Artwork by Jean Paul Riopelle,  Sans titre

Jean Paul Riopelle
Sans titre

ink and watercolour
signed with initial and dated 1965 lower right; Riopelle Inventory no. 1965.023P.1965
10 x 8 ins ( 25.4 x 20.3 cms )

Sold for $23,600.00
Sale date: November 20th 2018

Provenance:
Gallery Moos, Toronto
Private Collection, Thornhill, Ontario
Sotheby’s Canada, auction, December 2, 1988, lot 41
Private Collection, Montréal
Literature:
Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle: Catalogue raisonné, volume 3, 1960-1965, Montreal, 2009, full page colour reproduction, page 379, catalogue #1965.023P.1965
Guy Cogeval and Stéphane Aquin, Riopelle, Montreal, 2006, page 86
A prominent member of the Automatistes and signatory of the Refus Global, Jean-Paul Riopelle was a lifelong avant-garde and experimental artist. As part of Paul-Emile Borduas' circle, he produced his first abstract works in the late 1940s that were influenced by Surrealism, dream imagery and automatic writing. Riopelle’s works are both expressive and formal, responding to the art historical and socio-political environment of the post-war era, unique from his abstract-expressionist peers. Jeffery Spalding writes on the artist's work: “Each and every painting was an individual creation, not merely a member of a set or series. Yet, simultaneously each painting remained unquestionably identifiable as signature-brand Riopelle.”

This fine ink and watercolour painting, “Sans titre”, exemplifies Riopelle’s works of the 1960s that are experimental in nature, particularly with regards to media. In addition to his ‘tachiste’ oil paintings, the artist incorporated ink, watercolour, collage and lithography into his artistic oeuvre of the decade. Sans titre embodies a lyricism that is ‘signature-brand Riopelle’, recognizable by its spontaneous yet controlled black lines that are peppered with flecks of cranberry and olive green pigment.

Dating to 1965, “Sans titre” was painted during a time when Riopelle was renewing his artistic ties to Canada. After living in France for over a decade, he was immersed in the Parisian cultural scene. This brought him significant success on an international level as well, with shows in New York, Venice and Sao Paulo during the 1950s. In 1963, the National Gallery of Canada held a major solo exhibition on Riopelle’s painting, followed by a retrospective at the Musée du Québec in 1967. While re-establishing himself in Canada, the artist always maintained a presence abroad; the Galerie Maeght in Paris chose to represent him as of 1966, and dedicated a show to his work every two years.

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Jean Paul Riopelle
(1923 - 2002) Les Automatistes, RCA, SCA

Born in 1923, Jean Paul Riopelle is one of Canada’s most significant artists from the twentieth century. Born in Montréal, Quebec, Riopelle was educated at the Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague school. In 1936, he began taking painting and drawing classes on the weekends that Henri Bisson, a sculptor who often drew from life, taught in the Riopelle family home. Much of Riopelle’s early works can be traced to his time spent learning under Bisson and are attempts at direct representations from life. For example, Nature bien morte (1942) is a copy of Bisson’s work. Riopelle, advised by his parents, enrolled in the École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1941 to study architecture and engineering. However, he did poorly in his courses and enrolled in the École des beaux-arts and then the École du meuble.

At the École du meuble, Riopelle was taught by Paul-Émile Borduas. Initially, Riopelle could not let go of the academic style taught to him by Bisson in favor of Borduas’ abstract style. Eventually, inspired by automatic writing and painting exercises Riopelle embraced his unconscious imagination and began working in an abstract style. Riopelle was also inspired by the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. In 1944, he produced his first abstracted work in Saint-Fabien. The painting, now lost, was a representation of a water hole left on the shore of the Saint Lawrence River. Riopelle, alongside other young Automatistes, spent part of the winter of 1944-45 with Borduas in Mont-Saint-Hilaire exploring radical ideas about art and politics, which would eventually manifest themselves in the Refus global manifesto.

In early 1946, Riopelle took part in the first Automatistes exhibition, Exposition de peinture, in Montréal. In the same year, Riopelle travelled to France for the first time while working as a horse groomer and became enamored by paintings of horses by Théodore Géricault and by Impressionist works at the Musée de l’Orangerie. Riopelle returned to France in December 1946 and met André Breton who invited Riopelle to participate in a Surrealist exhibition in the following year. Because Breton was somewhat dismissive of the Automatistes, Riopelle was the only Automatistes to participate in the Exposition international du surréalisme in 1947. Inspired by the French Surrealists, upon Riopelle’s return to Canada he encouraged the Automatistes to produce their own manifesto. The manifesto, Refus global, was an anarchistic proclamation published in 1948.

Georges Mathieu invited Riopelle to participate in an international exhibition titled Véhémences confrontées alongside Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Feeling detached from Breton’s Surrealism Riopelle began producing a body of work that would eventually be known as mosaics. Favoring a pallet knife over a brush, Riopelle was renown through the 1950s for his larger than life canvases. In the summer of 1960, Riopelle began sculpting. Riopelle represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 1962; exhibiting both paintings and bronze cast sculptures earning him the UNESCO Prize. After appearing in the Venice Biennale, throughout the late 1960s, Riopelle began working in a fragmented style that is reminiscent of collages. In 1969, Riopelle began working on La Joute, which would eventually be installed in the Olympic Park at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montréal. The installation features a fountain surrounded by abstract animal and human figures.

Beginning in the 1980s, numerous Canadian institutions began retrospective exhibitions of Riopelle’s work, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and the Art Gallery of Peterborough. The Musée national d’art modern de Paris organized a retrospective of his work that would travel to Montréal, Mexico City, and Caracas, Venezuela. In 1981, Riopelle was presented the Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas due to his contributions to cultural life.

Literature Source:
Gagnon, François-Marc. Jean Paul Riopelle: Life and Work. Art Canada Institute, 2019

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