Lot Sale Results

Jean Paul Riopelle

Jean Paul Riopelle

Jean Paul Riopelle
Post-War & Contemporary Art Live auction

Lot # 015

Jean Paul Riopelle
AUTO CAS OC QMG RCA SCA 1923 - 2002 Canadian

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1962 and on verso titled on the gallery labels
35 x 45 1/2 in  88.9 x 115.6cm

Galerie Jacques Dubourg, Paris
Laing Galleries, Toronto
Blue Barn Gallery, Ottawa
Private Collection, Ontario

Guy Robert, La peinture au Québec depuis ses origines, 1978, page 101
Guy Robert, Riopelle, Chasseur d'images, 1981, page 107
Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 3, 1960 - 1965, 2009, reproduced page 148, catalogue #1962.020H.1962
Emese Krunák-Hajagos, “Mitchell / Riopelle: Nothing in Moderation,” NY Arts, http://nyartsmagazine.net/mitchellriopelle-nothing-moderation, accessed September 10, 2018

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, The Sixth Biennial of Canadian Art, June 4 - August 22, 1965

Mi-chemin from 1962 is a fine, impressive-scale painting from an important year in the development of the artist’s career. In an interview, Jean Paul Riopelle claimed that his work was “nothing abstract, nothing figurative.” Thereby, perhaps we have the clue to the painting’s title Mi-chemin, (which translates as "halfway"). Most certainly Mi-chemin occupies an intermediary position between paired polar options within Riopelle’s production, as well as the events within his personal life.

In 1954 he began a 25-year intense, fiery, tumultuous relationship with the second-generation Abstract Expressionist American painter Joan Mitchell. She traveled back and forth between the United States and France to be with Riopelle, but their attempt to cohabitate in Paris in 1958 failed. Even in 1962, after the finalization of Riopelle’s divorce from his first wife, he and Mitchell could not entirely mediate their mutual and independent needs, and they both maintained separate studios and homes at Giverny. Later on, in 1969, Mitchell purchased and lived out her life at Claude Monet’s former property La Tour in Vétheuil, and Riopelle resettled in rural Quebec. They were halfway in, halfway out of a relationship, and finally parted in 1979.

Yet in the early 1960s, at the time of the creation of Mi-chemin, they had a strong bond romantically, intellectually and artistically. Much has been written about them, and an important recent exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec has compellingly paired examples that demonstrate their shared aesthetic sensibilities and reciprocal influence upon one another’s paintings. Certainly, their work of this period embraced relatable ideas of abstract paintings inspired by observation and adulation of nature. While overall these commonalities can be conceded to be evidently the general case, Mi-chemin may point to a slightly different observation concerning the evolution of Riopelle’s paintings.

Mitchell’s paintings of this date aspired towards lyric, expressive abstraction in fluid, painterly applications. Mi-chemin shows Riopelle moving away from this stylistic touchstone that had informed his work of the later 1950s. Instead, the blocks of colour are more orderly, controlled and structural. It is noteworthy that Riopelle had just the year prior completed large bronze sculptures at the Meudon Foundry, and a solo exhibition of his sculpture was presented in 1962 at Galerie Jacques Dubourg, Paris. The form building explored by Mi-chemin could be described as halfway between sculptural inclinations and painterliness, his characteristic lushly applied paint constructed as impasto building blocks.

The year 1962 was an important one for Riopelle, as he held exhibitions in Paris and Gimpel Fils in London, as well as participating in group exhibitions of prominent Canadian modernists at Milan and Spoleto. His work was shown in Zurich alongside leading international modernists such as Mark Rothko, Pablo Picasso, Karel Appel, Robert Motherwell and Pierre Soulages. Riopelle represented Canada at the 1962 Venice Biennale, curated by J. Russell Harper. He was awarded second place; his friend Alberto Giacometti took first. A mid-career Riopelle retrospective was organized by the National Gallery of Canada in 1963. This was followed by solo exhibitions at the Musée du Québec in 1967 at the Fondation Maeght (Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France) in 1971, and at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1972. Mi-chemin is a powerful work emblematic of his art of this vital period in the development of his oeuvre.

Works of this period by Riopelle are prominently showcased in the collections of every major Canadian public art museum and chronicled in international art history texts that define the art of its time. Additionally, his works are in prestigious international public art museum collections, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and Brooklyn Museum in New York; National Gallery of Art and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Art Institute of Chicago; Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo; National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Centre Pompidou in Paris; and the Tate in London.

We thank Jeffrey Spalding for contributing the above essay. Spalding is an artist, curator, author and educator. For more than 40 years, Spalding has served in leadership roles at art museums and educational institutions. He is currently an Art Consultant for the Tao Hua Tan Cultural and Creative Company, and a Lifetime Senior Artist, Tao Hua Tan International Artist Creative Residency, China.

Estimate: $250,000 ~ $350,000 CAD

Sold For: $361,250.01 CAD (including buyer's premium)

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