Les Migrations du Bestiaire, by Jean Paul Riopelle
Strongly connected to the natural world, Riopelle used animal imagery throughout his career. Game, domestic or farm animals and birds of prey succeed one another in his work, embodying not only the land, but also an exceptionally keen eye on the world. The exhibition Les Migrations du Bestiaire brings together a large number of works by Riopelle revealing his interest in the motif of the animal, an aspect of the Québec artist’s work that, astonishingly, has up until now not been examined.
Executed during every period of his artistic production, the works to be placed on view draw on a vast store of techniques and supports such as oil painting, charcoal drawing, printmaking, collage, ceramics, bronze and enamelled lava stone. The exhibition encompasses paintings having a formal kinship with both the all-over works that made his name and those created with stencils, representative of the final decade of his practice. Their varied pictorial techniques spotlight Riopelle’s skills and creativity. Hibou, painted in 1970 will be on display alongside prints and bronze sculptures exploring the same subject. And shown here for the very first time, a monumental painting dated 1992 and said to be his very final work. Under the watchful eye of the artist’s faithful companion, the great owl (a stuffed bird), the exhibition will also include many three-dimensional works.
The monograph Les Migrations du Bestiaire will be launched at the opening of the exhibition. Its 180 pages contain original essays by Simon Blais, Gilles Daigneault, Robert Enright and Yseult Riopelle. This exhibition also coincides with the launch of the Jean Paul Riopelle catalogue raisonné’s fourth volume, which covers the years from 1966 to 1971.
Jean Paul Riopelle was born in Montréal in 1923. While a student at the École du meuble, he met Paul-Émile Borduas, under whose influence he created his first abstract works, and mixed with those artists who, from 1946 on, became known as the Automatistes. A signatory to the Refus global, he publicly defended the manifesto following its publication in 1948.
Settling in Paris, his first solo show was held at the city’s Galerie La Dragonne in 1949; André Breton contributed a text to the exhibition’s catalogue. The early 1950s saw his work featured in many group shows throughout Europe. From 1954 onwards, he had regular exhibitions at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York and, beginning in 1966, at Galerie Maeght in Paris. The Musée du Québec in Québec City held a retrospective of his work in 1967, while later, in 1972, the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris and the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris mounted the exhibition Ficelles et autres jeux. In 1981–1982, Paris’ Musée national d'art moderne (Centre Pompidou) organized a major retrospective of his work that subsequently travelled to museums in Québec and Latin America. In its turn, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts inaugurated its Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion in 1991 with a retrospective devoted to Riopelle.
In 1992, following the death of the painter Joan Mitchell, who had been his partner for close to twenty years, he produced the largest work of his career, Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg. A monumental triptych, it now hangs in the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. Riopelle died in Québec at his home on Isle-aux-Grues on March 12, 2002.