Artist Biography

Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923-2002) was an internationally acclaimed painter and sculptor. Born in Montreal, he studied art with Paul-Emile Borduas at the Ecole du Meuble, where he was introduced to Surrealism and Abstraction. Between 1942 and 1945, Riopelle, Borduas and a number of Borduas’ students, formed a group known as the Automatistes, named for their spontaneous or “automatic” method of painting. Riopelle exhibited with the Automatistes in Montreal in 1946 and 1947, and signed the Refus Global manifesto, an anti-establishment and anti-religious manifesto written by Borduas, in 1948.

In 1948 Riopelle settled in France. He had his first solo exhibition at a surrealist meeting place called the Galerie La Dragonne (Paris), in 1949. Riopelle emerged into the Parisian cultural scene shortly after and his reputation grew quickly. His work appeared in major retrospectives at international museums and galleries, including the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

During this time, Riopelle moved from the Surrealist style to Lyrical Abstraction, and began to take more risks with his art.  He began to experiment with gestural brushstrokes, squeezing paint from the tube directly onto the canvas, and using a palette knife to create mosaic-like surfaces of paint. He pioneered a style of painting in which large quantities of paints, in a variety of thick colours, were applied to a canvas with a trowel. During the 1960s Riopelle began to renew his ties with Canada, with exhibitions held at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1963) and the Musée du Quebec (1967). In 1972, he settled once again in Quebec, making his home and studio in the Laurentians. He died at Isle-aux-Grues, Quebec.


And I quote:

“To recall the past… is to exercise my write to make mistakes, to get things wrong…” “I have the right to stray from reality, not always stick to the truth.” 

– (In Conversations with Riopelle)