LOT 021

1924 - 2001

Dents de sable
oil on canvas on board
signed and dated 1955 and on verso titled and dated on a label
30 5/8 x 43 3/8 in, 77.8 x 110.2 cm

Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000 CAD

Sold for: $181,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Galerie de Montréal, Montreal
Acquired from the above by the present Private Collection, Montreal, 1970s

Réal Lussier, Marcelle Ferron, une rétrospective, Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, 2000, reproduced page 67 and listed page 141
Robert Enright et al., Marcelle Ferron: Monograph, 2008, page 38

Centre culturel canadien, Paris, Marcelle Ferron: l'artiste dans l'industrie et l'architecture, October 10 - November 26, 1972
Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Marcelle Ferron, une rétrospective, June 2 – September 10, 2000, catalogue #37

Marcelle Ferron’s Dents de sable – “sand teeth” – is a dazzling display of saturated colour and spontaneous gesture. Filled with energy, the composition is alive with complementary colours pulsating all over the surface of the canvas. It is a fantastic demonstration of the expressive touch and revolutionary approach to abstraction being developed by the Automatists, of which she was a member.

Prior to her adherence to the group, she studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Quebec City in the early 1940s. She eventually abandoned their program, as she considered it too academic and close-minded to the various European avant-garde movements. Following her departure from the school, she moved to Montreal, where she sought inspiration by visiting art exhibitions. During one of these visits, she came upon Paul-Émile Borduas’s work and immediately sought him out. Their first meeting in 1946 was decisive and had an immense impact on the young artist. She was later introduced to the artists who would become members of the group: Pierre Gauvreau, Françoise Sullivan, Fernand Leduc, Jean-Paul Mousseau, Marcel Barbeau and Jean Paul Riopelle.

Her association with the Automatists was made official in August 1948, when Borduas’s Refus global manifesto was published at Librarie Tranquille in Montreal. Ferron was one of its 15 signatories. Although now regarded as a milestone in the modernization of Quebec, the publication scandalized many as it challenged both Church and State. As a result of the shockwave they created in the belle province, Borduas lost his teaching position at the École du Meuble in Montreal, and members of the Automatist group found it almost impossible to show their works. Many of them went on voluntary exiles: Borduas left for New York, while Riopelle left for Paris. Ferron opted for the latter as well, arriving in 1953 and remaining until 1965.

Executed in 1954, Dents de sable is from her Parisian period, a stimulating and effervescent time in her career during which she was acquainted with the practitioners of lyrical abstraction. That year marked her first group exhibition in Paris, Phases de l’art contemporain at Galerie Creuze, which also showcased works by Léon Bellefleur, Albert Dumouchel, Roland Giguère, Fernand Leduc and Riopelle. It was also a time when she produced her first large-scale works, which brought further plastic and chromatic experimentations. She often worked with bright colours applied in small juxtaposed and superimposed touches, covering the entirety of the surface as in Dents de sable.

Here, jewel-like tones are applied with the artist’s staccato touch in short and swift strokes of the palette knife. Lighter shades of orange, coral, canary yellow, turquoise and ochre seem to detach themselves from the mass of colour, while darker shades of cobalt, black and terracotta recede in the background. This push and pull effect creates dynamic tension within the composition. The subtle introduction of titanium white suffuses the work with light, creating a pulsating chromatic kaleidoscope.

This important painting demonstrates Ferron’s skill as a colourist and her deft handling of the palette knife. Art historian Rose-Marie Arbour explains: “Marcelle Ferron always maintained that her creative approach was fundamentally grounded in the Automatist approach as it was elaborated during the 1940s. She always strove to maintain a balance between the subject (painter) and the particular possibilities offered by the mediums being used, never relinquishing her conviction that chance is freedom.”

Also noteworthy is the fact that this work was acquired at Galerie de Montréal, which was helmed by the famous dealer and art critic Yves Lasnier. The work was also shown at the Centre culturel canadien in Paris in 1972, in the exhibition Marcelle Ferron: l'artiste dans l'industrie et l'architecture, and in a retrospective of Ferron’s work at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in 2000.

Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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