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...
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.
Perhaps Canada’s finest 20th century artist, Riopelle was one of the most important Post-War Expressionist painters. Initially fascinated by Surrealism he was an avid fan of André Breton yet by 1946 Abstract Expressionism was too big a draw 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. Although a Canadian native, Riopelle spent much of his career in France, living with fellow Abstract Expressionist, Joan Mitchell for over twenty tempestuous years. Riopelle’s work is highly collectable, with a top price of over $5.5 million at auction and more than 10 paintings selling for prices in excess of $1 million. His work is in the collections of the Guggenheim in New York as well as MoMA, the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne and, naturally, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal.
Estate of the artist
Yann Fravalo Riopelle (son of the artist)
Galerie Philippe Gravier, Paris
Private collection, France