Jean Paul Riopelle
AUTO CAS OC QMG RCA SCA
1923 - 2002
Un sac à vent
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1961 and on verso titled, dated on the Roberts Gallery label and numbered 2402
31 1/2 x 39 in 80 x 99.1 cm
Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Galerie Jacques Dubourg, Paris (#2402)
Roberts Gallery, Toronto
An Important Estate, Toronto
Canadian Art, vol. XXII no 5, issue no 99, November - December, 1965, page 47
Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 3, 1960 - 1965, 2009, reproduced page 136, catalogue #1961.044H.1961
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Jean Paul Riopelle: Peinture et sculpture / Painting and Sculpture, January 10 - February 3, 1963, traveling to the Art Gallery of Toronto, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Phillips Memorial Gallery, Washington, DC, catalogue #62
The 1960s was an important decade in Riopelle’s extensive career. He both mined and extended the painterly techniques through which he had established his considerable fame and success in Europe, the USA and Canada by the 1950s. No Canadian artist equaled his avant-garde status. Active in Les Automatistes from the 1940s, he was a signatory to the radical cultural manifesto Refus global of 1948. He relocated in 1947 to Paris, where he moved in the circle of Surrealist leader André Breton and became central in the revitalization of post–World War II French abstraction.
Riopelle became a leading proponent of tachisme, art informel or Lyrical Abstraction, terms that advocated the expressive, unbridled freedom of painterly expression in opposition to the hard-edged, geometrical tendencies of American colour-field painting of the time and the two generations of Montreal abstractionists known as Les Plasticiens. He participated in the Bienal de São Paulo in 1951 and 1955 and the Venice Biennale in 1954 and 1962. Riopelle’s art focused debates about the increasingly embattled gap between post-war abstract painting in Europe and in the United States. Outside Canada, he was seen as a Parisian, yet by showing with the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York City from 1954, Riopelle promoted that gallery’s mandate to reintroduce then-contemporary European art to a newly dominant American context. Riopelle returned to Quebec frequently in the 1960s.
By the 1960s, then, Riopelle’s achievement was immense. Using what he knew but always exploring, he painted powerfully and easily. He forged the intricate, interlocking forms of Un sac à vent with a palette knife, but unlike his famed “mosaic” paintings of the 1950s, here the forms show a wider variety, and the palette emphasizes white instead of red. Because the surface is nothing less than topographical, we have this additional dimension to appreciate in what is nonetheless still the largely flat medium of painting. The work is simultaneously bold and subtle. For example, we may say spontaneously that it is dominated by white, but looking more closely, we also observe that there is very little uninflected white pigment to be seen. Riopelle has dragged the bright greens, blues and a hint of red under, through and into the white across this enlivened surface.
Un sac à vent is a self-contained and highly satisfying world to behold. At the same time, it was not created in isolation, nor should it be received that way. Crucially, Riopelle was pressed in his ongoing development of an abstract idiom by his long-time partner, the American painter Joan Mitchell (1925 - 1992). The couple met in Paris in 1955. The exhibition Mitchell / Riopelle: Nothing in Moderation – originating at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec in 2017 and also seen at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Fonds Hélène & Édouard Leclerc pour la Culture, Landereau, France – amply demonstrated their vitality and equality as painters. Important too is Riopelle’s increasing interest in white, which in part stemmed from his love of winters in Quebec and from the challenges of this colour. While we should not assume that the white in this painting suggests snow, Riopelle was increasingly attracted to winter motifs, though not to naturalism. “The colour white doesn’t exist in nature,” he claimed in an interview. “If snow were white, I wouldn’t have taken the chance.”
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), 13.
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: $150,000 - $250,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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