LOT 014

1923 - 2002

Sans titre
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1954 and on verso signed, dated and inscribed "PM" / "No. 14" and with the Pierre Matisse inventory #St3093 and variously
13 x 9 1/2 in, 33 x 24.1 cm

Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000 CAD

Sold for: $661,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
Acquavella Modern Art, Nevada
Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Ontario

Riopelle: Paintings from the Fifties, Pierre Matisse Gallery, 1989, reproduced and listed, unpaginated
Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 2, 1954 - 1959, 2004, reproduced page 181, catalogue #1954.059H.1954

Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, Riopelle: Paintings from the Fifties, April 18 - May 20, 1989, catalogue #14

Jean Paul Riopelle, revered as one of the pre-eminent painters of the second half of the twentieth century, ascended to international prominence in 1954, a watershed moment catalyzed by his inaugural New York solo exhibition at the legendary Pierre Matisse Gallery. This seminal event, followed by 11 subsequent exhibitions, heralded the beginning of a profoundly enriching and enduring collaboration between these two titans of the post-war art world.

The preface to the 1954 exhibition catalogue, penned by Georges Duthuit, son-in-law of Henri Matisse (and eloquently translated into English by Riopelle’s close friend Samuel Beckett), drew a striking analogy between the artist’s technique and the immediate sensations of the natural world. Duthuit’s description likened Riopelle's approach to painting to the unfolding of earth, nerves and epidermis, evoking a vivid portrayal of vitality and immediacy. The comparison to “a trapper fresh from the Canadian solitudes measuring his stride to our narrow pavements” evokes the sense of the artist’s struggle to contain his exuberant energy within the confines of urban life.[1]

The year 1954 also marked a significant stylistic change in Riopelle’s work, a transition from his drip paintings of the early 1950s to the iconic mosaic-style compositions for which he is renowned. Sans titre, 1954, stands as a quintessential manifestation of the convergence of Riopelle’s diverse stylistic inclinations. Vibrant hues and dynamic interplays of colour pulsate through the canvas, encapsulating the essence of Riopelle’s creative fervour. This piece serves as a visual testament to his mastery of form and technique, seamlessly bridging the gap between the gestural spontaneity of his earlier drip paintings and the structured geometricity of his later mosaic-style compositions.

Art historian Serge Guilbault offers insight into Riopelle’s works from the 1950s, describing them as

saturated and oily rhizomes, networks of lines so complex that the eye does not perceive the details of the visual agglomerations. The gaze does not rest, it takes in everything at once, tacking from left to right, gliding across the surface. The viewer is left with only the pleasure of detachment, the freedom of the hang glider, that replaces and continues the practice of the modern flaneur.[2]

The physical presence and tactile depth of Sans titre, 1954, transcend its physical dimensions. It is an exhilarating painting that captivates with its jewel-like tones and taut composition.

1. Georges Duthuit, “A Painter of Awakening: Jean Paul Riopelle,” trans. Samuel Beckett, in Riopelle: First American Exhibition (New York: Pierre Matisse Gallery, 1954), exhibition catalogue, n.p.

2. Serge Guilbault, “From Earth to Sky with Riopelle,” in Riopelle: Works from the Collection of Power Corporation of Canada and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (2006), exhibition catalogue, 27.

Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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