Jean Paul Lemieux
CC QMG RCA
1904 - 1990
Le mois de juin
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1964 and on verso titled
38 x 74 in 96.5 x 187.9 cm
Estimate: $350,000 - $450,000
Sold for: $380,250
Preview at: Heffel Vancouver
Galerie Camille Hébert, Montreal
An Important Private Estate, Montreal
There is an important philosophical distinction which seems to apply to this fine Jean Paul Lemieux painting, Le mois de juin from 1964. I am referring to the distinction between “perception” and “sensation”, the first giving us a general concept of that which is seen, the other a much more detailed view of the colours and the shapes of the objects depicted, closer to the data of the senses. Reduced to mere perception, the painting could be described as the representation of a young man standing in front of a field under a grey sky: a typical Lemieux, to be sure, but one that can be distinguished from other Lemieuxs. It is at that level that a different approach – not through generalized perceptions but through the very sensation produced by each element of the painting – can be useful. The sky is not just an indifferent expense of grey sky – one can see some darker cloud formations detaching themselves from the background, and very faintly, a pale sun shining above the horizon. The land is not merely a field of green – one can distinguish white and orange flowers, different hues of green, a farm on the left, and two or three very small people who give us the feeling of the incredibly large space we are confronted with. But it is when we look attentively at the face of the young man that the approach by the senses that I am advocating here is more rewarding. As always, Lemieux’s people (here a simple farm boy in overalls) are complex human beings, their inaction – notice that he holds his hands behind his back – being either the sign of their rich inner soul, or else of their personal narrative history.
Lemieux has succeeded in engaging a rural theme without falling into the sentimentality of the retour à la terre (Back to the Land!) movement, and affirms a relationship to the Quebec landscape without raising political issues. This is especially remarkable when you think of the date of the painting - 1964, during the time of the “Quiet Revolution” and the beginning of a new nationalism in Quebec. Lemieux always aimed at the universal, by giving a certain monumentality to his people and keeping the evocation of the land as a pure extension of space.
We have not mentioned anything about the season of the year regarding this painting, although its very title, Le mois de juin (The Month of June) suggests this was its main theme. By definition, time exists outside of the span of the painting. It can only be suggested indirectly, as everything in a painting is given to the viewer in an instant. Lemieux achieves this feast by the subtlety of his sky, that is to say, by all the nuances of his grey. The atmospheric quality of his skies is always rendered with extreme precision, as if it were the result of long and repeated meditations by the painter. Here the clouds could bring expected rain to the field in June or even thunderstorms. But on the other hand, the sun may shine soon after, transforming the olive green of the field into a more brilliant hue of green. Le mois de juin is a fine Lemieux painting indeed, and it is from his best period.
We thank François-Marc Gagnon of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute of Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University, for contributing the above essay.
Estimate: $350,000 - $450,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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