LOT 011

AUTO CAS OC QMG RCA SCA
1923 - 2002
Canadian

Hivernage
oil on canvas
signed and on verso titled and dated 1977 on the gallery labels
34 3/4 x 45 3/4 in 88.3 x 116.2 cm

Estimate: $175,000 - $225,000

Sold for: $241,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

PROVENANCE
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
Acquavella Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Toronto

LITERATURE
Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Riopelle, 1980, reproduced page 30
Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 5, 1972 - 1979, 2021, page 217, catalogue #1977.143H.1977

EXHIBITED
Gallery Moos, Toronto, 1978, catalogue #18
Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Riopelle, September 18 - November 16, 1980, catalogue #32
Galerie Simon Blais, Montreal, Jean Paul Riopelle - Papiers géants, Oeuvres sur papier de grand format, August 8 - September 29, 2007


During the 1970s, after living in France for nearly 30 years, Jean Paul Riopelle came back to “la belle province” on several hunting and fishing trips. On these occasions, he traveled multiple times to the Far North, a region that fascinated him. He went to Pangnirtung (Baffin Island, Nunavut) in 1969, to James Bay in 1971, to Hudson Bay in 1972, and to Georges River from 1975 to 1976. Finally, in the summer of 1977, he made one of his most important excursions to the Canadian North, returning to Pangnirtung with Theo Waddington of Waddington Galleries; Champlain Charest, Riopelle’s friend, also a radiologist and pilot; and Claude Duthuit, son of art historian and critic Georges Duthuit. The dramatic northern landscape made a significant impact on the artist, as is evident from his statement:

Obviously, if I’d gone to the Mediterranean I’d never have come back with paintings like this, but in the Arctic nothing is clear-cut. All is not black and white. The sky, though, seems black, really black. If I painted a sky that way, no one would believe me. And on the ground, there’s not even white snow. There’s ice that’s grey, transparent.

The icebergs are fantastic to see, they’re like white mushrooms that melt, alter, shift until they find a new equilibrium. If they weren’t perfectly balanced, they wouldn’t stay put. That’s sculpture! But the most extraordinary thing is to hear them. They make an incredible noise as they turn, like an explosion.[1]

The Far North’s icebergs and ice floes were a source of artistic renewal for Riopelle and quickly became his favourite subject. The resulting Iceberg series, dated 1977, is one of the artist’s last major series in oil, consisting of about 30 paintings. They were executed between his studios in L’Estérel, in Quebec, and Saint-Cyr-en-Arthies, in France. Using only black, white and grey pigments – an impressive economy of colours – Riopelle showcases the virtuosity of his palette knife by achieving highly textured surfaces. These peaks and valleys of paint create dramatic effects of shadow and light on the canvas, and recall the same dazzling luminosity of the icebergs Riopelle observed in Pangnirtung.

Hivernage is a remarkable example of the Iceberg series. The canvas is bisected in two halves, one white and one black, perhaps suggesting a horizon line. In its lower half, touches of luminous white hover over the dark background, once again evoking the series’ titular icebergs. Although Riopelle often drew inspiration from nature - “I don’t take anything from Nature, I move into Nature…,” he said – this inspiration is especially evident with the Iceberg paintings.[2] Here, he treads the line between abstraction and figuration, looking to elicit a feeling of the northern landscape and to embody its glacial environment. Author Ray Ellenwood wrote in his essay on Riopelle’s work La ligne d’eau, a colossal example of the Iceberg series (sold at Heffel in fall 2020): “[Riopelle] was more interested in what I would call evocation. It is astonishing how he conveys such an impression of movement—of physical mass as well as light—using many of the techniques of his early gestural abstractions.”[3] Furthermore, art historian Guy Robert wrote: “From the sources and resources of closely observed nature, [Riopelle] retains only the framework of visual and pictorial elements that allow him to structure his emotions and present us with versions, dynamic visions, divested of their anecdotal and touristic references.”[4]

The title of this painting is noteworthy, since works from that period, including the Iceberg series, often have titles that are evocative of the North, winter or nature. Hivernage is a French term used to designate the winter period during which activities slow down or stop due to glacial temperatures.

The Audain Art Museum in Whistler will hold the exhibition Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures from October 23, 2021 to February 21, 2022. This show originated at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and wil travel in 2022 to the Glenbow Museum, Calgary and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton.

1. Riopelle quoted in Jean Paul Riopelle (Montreal: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1991), exhibition catalogue, 198.

2. Quoted in Gilbert Érouart, Riopelle in Conversation (Concord, ON: House of Anansi Press, 1995), 25.

3. Ray Ellenwood, essay in Post-War & Contemporary Art (Vancouver, BC: Heffel Fine Art Auction House, 2020), 83.

4. Guy Robert, Riopelle, ou La poétique du geste (Montreal: Éditions de l’Homme, 1970), 71.


Estimate: $175,000 - $225,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars


Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business. Bidders must ensure they have satisfied themselves with the condition of the Lot prior to bidding. Condition reports are available upon request.