitive and unrestrained.

Art historian Yves Michaud described Riopelle’s process at the time as follows: “Pure colour, straight from the tube, is laid on with the knife, sometimes pressed and spurted as well onto the surface in successive impressions that make the painting a marquetry of relief touches. The painting is a surface, but not a conceptual one. Rather, it is a heavily loaded surface that condenses and reunites a time of production and a time of vision—like Ozias Leduc’s tree through the seasons. The word flatness, so in vogue in the quasi-academic codification of Abstract Expressionism, has no pertinence here.”

In Lianes, Riopelle sculpts his paint across the surface of the canvas using his palette knife, building a thick and textured impasto. Earthy hues transition into bright reds, cool blues, teals and crisp whites, while dramatic touches of black punctuate the work. With grand, sweeping gestures, he arranges larger expanses of colours, breathing space into the work. This chromatic division of the pictorial space into zones is an example of what Michaud argues: “What is striking about the oil paintings from the 1960s is the gradual appearance of forms that, superimposed over the profusion of small touches, confer a second organization to the painting and gradually lead to the figure.”

In the early 1960s, Riopelle worked extensively on sculpture in a studio he shared with sculptor Roseline Granet in Meudon, a Paris suburb. His three-dimensional practice appears to have influenced paintings such as this one, as made evident by the thick, near-sculptural surface of this piece. With an unrestrained application of paint, Riopelle slashes and sweeps his still-wet paints in rhythmic vertical, horizontal and oblique strokes. Art historian Monique Brunet-Weinmann goes so far as to argue that “he came close to painting directly with his fingers, the way he sculpted, for he took the coloured matter in hand.”

Sculpture also allowed Riopelle to explore new forms of figuration and to take inspiration from nature. Uninterested in the abstraction/figuration dichotomy, Riopelle never shied away from the natural world. He explained: “My paintings that are considered the most abstract are, in my opinion, the most representational in the strictest sense of the term…Abstract: ‘abstraction,’ ‘taken from,’ ‘to bring from’…I work the other way round. I do not take from Nature, I move toward Nature.” Here in Lianes, calligraphic scribbles run nervously all over the work, leading the eye across the painting’s surface. These curvilinear streaks, created by pushing through paint, evoke the titular vines, or lianes.

During the first half of the 1960s, Riopelle was also gaining national and international recognition. He represented Canada at the 1962 Venice Biennale, where he was awarded the UNESCO Prize. This was also the first time Canada presented a solo artist exhibition in the prestigious Biennale. That same year, three of his works were shown in Art Since 1950, which was part of the Seattle World’s Fair. The National Gallery of Canada held a retrospective of his work in 1963, which then traveled to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. This trend would continue later in 1967, when the Musée du Québec organized another retrospective, and in 1968, when he participated in an exhibition of Canadian art at the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, in Paris, affirming Riopelle as one of Canada’s most recognized international artists.

Estimate: $200,000 - $300,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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