LOT 018

1905 - 1960

Métropole minérale
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1952 and on verso titled on the labels
10 x 8 1/2 in, 25.4 x 21.6 cm

Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000

Sold for: $121,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Galerie Agnès Lefort, Montreal
Mr. and Mrs. D.R. Doig, Manitoba
The Art Emporium, Vancouver
Estate of Mary and Harry Klonoff, Vancouver

François-Marc Gagnon, Paul-Émile Borduas (1905 - 1960): Biographie critique et analyse de l'oeuvre, 1978, listed, catalogue #9, titled as Métropole minérale (ou Métropole végétale), page 488
François-Marc Gagnon, Paul-Émile Borduas, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1988, pages 103 and 104

Paul-Émile Borduas's studio, Saint-Hilaire, Dernière exposition - des derniers tableaux - à la maison de Saint-Hilaire, April 26 - 27, 1952, catalogue #9

In his illuminating and definitive text for the catalogue accompanying Paul-Émile Borduas’s major retrospective exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1988, François-Marc Gagnon introduced us in detail to the artist's thoughts about the essence of creating his non-figurative images. The catalogue excerpts an interview by Maurice Gagnon with Borduas that starts, “I have no preconceived idea…I obey whatever impulse comes first,” and concludes with Borduas’s statement, “So many mental acts, then, intellectual work – work governed by the painter’s own very thorough training – intellectual work in constant fusion with the artist’s sensibility, a sensibility which here, as in other aspects of the work of art, brings forth the melody, the poetic quality.” As the elder scion of the Automatist group, Borduas set the philosophical, political and creative path for a generation of artists in Quebec and beyond. Then, in 1953, at the age of 48, he abandoned the supportive comforts of his growing following to devote himself to artistic freedom abroad, just one year after painting Métropole minérale, a fine example of his oeuvre.

It is not often that we come across a work that was first exhibited in Borduas’s own studio in Saint-Hilaire in 1952, and therefore we are doubly pleased to have Métropole minérale come to light once again this year. It should be noted that Borduas advertised this brief showing of 18 works as the last that would take place in Saint-Hilaire, a site so significant to his earliest productive years. It would seem that the event was a bon voyage to his life there, since he was about to leave Canada behind to revisit Paris and ultimately settle in New York City. Fortunately, Borduas was in the habit of compiling lists to keep track of the titles and histories of most of his works, including buyers’ names where applicable, and the private and public exhibitions to which they were sent on loan. Given that his practice (in common with most non-figurative artists) was to title works after they were complete, these invaluable records tell us about his instinctive responses to his own images.

The lists also reveal that there could be more than one version of a particular title. The first notation for our subject is Métropole minérale (ou Métropole végétale). Another work in the same show was titled Nécropole végétale (ou Je ne sais pas), a clear signal that the artist was less concerned with the precise “meaning” of his creations than with the finished image, and perhaps an indication that he also had a sense of humour. Borduas’s impending move was planned in spite of the fact that many of his works were then being included in several other 1952 group and solo exhibitions, in Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, and that a major painting, Réunion des trophées, was being exhibited in the Pittsburgh International Exhibition at the Carnegie Institute and traveling to San Francisco that fall.

The oil paintings and the ink and gouache works on paper produced prior to his move to the United States in 1953 exhibit a distinctive colour palette, very different from that of his peers and the younger signatories of Le Refus global. His palette typically featured more of what we think of as secondary colours – rich tones of green, purple and brown rather than the more commonly employed primary blue, red and yellow. And so, this fine painting, whether meant to evoke an organic metropolis of minerals or vegetables, truly reflects the essence of the process that Borduas carried with him throughout a career which ended all too soon.

This work is included in François-Marc Gagnon's online catalogue raisonée on the artist's work at www.borduas.concordia.ca/en/about/index.php, catalogue #2005-0952.

For the biography on Mary and Harry Klonoff in PDF format please click here.

Estimate: $50,000 - $70,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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