LOT 042

1923 - 2002

oil on canvas
signed and on verso signed, titled, dated 1959, inscribed "347" / "91" / "37" on a label / "59275" on a label and stamped "MG509" and with a Ponte Chiasso Esportazione stamp
38 1/4 x 51 1/8 in 97.2 x 129.9 cm

Estimate: $350,000 - $450,000

Preview at: Heffel Vancouver

Galerie Jacques Dubourg, Paris
Sold sale of Contemporary Art (Part I), Christie's London, December 2, 1993, lot 37
A Prominent European Private Collection

Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 2, 1954 - 1959, 2004, reproduced page 335, catalogue #1959.075H.1959

Galleria dell'Ariete, Milan, 1960, catalogue #3
Mostra Mercato, Nazionale d'Arte Contemporanea, Palazz0 Strozzi, Florence, March 21 - April 19, 1964, catalogue #242

Doubs was painted at the apex of Jean Paul Riopelle’s fabled career. Its descriptive title – Doubs is a location in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in the east of France and the name of a river there – masks the strong impact of the canvas and the degree to which it is representative of Riopelle’s many accomplishments at this time. Riopelle enjoyed a pivotal status in the Montreal avant-garde before he relocated to France in 1947. Moving quickly from success to success in European and American exhibitions, and with commercial galleries in Paris and then New York, internationally, Riopelle’s name eclipsed that of all other artists from Canada during the period just after World War II until the 1960s. Though he spent the final decades of his life in Canada, he is still associated more with the post-war École de Paris and seen as a leading artist of French Lyrical Abstraction, of tachisme and of informel.

Doubs is especially interesting in its demonstration of the development of his mosaic technique, which he consolidated through the 1950s. Lozenge-shaped forms emerge across the surface in bold, prismatic colour, sculpted by a palette knife. These forms stimulate the eye and create an overall dynamism. Executed in Riopelle’s signature style, this technique seemed to announce an unbridled freedom, with roots in the “automatic,” unconscious tendencies of Surrealism. His painterly, expressive approach was European. It contrasted with the hard-edged, geometrical surfaces increasingly prevalent in both American Colour Field painting of the time and in work by two generations of Montreal abstractionists known as the Plasticiens.

Certainly belonging to the 1950s, Doubs is also more open spatially than most works in the earlier part of this decade. This expansion is suggested by the prominent white areas, whose now larger forms seem to march, almost figure-like, across the canvas. One of these coagulates in the lower right centre of the painting. Its largely white concatenations of pigment form a head-like or mask-like focal point. By contrast, smoother, flatter handling of paint near the edges of the support, where it meets the frame in the lower and upper left corners, for example, effectively pushes such forms further into the canvas itself, delivering a self-contained, radically dynamic picture. Highlights in red, orange, green and blue keep our eye moving.

Riopelle showed in the Younger European Painters exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in New York, in 1953. The following year, he was taken on by the prominent Pierre Matisse Gallery, also in New York City. Riopelle’s placement between the older conventions of School of Paris abstraction and the apparent rawness of American Abstract Expressionism was strategic; it made good press, and he was, more than most, familiar with avant-garde practices in both Paris and New York. That was then. Now, we are perhaps more able to see Doubs on its own terms, those it declares across every centimetre of its dramatic surface.

We thank Mark Cheetham, Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto and the author of two books on abstract art—The Rhetoric of Purity: Essentialist Theory and the Advent of Abstract Painting and Abstract Art Against Autonomy: Infection, Resistance, and Cure since the 60s—for contributing the above essay.

Estimate: $350,000 - $450,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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