Artwork by Léon Bellefleur,  Rituel

Léon Bellefleur

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1985 lower right; signed, titled, dated and inscribed “huile 80F” on the reverse
58 x 45 ins ( 147.3 x 114.3 cms )

Auction Estimate: $30,000.00$20,000.00 - $30,000.00

Price Realized $19,550.00
Sale date: November 23rd 2017

Moore Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, New Brunswick
Guy Robert, Bellefleur: The Fervour of the Quest, Montreal, 1988, pages 63 and 134
Author Guy Robert declared that in 1985, at age seventy-five, Leon Bellefleur “still possessed the childlike ability to wonder at life, a freshness of perspective with a thirst not only for discovering, but also for inventing the world.” The author further writes that Bellefleur maintained his characteristic painterly style throughout thirty years: colours spread liberally with a spatula, with the refinement of rhythms and shades, then as a finishing touch to the improvisation, squirts or droplets are added, or small mysterious signs traced with the tip of the tool. Robert’s observations and remarks can certainly be applied to “Rituel”, a bold and expressive abstract composition that is quintessentially Bellefleur in its ‘faceted’ paint application. The oil on canvas demonstrates one new technique developed by Bellefleur to finish a painting: after letting it “breathe” for a few hours up to several days, the painter sprinkled droplets of paint in varying quantity and size, according to the inspiration of the moment and chance mishaps. “Rituel” is scattered with small drops of white and green pigment, adding further dimensionality to the abstract work. The large canvas serves as a prime example of Bellefleur’s mature work on a grand scale.

“If this is what advancing age has in store, artists should look forward with anticipation and hurry to reach that plateau,” commented Lawrence Sabbath of the “Montreal Gazette” in covering an exhibition of Bellefleur’s gouaches and oils at the Walter Klinkhoff Gallery in 1985.
Secured from a New Brunswick collection during Consignor’s 2017 national appraisal tour, this artwork attracted spirited bidding during the November live auction of Important Canadian Art.

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Léon Bellefleur
(1910 - 2007) RCA

Born in Montréal, Quebec, in 1910, Leon Bellefleur knew by age twelve that he wanted to become a painter. At ten years old, Bellefleur began painting landscapes on found cardboard from the grocery store. He earned a teaching diploma in 1929. Bellefleur attended evening classes until 1936 at the École des Beaux-Arts where he found himself admiring the works by Rembrandt and Balzac. In 1940, Bellefleur met Alfred Pellan and other artists associated with Prisme d’Yeux, such as Albert Dumouchel and Jacques de Tonnancour, throughout the decade. Working in opposition to the Automatistes, Prisme d’Yeujc did not have an overarching aesthetic and valued the spirituality of painting as a media. Considered to be a surrealist, Bellefleur explores the conscious through painting, lithography, and etching.

Bellefleur’s abstract depictions were influenced by Paul Klee, a German modernist, as well as children’s art. Bellefleur believed that children hold special creative abilities and that these skills can be curated through adolescence and into adulthood. He was particularly inspired by the direct and extemporaneous forms of communication that are found in children’s art. After receiving a Canada Council Fellowship, Bellefleur traveled to Paris in 1958. While in Paris he studied engraving under J. Friedlaender and lithography with Ateliers Desjobert. Following his time spent in France, he developed his faceted painting style. This style involved painting non-figurative compositions with a palette knife.

Beginning in 1946, Bellefleur began exhibiting in global art galleries. First, in the Maison des Compagnons at a Children’s Drawing Exhibition. Then in 1951, he participated in Cobra’s Second International Exhibition in Liège, Belgium. In the same year, his oil paintings won the Jessie Dow award and received honourable mention for his drawings in the Second Biennial Exhibition of Canadian Art. In 1960, he was selected to represent Canada at the Guggenheim International Contest alongside five other painters. Bellefleur’s first retrospective took place at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa in 1968. This exhibition later traveled to London, Ont., and Montréal. In 1977, Bellefleur became the first recipient of the Borduas Prize. He also received the Louis-Philippe Hébert Prize from the Société-Saint-Jean-Baptiste in 1985, as well as an honorary doctorate degree from Concordia University in 1987. He was included in the Royal Canadian Academy in 1989.

Literature Sources:
Roberts, Guy. “Léon Bellefleur: Autour de quelques propos de l’artiste.” La Société La Vie des Arts 32, no. 128, September 1987
A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977

We extend our thanks to Danie Klein, York University graduate student in art history, for writing and contributing this artist biography.