Jean Paul Riopelle
AUTO CAS OC QMG RCA SCA
1923 - 2002
oil on canvas
signed and on verso titled, dated 1969 on the Roberts Gallery label and inscribed "Vendre" and "A-3"
28 3/4 x 36 in 73 x 91.4 cm
Estimate: $250,000 - $350,000
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Galerie Maeght, Paris
Roberts Gallery, Toronto
An Important Estate, Toronto
Jean Paul Riopelle was the most internationally acclaimed Canadian artist of his generation. He was a prominent member of the pivotal Quebec avant-garde group Les Automatistes before moving to France in 1947. There he became part of the Surrealist circle, the only Canadian to exhibit with them in a landmark 1947 exhibition at the Galerie Maeght, in Paris.
Riopelle’s life circumstances are more evident in Snow Goose than in many of his paintings. The descriptive title suggests not so much what we see – though we could interpret the painting as abstracted from a specific motif in nature – as where its inspiration came from. The artist was a long-time hunter and nature lover. Especially during and after his first retrospective in Quebec (held in 1967 at the Musée du Québec, now the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec), Riopelle spent more and more time in the province. In 1974, he established a studio in the Laurentians. In the early 1990s, after his former partner Joan Mitchell’s death, he added a second studio, on the remote Isle-aux-Grues (Island of Cranes), in the St. Lawrence River northeast of Quebec City, to which Île-aux-Oies (Island of Geese) is connected by a sandbar. Responding to questions about the isolation of this locale in the 1990s, Riopelle replied, “It’s paradise…The geese bring on the first snow...” In retrospect, Snow Goose both demonstrates Riopelle’s passion for this bird and its habitat and anticipates in an abstract idiom his later, figurative depictions of geese (for example, The Goose Hunt, 1981, and the extensive triptych Homage to Rosa Luxemburg of 1992).
That said, it would diminish Riopelle’s painting to suggest that we literally see a snow goose. The painting is not figurative, but instead makes apparent the dynamic qualities that we might associate with this large bird itself or the flocks of snow geese that make the region their habitat. As the late Riopelle scholar François-Marc Gagnon aptly stated about the artist’s later depictions of geese, “Riopelle understood that his painting moved in concert with nature, rather than seeking to replace it.”
Although we might discern a form articulated by the heavy black outlining in the centre of the image, any definition of its identity is complicated, even thwarted, by Riopelle’s technique. The red and yellow swatch at the top centre, for example, is bounded, but at the same time, interwoven with the rest of the canvas. Riopelle echoes these colours elsewhere across the surface. He injects spikes of white mixed with black across this central form, shapes that we also see across the entire surface and that keep the eye moving instead of identifying a subject. As in Un sac à vent (lot 21 in this sale), the whites, which are never purely white, vie for precedence.
We thank Mark Cheetham, Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto and author of Remembering Postmodernism: Trends in Canadian Art, 1970 – 1990, for contributing the above essay.
1. Quoted in Gilbert Érouart, Riopelle in Conversation, trans. Donald Winkler (Concord, ON: House of Anansi, 1995), 18.
2. François-Marc Gagnon, Jean Paul Riopelle: Life & Work. (Toronto: Art Canada Institute, 2019), 60.
This work is included as an addendum in Yseult Riopelle’s online catalogue raisonné on the artist’s work at http://www.riopelle.ca, catalogue #1969.011H.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is holding the exhibition Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures from November 21, 2020 to March 21, 2021, which will travel in 2021 - 2022 to the Audain Art Museum, Whistler and the Glenbow Museum, Calgary.
Estimate: $250,000 - $350,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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