Lot Sale Results

Paul-Émile Borduas

Paul-Émile Borduas

Paul-Émile Borduas
Post-War & Contemporary Art Live auction

Lot # 002

Paul-Émile Borduas
AUTO CAS QMG RCA 1905 - 1960 Canadian

Sans titre
oil on canvas circa 1949
8 3/4 x 9 1/2 in  22.2 x 24.1cm

Private Collection, Montreal

François-Marc Gagnon, Paul-Émile Borduas: A Critical Biography, 2013, page 256

The Automatist manifesto Refus global (Total Refusal), published by Paul-Émile Borduas and other artists in 1948, was very badly received by the nationalist and Catholic establishment. It provoked the dismissal of the painter from the École du meuble de Montréal, where he had been teaching since 1935. Borduas, who was the father of three children, then found himself without income, except from the sale of his own paintings and the lessons he gave to the children of Mont-Saint-Hilaire. In Projections libérantes, he wrote, “At last! free to paint!” But the truth was that he had no other main source of income other than his own paintings, and artist materials are costly, as are frames. And the more expansive paintings were harder to sell at that time.

We see the effects of all these conditions on his production post-1948, especially on our Sans titre. The paintings get smaller, and watercolours become more abundant. Borduas exhibited at his friends’ places (such as the studio of Guy and Jacques Viau in April 1948 and in May 1949) or at his atelier in Mont-Saint-Hilaire (November 1950), to avoid the cost of galleries. He also took advantage of group shows – such as at the Art Gallery of Toronto (October – November 1948), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (the spring shows of 1949 and 1950), and the Musée de la province de Québec (November – December 1949).

After 1949, Borduas abandoned the system he had been using to date his paintings (indicating by numbers the month and year of their production - for instance, 9.46 or L’éternelle Amérique to indicate that the painting was produced in September 1946). He neglected to sign or date some of them, as with our painting, or just signed them with the letter B. (as in Sombre spirale, 1950). For stylistic reasons, we believe the painting is from 1949 (compare it with 4.48 or La pâque nouvelle or Les voiles blancs du château-falaise, 1949).

In our Sans titre, we see an excellent example of the evolution of Borduas’s Automatist paintings. In the “classical” period of his Automatist production, “objects” detached themselves clearly from a background that recedes to infinity – as for example in 19.47 or Parachutes végétaux, which is in the collection of the National Gallery in Ottawa, or Carquois fleuris (1947), in the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. In Sous le vent de l’île (1947), the background is painted with a brush and the objects partly with the painting knife to enhance this distinction. Here we still have this division between a background and objects, but the objects executed in white with a painting knife seem fragmented into many elements. After Borduas’s contact with New York painting, his backgrounds tended to migrate to the surface and absorb the objects, which would then disappear. One good example of the process is Les signes s’envolent, 1953 (in the collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts), whose title could be read as “the signs get absorbed in the background.” The transitional character of our Sans titre gives it great historical interest, not to mention that it is a little gem from Borduas’s oeuvre.

We thank François-Marc Gagnon of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University, for contributing the above essay.

This work is included in François-Marc Gagnon’s online catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work at http://www.borduas.concordia.ca, #2018-1506.

This lot is accompanied by a letter of authenticity signed by François-Marc Gagnon, dated May 21, 2018.

Estimate: $30,000 ~ $50,000 CAD

Sold For: $58,250.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)

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