A key figure in contemporary Canadian art, Jean-Paul Riopelle is distinguished both historically and among his peers. He frequented Paul-Émile Borduas’ studio and joined the group of Automatistes with whom he signed the Refus global manifesto, in 1948. After World War II, Riopelle settled in France, where he briefly associated with members of the Surrealist movement and other artists and intellectuals of the avant-garde. During this time, he developed a unique visual language based on spontaneous gestures and repetition, creating abstract works in which spurts of paint travel in coloured filaments across the entire surface of the canvas. He reached his artistic maturity in the early 1950s by working in impasto, applying layers of paint directly from the tube and manipulating them with a palette knife in an all-over style that suggests a parallel to Abstract Expressionism. Riopelle achieved international fame with his large-format paintings incorporating captivating contrasts and textures laid out in mosaic-like compositions. He began spending more time in Canada in the late 1960s, and eventually resettled in Québec. The 1970s and ‘80s saw him reincorporate representational forms into his work, which is often inspired by animal themes, and adopt aerosol and stencil techniques, which he used throughout the 1990s.

La Joute, 1969-1970, cast c. 1974, Bronze.
© Succession Jean-Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2022) • Photo: Richard-Max Tremblay