Jean-Paul Riopelle

(Montreal, 1923 – Saint-Antoine-de-l'Isle-aux-Grues, 2002)


Jean-Paul Riopelle was one of the original signatories, along with Paul-Émile Borduas, of the Refus Global, Jean-Paul Riopelle was one of the first Canadian artists to gain major international recognition.

Around 1936, Riopelle takes drawing and painting lessons with Henri Bisson, professor at Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague school, where he studies and exceeds expectations. Through his father, he meets Archibald Belaney, aka Grey Owl, who inspired Riopelle's passion for nature, wildlife and environment. In 1947, Riopelle's work is presented as part of an exhibition by Les Automatistes at Galerie du Luxembourg, organized in collaboration with the poet Gérard Jarlot as well as Fernand Leduc. He also meets renowned art dealer Pierre Loeb, who will, a few years later, propel Riopelle's career. The buzzing Parisian life is echoed in the creative effervescence of the young painter. During this period, his style develops enormously. Riopelle experiments, one after the other, with various techniques and media: painting with a brush, sculptural impasto, sprayed lines of paint, and paint applied with palette knives.

In 1960, Jean Paul Riopelle presents solo exhibitions in Paris at Galerie Kléber (now Galerie Jean Fournier) and at Galerie Jacques Dubourg. He travels to East Hampton in the United States, where he spends over a year. He rents a studio, where he works on, among others, a sculpture comprised of chess pieces. n 1970, Riopelle exhibited a plaster version of his monumental sculpture, La Joute (or The Joust), at the Galerie Maeght in Paris. The model was cast in bronze in Italy in 1974, and two years later installed at the Olympic Stadium in Montréal. It was subsequently installed at the Place Riopelle in the heart of Montréal’s commercial district. Over time, Riopelle visited Canada more and more frequently, first to hunt but also to paint. It was only in 1989 that he returned to Quebec definitively. During his final period, Riopelle had ceased using palette knives but used spray cans instead, often spraying over objects set on the canvas. The public had difficulty understanding his late style, but when he painted his huge Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg shortly after hearing about the death of Joan Mitchell in 1992, it was impossible to deny that Riopelle had mastered a new technique inspired by urban graffiti. Jean Paul Riopelle died at his home on Île-aux-Grues on March 12, 2002.

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