LOT 030

1904 - 1990

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1963 and on verso titled on the exhibition labels and inscribed indistinctly
34 x 22 3/4 in, 86.4 x 57.8 cm

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

Sold for: $511,250

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Acquired directly from the Artist, circa 1963
The Honourable Hugues Lapointe PC, OC, DD, QC, MP, Quebec
By descent to the present Private Collection, Quebec

Luc d'Iberville-Moreau, Jean Paul Lemieux, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1967, reproduced page 50
Anne Hébert, Jean Paul Lemieux: Moscou, Leningrad, Prague, Paris, Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec, 1974, reproduced page 30
Guy Robert, Lemieux, 1975, reproduced page 287

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Jean Paul Lemieux, September 15 - October 11, 1967, traveling in 1967 - 1968 to the Musée du Québec, Quebec City, and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, catalogue #62
Musée du Québec, Quebec City, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1974, traveling in 1974 - 1975 to Moscow, Leningrad, Prague and Paris, catalogue #14

Here is Samuel, from Jean Paul Lemieux’s portrait gallery, his entire existence summed up in the image Lemieux has seen fit to provide for him: the body, truncated—cut to conform with the measurement of the canvas—and the oblong face, its broad forehead accentuated by the newsboy cap and tidy haircut. Samuel’s features are youthful and self-assured: his gaze is piercing; his smile is gracious. His neck is a cylinder fit tightly into his shirt collar, while his red necktie brings out the ruddiness of his youthful complexion. Thin lines of vermilion define the collar and lightly outline the shoulders before blurring away into the blue of the vest and olive green of the jacket.

Lemieux did not use a model for Samuel, painting this fictional portrait in the pared-down style typical of his work between 1955 and 1970—the years of his greatest success, which art historians refer to as his “classic period.” Late in the 1950s he embarked on his series of solitary figures, depicted full face or in profile. As in everyday life, this microcosm of society is comprised of children, teenagers and adults, whether youthful or elderly. For some he provided a first name, with others only a brief descriptive title. This young man, advancing with assurance towards a life of action, has been christened Samuel. With his widely spaced pupils and discreet smile, he looks straight at us in a spontaneous challenge to penetrate the mystery he represents. In response, the viewer’s eye sets to work scouring the surface, exploring the harmony of geometrical forms and the density of the image, depicted with measured brush-strokes that make Lemieux’s singular space dance.

Not long after Samuel was completed, the painting was acquired by the Honourable Hugues Lapointe (1911 – 1982), agent general of the Quebec government in London from 1961 to 1966, and he kept it all his life. It first graced his City of Westminster office, then returned to Canada in 1966 with Lapointe’s installation as Lieutenant-Governor of the province. Lapointe occasionally agreed to lend out the work for appearances in major exhibitions officially celebrating Lemieux’s contributions to Canadian art. Thus Samuel was part of the Jean Paul Lemieux retrospective put together by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to celebrate the 1967 centennial of Confederation, which was also the year of the International and Universal Exposition (Expo 67), whose theme embraced the entirety of human endeavour. The profound humanity of Lemieux’s work was revealed in the 108 works on display, many of which were fictional portraits like Samuel, such as Brigitte, Françoise (1957), Nicolas, Miss Knight (1961), Ti-Gus (1962), Axel, Nathalie (1964) and Julie et l’univers (1965).

Seven years later, Lapointe sent the work out one last time for a months-long, high-profile solo exhibition sponsored by the Government of Quebec, with stops in Moscow, Leningrad, Prague and Paris. In her foreword to the exhibition catalogue, poet Anne Hébert quotes classical painter Nicolas Poussin in declaring, “Ours is a mute art.” She refers to “need without chit-chat” in considering Lemieux’s works, which exist on the level of feeling, closeness and silence. Come what may, painting skips through time with never a wrinkle, as exemplified by Samuel—a tender allegory of human life, its disarming freshness never fading.

We thank Michèle Grandbois, author of Jean Paul Lemieux au Musée du Québec, for contributing the above essay, translated from the French. This work will be included in Grandbois's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.

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

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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