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LOT 034

Jean Paul Riopelle
1923 - 2002

Claire voie
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1958 and on verso signed, titled, inscribed "58307"/ KHB" / "D5"/ "1880" / "G" and stamped Douanes exportation centrale
23 5/8 x 28 5/8 in 60 x 72.7 cm

Estimate: $300,000 - $350,000

Sold for: $361,250

Preview at:

Galerie Jacques Dubourg, Paris,
Sold sale of Modern Art, Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, June 21, 1991, lot 132
Sold sale of Modern Art, Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, June 21, 2002, lot 145
Private Collection, Monaco

Karel Appel, Georges Mathieu, Mattia Moreni and Jean Paul Riopelle, Kunsthalle Basel, 1959, listed, unpaginated
Yseult Riopelle, Jean-Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 1, 1939 - 1954, 1999, Michel Waldberg, “Riopelle, The Absolute Gap,” pages 42 and 51
Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 2, 1954 - 1959, 2004, reproduced page 307, catalogue #1958.090H.1958

Kunsthalle Basel, Karel Appel, Georges Mathieu, Mattia Moreni and Jean Paul Riopelle, January 24 - March 1, 1959, traveling in 1959 to the Musée des beaux-arts, Neuchâtel, Switzerland, catalogue #110

Painted in 1958, a little over a decade after Jean Paul Riopelle successfully established himself in France in 1947, Claire voie, or “clear way,” exemplifies his distinctive painterly style of the late 1950s. As Canada’s most international artist, Riopelle truly fit well into the Parisian scene, which was dominated at the time by the Surrealists. He was inspired by their method of automatic painting to bypass figuration and free the subconscious from rational control. This exposed him to new possibilities for representation of his environment. He integrated into the avant-garde Paris scene and developed relationships with other artists and writers, such as André Breton, Alberto Giacometti, Georges Mathieu and Samuel Beckett. Meanwhile, Riopelle had been steadily gaining international recognition for his work. In 1958, his works were shown in the exhibition The International Art of a New Era: Informel and Gutai in Japan and at the Arts Council Gallery in London in Abstract Impressionism: An Exhibition of Recent Paintings. During that same year, Riopelle also started working with bronze. Claire voie is an undeniable product of its time - the dynamism and ebullience of this late 1950s period is palpable in this kaleidoscopic work, and its heavily textured surface testifies to Riopelle’s interest in sculpture.
Flickering with a mesmerizing jewel-tone colour palette, Claire voie is at once expressive and controlled. Applied with a palette knife, Riopelle’s strokes are ample, signaling a progression from his denser all-over compositions of the early 1950s in that they were becoming increasingly more elongated. Red, cobalt, mustard, ochre, black and rich purple splinters move across Claire voie in vertical, horizontal and oblique directions. Luminous white touches, which he used increasingly in his work, punctuate the overall composition, especially in the upper right and lower left area, and thick impastos are sculpted into layered strata with high peaks and deep creases. Riopelle’s unrestrained application of paint invigorates the entire surface, inviting us to inspect every inch of its topography.
Riopelle described his approach at the time, saying: “The painting must work itself out. I never tell myself, for instance, that I have to paint like this or like that to get one effect or another. If I reach that point, I stop. It’s dangerous…” While Claire voie’s process is indebted to the Surrealists, its painterly approach is reminiscent of the works of Abstract Expressionist painters, such as Jackson Pollock and Joan Mitchell. Riopelle met Mitchell, who had also relocated to France, in 1955. The two eventually entered into a relationship around the time he painted this work. The couple influenced each other throughout their 24 years together, and their works were both evocative of nature in their own distinct ways. Rather than completely rejecting it, Riopelle sought to embody nature. He explained: “My paintings that are considered the most abstract are, in my opinion, the most representational in the strictest sense of the term…Abstract: ‘abstraction,’ ‘taken from,’ ‘to bring from’...I work the other way round. I do not take from Nature, I move toward Nature.”

Estimate: $300,000 - $350,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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