JEAN-PAUL RIOPELLECanadian 1923 - 2002

Jean-Paul Riopelle's ‘Sans titre' was executed during a period of transition in his stylistic output. Having previously painted using the method of action painting synonymous with Jackson Pollock, Riopelle turned towards more conventional painting techniques. Sans titre, while bearing many of the hallmarks of a certain American Abstract Expressionist style, reveals a more methodical process where saturated colour is built up in layers and applied using a palette knife. However, as a work on paper he could not afford to use such heavy impastos as was his practice in oil painting. ‘Sans titre' perhaps represents the introduction of a new aesthetic where the sheer weight of paint had to be reduced due the very nature of the medium. The manifestation of this is apparent as areas of paper remain exposed; creating a void that brings passages of calm to the frenetic movement around it.
The subsequent effect is a visual patchwork of vibrant, luminous colours that are brought together harmoniously despite the seemingly energetic and free technique. By the mid to late 1950s Riopelle was at his peak – his understanding of the application of paint and the diversity of sources for his inspiration (from deep Canadian forests to post-war Paris) produced a magnificent body of work in the years running up to his prolific, but less interesting, 1960s output.

JEAN-PAUL RIOPELLECanadian 1923 - 2002

Perhaps Canada's finest painter Jean Paul Riopelle was born in 1923 in Montreal to a Spanish family who came to Canada in the 19th Century. He was one of the most important Expressionist painters that followed the 2nd World War and carried the Borduas Group into the 1960s where he progressed from Painterly abstraction to a more formal and instantly identifiable method of palette-knife painting. Initially, Riopelle was fascinated by Surrealism and he was an avid fan of Andre Breton's Le Surrealisme et la Peinture. However, he rejected the static teaching of Breton in favour of the Abstract Expressionists in 1946. In 1947 Riopelle moved to Paris where he worked as a non-figurative painter and in 1948 he signed the Global Rejection manifesto launched by the Borduas Group. By the mid-1950s he was established as an international artist of major importance. He showed at the Venice Biennale with Borduas in the 1954 exhibition representing Canada.

The market for Riopelle's work is strong, with a top price of over 5.5m USD at auction and more than 10 paintings selling for prices in excess of 1m USD. His work is in the collections of the Guggenheim in New York as well as MOMA, the Wallraff-Richartz in Cologne and, naturally, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal.