LOT 012

1923 - 2002

Sans titre
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1958 and on verso inscribed indistinctly
31 3/4 x 39 3/8 in, 80.6 x 100 cm

Estimate: $250,000 - $350,000 CAD

Sold for: $421,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Galerie Walter Klinkhoff Inc., Montreal
Private Collection, Montreal

Vie des arts, vol. 25, no. 100, Fall 1980, page 14
Vie des arts, vol. 27, no. 110, March – April – May 1983, reproduced interior cover
Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, online addendum to Volume 2, 1954 - 1959, 2004, http://www.riopelle.ca

Painted in 1958, Sans titre is a powerful demonstration of Jean Paul Riopelle’s exuberant creative spirit and force. It conveys a feeling of unrestrained movement and seemingly endless energy, which he had in spades. At the time, Riopelle had firmly established himself in the bustling art scene of Paris, where he had been living since 1949. Ever the prolific artist, he participated in multiple group and solo shows, namely at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York, Galerie Jacques Dubourg in Paris, the 1954 Venice Biennale and the 1955 Bienal de São Paulo, thus also confirming his status as one of Canada’s most internationally renowned artists. During this period he also met and forged deep friendships with fellow artists such as Sam Francis and Alberto Giacometti, and most importantly, the American Abstract Expressionist painter Joan Mitchell, his partner for 25 years.

Embodying a pivotal and transformative moment in Riopelle’s long and celebrated career, Sans titre announces the transformation of the artist’s “mosaics” to the looser style of the 1960s. The strokes of the palette knife are more irregular and go in every which way, as opposed to his densely organized grid-like compositions of the early 1950s. We can note here the apparition of a more expressive and almost calligraphic handling of the palette knife. Indeed, curved lines, squiggles and even small loops appear in combination with his signature tessera-shaped knife-strokes. There is a more outward motion in the overall composition, as Riopelle is looking to create movement and breathe space into the canvas.

Sans titre is dense with built-up matter: paint thickly applied with the palette knife in swirls, swoops and cresting waves. Riopelle famously used a prodigious amount of paint on his canvases, exploring its plastic qualities and giving each dab of colour a sculptural quality. Sans titre shimmers like a gem, with accents of amethyst, ruby red, emerald green, aquamarine, yellow and cobalt appearing through black and white touches. Even the colour palette is bursting with the artist’s explosive energy, which echoes the vibrancy of the times. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Paris had become a creative mecca, attracting artists from across the Western world and fostering one of the greatest periods of artistic experimentation and production in the twentieth century.

Riopelle was no exception to this momentum and excitement, and the late 1950s to early 1960s were a time of great experimentation for him. In 1958, the year Sans titre was painted, he picked up sculpting again, in a studio he shared with sculptor Roseline Granet in Meudon. It appears his three-dimensional practice influenced paintings such as this one, and vice versa. He even described his paintings as “sculptures in oil,” as his daughter Yseult Riopelle recounts.[1]

This spirit of experimentation and the dynamism of the era can be acutely felt in our canvas, but more importantly, the creative energy and sheer force of Riopelle. Sans titre is an exciting work, with outward movement, a dazzling colour palette and an expressive surface, all infused with the artist’s vital power.

1. Yseult Riopelle quoted in Marie-Claude Corbeil, Kate Helwig, and Jennifer Poulin, Jean Paul Riopelle: The Artist’s Materials (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2011), 11.

Estimate: $250,000 - $350,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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