Artwork by Jean Paul Lemieux,  Dame au collier de perles

Jean Paul Lemieux
Dame au collier de perles

oil on canvas
signed lower right; titled on the stretcher
20 x 16 ins ( 50.8 x 40.6 cms )

Sold for $48,300.00
Sale date: May 25th 2017

Private Collection, Calgary
Guy Robert, Lemieux, Toronto, 1978, pages 209 and 244
Portraits occupy a strong presence in Jean Paul Lemieux’s multi-faceted body of work. Throughout his career he depicted his sitters in a frontal stance with a direct view into the facial expression. Guy Robert, on the the subject of the artist’s portraits, writes that “Lemieux believes that the face has a message to impart all through life, and a good deal of his work has been concerned with capturing the characteristic expressions of different stages of life from cradle to the deathbed.”

Inspiration for documenting the human expression came from an interest in American Social Realism in his early career, particularly the movement’s interest in showcasing the daily lives of working class people. Later in life, Lemieux’s portraits were influenced by Edvard Munch and the Expressionist school of painting, as they seek to portray anxiety and the artist’s “dark, tragic vision of the tormented historical era he was living through.”

“Dame au collier de perles” illustrates Lemieux’s ability to highlight human emotion and facial expression. The sitter’s powerful stare directly at the viewer exudes anxiousness and vulnerability; it is contrasted, however, with an ornate three-strand pearl necklace and glamorous red dress. A woman wearing a necklace became a recurring motif in the artist’s portraits, referencing a popular theme in Western painting: feminine vanity. Robert explains that for Lemieux, the symbol of the necklace goes beyond a statement on vanity, writing that “in Lemieux’s painting, the vanity of woman is no longer a simple matter of make-up or gaudy jewelry. It becomes a refusal to submit to the ravages of time, an exorcism of the aging process and even the proclamation of a quality of being - a singular way to announce one’s person, beautifully and almost poetically.”

Share this item with your friends

Jean Paul Lemieux
(1904 - 1990) RCA, Companion of the Order of Canada

Born in Quebec City, his parents were originally from that region. They lived in Quebec City until Jean Paul was eleven. In 1914, Jean Paul met an American painter named Parnell. Parnell had a studio where he painted large murals for hotel decoration. After many hours watching Parnell, Jean Paul began to sketch on his own. In 1916, the Lemieux family moved to Berkley, California. There he studied with the Brothers of the Christian Schools. During his summer holdays he travelled through California with his family. In 1917 the Lemieuxs returned to Canada and settled in Montreal where the boy attended College Mont-Saint-Louis (two years) and later Loyola College. Having firmly decided to become an artist he enrolled in l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Montreal, in 1926, and spent the next three years studying under Charles Maillard, Edwin Colgate, Maurice Felix and others.

In 1929 he travelled to Europe with his mother and in Paris he studied advertising art under a Mr. Seltz of the Dorland Publicity Firm. He also followed courses at la Grande Chaumière and the Colarossi. It was in Paris that he met Clarence Gagnon who was then working on his illustrations for ‘Maria Chapdelaine’. Lemieux lived in the Montparnasse district of Paris and frequented the terrasse du Dome where he met his artistic colleagues.

He returned to Montreal in 1930 where he set up a commercial art studio with Jean Palardy and other associates but after six months, with the country in depression, they were not able to see their way clear and the studio was closed. He went to California where he sketched and painted then returned to Montreal and the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where he received his diploma in 1934. He was awarded Second Prize in the Brymner Competition at the Art Association of Montreal. He stayed on at the Beaux Arts in Montreal as teacher. In 1935 he moved to the Ecole du Meuble where he continued to teach drawing and painting. He became a frequent visitor to the studio of Edwin Holgate a former teacher. Through his admiration for Holgate’s work, his own landscapes bear an affinity to Holgate’s paintings. Both men were interested in portrait and figure work and during this period Lemieux did some fine studies of Madeleine Desrosiers. In 1937 he moved to Quebec where he resumed his teaching career at l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Quebec. It was in this year that he married Madeleine Desrosiers.

In general, Lemieux’s paintings up until 1940 were derived from a realistic and decorative style. As with many artists the influence of Cézanne also played an important role in his early work but he was to leave this behind by the beginning of the 1940’s. A complete change in his work is evident for instance in the large canvas “Lazare” which he painted in 1941. This widely reproduced work is an allegorical work which seems to depict isolationism of old Quebec during the period of the Second World War. By 1951 a new and simplified style of almost cubistic structure was to herald a dramatic change in his work. By the 1960’s Lemieux’s paintings were mainly of quaint lonely figures in austere landscapes. These landscapes were made up of little more than a horizon line to suggest a division between earth and sky although each of a different colour. Although he did not consider himself a landscape painter, his figures were often portrayed in a landscape setting.

He became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1956. He was honoured by Montreal Museum of Fine Arts by a retrospective exhibition in the fall of 1967. This show of 108 works was then exhibited at the Musée du Quebec and the National Gallery of Canada. Lemieux received the Order of Canada in 1968.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume II”, compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979