LOT 034

1923 - 2002

Composition rouge et noir
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1953 twice and on verso signed, titled on the Galerie van de Loo label, dated and inscribed "1353/80" on the Galerie van de Loo label
15 3/4 x 31 1/2 in, 40 x 80 cm

Estimate: $300,000 - $500,000 CAD

Sold for: $289,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Arthur Tooth & Sons, London
Sold sale of Christie's London, December 4, 1979, lot 135
Galerie van de Loo, Munich
Sold sale of Art Contemporain, Cornette de St-Cyr, Paris, July 2, 2003, lot 29
Private Collection, Switzerland
Helly Nahmad Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Vancouver

Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 1, 1939 - 1953, 1999, reproduced page 389, catalogue #1953.049H.1953

This mysterious painting by Jean Paul Riopelle has a well-known and exemplary provenance. We know which galleries it moved through before coming into the hands of its recent owners. Riopelle first presented it in the famous London gallery Arthur Tooth & Sons, known for having endorsed the Impressionists in their time. Then, Composition rouge et noir was shown at Galerie van de Loo on Maximilianstrasse in Munich, a particularly avant-garde gallery that exhibited members of the COBRA movement such as Pierre Alechinsky, Asger Jorn and Henri Michaux. After that, we find our painting in a private collection in Switzerland. The Helly Nahmad Gallery on Madison Avenue is next in the provenance of our painting, headed by Hillel “Helly” Nahmad. It is here that the current owner acquired this painting.

I describe this painting as mysterious because Riopelle had not accustomed us to predominantly black works sparingly highlighted with colour here and there – red, orange, blue and yellow in this case. The other well-known example of this presentation style is Blue Night, the painting Riopelle showed at Younger European Painters, an exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1953. This exhibition was organized by curator, art critic and museum director James J. Sweeney amidst a controversy about whether Paris or New York City was the world leader in modern art.

One wonders whether the monochromatic aspect of Composition rouge et noir stems from Riopelle’s unwavering fondness for sculpture. When he could afford it, he made bronzes, works that are also of a single dominant colour, for example, La Joute, his major sculpted work. His friend the American critic Patrick Waldburg, who lived in Paris, spoke of his works as “sculptures in oil,” an expression that pleased Riopelle, who used it several times.

The fact remains that in Composition rouge et noir Riopelle was breaking away from the all-over “mosaic” style that dominated his output in the 1950s; a style characterized by a juxtaposition of marks without any indication of movement. In contrast, here certain strokes are accompanied by streaks of colour, thus suggesting movement. Flashing with brilliant colour in velvety black, this mysterious canvas, Composition rouge et noir, previously shown in England, Germany and New York, now makes its debut at auction in Canada.

We thank François-Marc Gagnon of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University, for contributing the above essay.

Estimate: $300,000 - $500,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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