Lot #8

Fernand Leduc
Eclypse

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1957 lower left; signed with initials and titled on the reverse; unframed
60 x 60 ins ( 152.4 x 152.4 cms ) ( approximate )

Auction Estimate: $70,000.00$50,000.00 - $70,000.00

Price Realized $52,800.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Provenance:
Galerie Denise Delrue, Montreal
Private Collection, Quebec
Literature:
Lise Gauvin, “Entretiens avec Fernand Leduc, suivis de Conversation avec Thérèse Renaud”, Montreal, 1995, page 23
Fernand Leduc was an active influence and participant in the development of abstract art in Quebec. Not only a signatory of the 1948 Refus global, the artist was also responsible for making contact with the French writer André Breton in New York in order to make European surrealists more aware of the contribution of the Montréal Automatistes. After spending six years in Paris, in 1953 Leduc returned to Montreal with the feeling that the gestural automatiste painting was reaching an impasse. The artist steadily moved to a type of hard-edge abstraction by 1955, his works gradually acquiring rich colour contrasts. In the same year, Leduc came to the defense of these avant-garde and thus controversial Plasticien-related theories during the exhibition “Espace 55”. Reactions to the show provoked a debate between himself and Paul-Émile Borduas, who disapproved of the new directions taken by Montréal painting. By 1956 he had become the president-founder of the Non-Figurative Artists’ Association of Montréal. He experimented at that time with various forms of spontaneous and gestural nonfigurative painting, his works gradually becoming more involved with interactions and contrast of colours.

“Eclypse” was painted in 1957, during this period of experimentation and public recognition for Fernand Leduc. An arrangement of abstract forms in a palette of blues, the large canvas demonstrates the artist’s leanings to the approach of the Plasticiens. The interlocking two- dimensional forms have the appearance of a large jigsaw puzzle, as they are all on the same plane, with no overlap. Some outlines are rounded, though they still have pointed corners, creating a composition that has a hard-edge yet organic feel. The bold canvas highlights Leduc’s ability to consistently revitalize the genre of abstract art throughout his prolific career.

The period from 1955-1970 is recognized as an evolutionary time for Leduc's artistic process, as he was developing his unique style that straddled gestural and hard-edge painting. On his practice, Leduc recounted, “I do not close my eyes, I am here, I am present, I am a human being who reacts. I am moreover a painter; I have the eyes of a painter: I organize.” The artist has a keen awareness of his surroundings and an extreme presence in the moment. To Leduc, painting is the lens through which he observes the world. He sought to channel this direct approach and emphasize it to the viewer through his use of dynamic colour, saying: “It is most important to reach the highest level of intensity with the simplest means. I'm looking for the most intense colour so as to trigger the densest response and attain the strongest dynamism possible.”

Leduc returned to France in 1959, as he continued to evolve his abstract style. By the mid-1960s Leduc had relaxed his hard-edge geometric compositions in favour of more curvaceous forms. “Eclypse” appears to foreshadow this shift to softer, rounded forms in the following years. He lived in Paris until 1970, when he came back for two years to teach at Université Laval and the Université du Québec in Montreal. The artist then returned to Europe until settling back in Montreal in 2006.

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Fernand Leduc
(1916 - 2014) Les Automatistes, Les Plasticiens

Born in Montreal, he studied there at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He met Paul Emile Borduas in 1940 and in 1943 they participated in the exhibition of the “Sagittaires” which Père Couturier had organized at the Dominion Gallery. It was in 1942 that he was profoundly influenced by the exhibition of fifty or so paintings in gouache by Borduas which ranged from the representational to the non-objective or automatic work. When Borduas completed his ‘Refus Global’ (later published in August 1948) Leduc was one of fourteen artists who signed in support of the ideals of freedom to explore new horizons beyond the rigidity of the old education system of Quebec. Leduc had been exhibiting with the automatist group as early as 1943 and even after his departure to Paris, France in 1947. He had taught for the Catholic School Commission in Montreal from 1944 to 1947 at the College of St. Denis and College Notre Dame.

In France he studied under Jean Bazaine and others, and in 1947 helped organize and exhibited in the Automatisme exhibition with Borduas, Riopelle, Mousseau and Barbeau. In 1948 he participated in the Salon des Surindépendants; Galerie Creuze, 1950, 1951; Salon de Mai, 1952 and he returned to Montreal in 1953 and held an exhibition at his own home of about thirty works including a dozen watercolours done during his last two years in Paris. These watercolours displayed remarkable luminous qualities. Also in 1953 he helped establish with Robert Roussil the Place des Artistes at Montreal’s old Gaiety Theatre on St. Catherine Street where he held a joint exhibition with Roussil. He became a founding member and President of the Non-Figurative Artist’s Association of Montreal, a group whose activity was based mainly around Galerie l’Actuelle owned by Guido Molinari. Also during this period Leduc did many types of art work including tapestry designs which were executed by Mme. Marlette Rousseau-Vermette, Gaby Pinsonneault and other craftswomen. He exhibited in the show “Canadian Abstract Paintings” at the National Gallery of Canada which toured the USA and “Canadian Artists Abroad” at London, Ontario, which toured other centres. The National Gallery of Canada purchased his canvas “Noeud Papillion”. He participated in many other exhibitions in the following years and won the Quebec Provincial Prize in 1957 for Decorative Arts.

In 1959 he returned to Paris on a Canada Council Grant. It was this year that his work first appeared in the Canadian Biennials. Robert Ayre in viewing his work at Galerie Soixante in 1963 noted, “The colour is still clean, smooth and luminous; resonant black, living orange and red, a green that is as vivid as grass, and a blue like the shining sky. There is a new approach to colour and surface, too, in a number of small compositions in oil and pastel, granulated and vibrating. Altogether, a show that comes at you simply and directly, giving you a lift without making demands.”

In 1966, a retrospective show of his work took place at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art of about forty of his large size canvases representing the years 1960-65. This show traced his development from the hard edge geometrical compositions of the early ‘60s through the more supple period of 1963 of curves and freer forms, warmer contrasts of colour to the more subtly harmonious elements of his work in the mid sixties. While Leduc lived in Paris, he visited Montreal where his work was on view at several galleries, including the permanent collection of Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, the Ecoles des Beaux Arts of Montreal and Quebec.

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