“There is no abstraction or figuration: there is only expression and expressing oneself is about placing oneself in front of things. To abstract means to take away, to isolate, to separate, whilst I try to do the contrary, to add, to approach, to link” Jean Paul Riopelle quoted in Y. Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle, Catalogue raisonné Volume 2, 1954-1959, Montréal, 2004, p.26).

Jean Paul Riopelle was born in 1923 in Montreal and is one of Canada’s most famous painters. He enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Montreal in 1942, and then at the École du Meuble, graduating in 1945.  He studied with Paul-Émile Borduas, a teacher who was extremely dedicated to his students and gave them a great deal of freedom. It was under Borduas’s direction that Riopelle made his first abstract painting. He was a member of a group of innovative writers and artists in Quebec called the Automatistes, led by Paul-Emile Borduas, and one of the signers of the Refus global manifesto.   In 1946 Riopelle first traveled to France, where he returned and settled the following year.  From 1949, he held many solo exhibitions in Canada, France, Italy, Spain, England, the United States and Sweden.  Subsequently, Riopelle's work has been extensively exhibited internationally, including the Guggenheim and the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York; Museum of Modern Art in Brazil; the Galerie d'Art Moderne in Basel, Switzerland; the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; the XXVI Venice Biennial in Italy, and the XXXI International Biennial of Art in Italy.


The list of citations, prizes and honorary degrees awarded to Jean Paul Riopelle over the past six decades is extensive. Highlights include the 1958 Prix International Guggenheim award and, in 1962, the coveted Unesco prize.  Here in Canada, Riopelle’s many honors include the 1973 Philippe Hébert Prize and, in 1975, induction as a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Jean Paul Riopelle died at his home on Îsle-aux-Grues on March 12, 2002.

His paintings, sculptures, and lithographs, treasured by collectors around the globe, enhance the permanent collections of the world’s finest galleries and museums, including New York’s Guggenheim Museum and The Museum of Modern Art, the Galerie d’art Moderne in Basel, Switzerland, the Museum of Modern Art in Brazil, Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario, and the National Gallery of Canada.

In June, 2006 the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts organized a retrospective exhibition which was presented at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia and the Musée Cantini in Marseilles, France. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has a number of his works, spanning his entire career, in their permanent collection.

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