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Jean-Paul Riopelle

Jean-Paul Riopelle

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Jean-Paul Riopelle was a painter and sculptor from Quebec, Canada.

Born in Montreal, he studied under Paul-Émile Borduas in the 1940s and was a member of Les Automatistes movement. He was one of the signers of the Refus global manifesto. In 1949 he moved to Paris and continued his career as an artist, where he commercialized on his image as a "wild Canadian". In 1959 he began a relationship with the American painter Joan Mitchell. Living together throughout the 1960s, they kept separate homes and studios near Giverny, where Monet had lived. They influenced one another greatly, as much intellectually as artistically, but their relationship was a stormy one, fueled by alcohol. The relationship ended in 1979. His 1992 painting Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg is Riopelle's tribute to Mitchell, who died that year, and is regarded as a high point of his later work.

Riopelle's style changed gradually from Surrealism to abstract expressionism/tachisme, in which he used myriad soft cubes of colour, applied as flat planes with a palette knife, on large canvases to create powerful atmospheres.

In 1969 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, and began to spend more time in Canada. He was specially recognized by UNESCO for his work. One of his largest compositions was originally intended for the Toronto airport, but is now in the Opéra Bastille in Paris. In 1988 he was made an Officer of the National Order of Quebec and was promoted to Grand Officer in 1994. In 2000 Riopelle was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.

In June, 2006 the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts organized a retrospective exhibition which was presented at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia and the Musee Cantini in Marseilles, France. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has a number of his works, spanning his entire career, in their permanent collection.

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Jean-Paul Riopelle, CC GOQ (7 October 1923 – 12 March 2002) was a painter and sculptor from Quebec, Canada. He became the first Canadian painter (since James Wilson Morrice) to attain widespread international recognition.

Born in Montreal, Riopelle began drawing lessons in 1933 and continued through 1938. He studied engineering, architecture and photography at the école polytechnique in 1941. In 1942 he enrolled at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal but shifted his studies to the less academic école du Meuble, graduating in 1945.

He studied under Paul-Émile Borduas in the 1940s and was a member of Les Automatistes movement. Breaking with traditional conventions in 1945 after reading André Breton's Le Surréalisme et la Peinture, he began experimenting with non-objective (or non-representational) painting. He was one of the signers of the Refus global manifesto. In 1947 Riopelle moved to Paris and continued his career as an artist, where, after a brief association with the surrealists (he was the only Canadian to exhibit with them) he capitalized on his image as a "wild Canadian". His first solo exhibition took place in 1949 at the Surrealist meeting place, Galerie La Dragonne in Paris.

Riopelle married Françoise Lespérance in 1946; the couple had two daughters but separated in 1953.

In 1959 he began a relationship with the American painter Joan Mitchell. Living together throughout the 1960s, they kept separate homes and studios near Giverny, where Monet had lived. They influenced one another greatly, as much intellectually as artistically, but their relationship was a stormy one, fueled by alcohol. The relationship ended in 1979. His 1992 painting Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg is Riopelle's tribute to Mitchell, who died that year, and is regarded as a high point of his later work.

Riopelle's style in the 1940s changed quickly from Surrealism to Lyrical Abstraction (related to abstract expressionism), in which he used myriad tumultuous cubes and triangles of multicolored elements, facetted with a palette knife, spatula, or trowel, on often large canvases to create powerful atmospheres.

The presence of long filaments of paint in his painting from 1948 through the early 1950s has often been seen as resulting from a dripping technique like that of Jackson Pollock. Rather, the creation of such effects came from the act of throwing, with a palette knife or brush, large quantities of paint onto the stretched canvas (positioned vertically).

Riopelle's voluminous impasto became just as important as color. His oil painting technique allowed him to paint thick layers, producing peaks and troughs as copious amounts of paint were applied to the surface of the canvas. Riopelle, though, claimed that the heavy impasto was unintentional: "When I begin a painting," he said, "I always hope to complete it in a few strokes, starting with the first colours I daub down anywhere and anyhow. But it never works, so I add more, without realizing it. I have never wanted to paint thickly, paint tubes are much too expensive. But one way or another, the painting has to be done. When I learn how to paint better, I will paint less thickly."

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Jean-Paul Riopelle Artworks
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