LOT 030

1923 - 2002

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1960 and on verso titled Composition and dated on the gallery label
39 3/4 x 50 in, 101 x 127 cm

Estimate: $200,000 - $300,000 CAD

Sold for: $217,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Galerie Jacques Dubourg, Paris
Tableaux des XIXe et XXe siècles—Sculptures, Ader Tajan, March 16, 1991, lot 71
Importants Tableaux XIX et Modernes, Christian de Quay, Paris, June 9, 1994, lot 365
A Prominent European Private Collection

Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 3, 1960 – 1965, 2009, reproduced page 101, catalogue #1960.058H.1960

Painted in 1960 at a pivotal moment in Jean Paul Riopelle’s illustrious career, Pawdawe is a prime example of the artist’s evolving mature style, demonstrating the influence of his relationship with the great American artist Joan Mitchell as well as his increasing longing for the landscapes and cultural reference points of North America.

Riopelle moved from Montreal to Paris in the aftermath of the Second World War and soon rose to international prominence. By 1954, his work had been featured in the Younger European Painters exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York, he had had his first solo show at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York, and he had represented Canada at the Venice Biennale together with his one-time mentor, Paul-Émile Borduas. Riopelle made his name with what came to be called mosaic paintings: monumental canvases covered in a thickly worked impasto in vivid colours, executed with a palette knife in quick, sharp strokes relying entirely on instinct. Riopelle’s gestural style and fugue-like rhythms led several prominent American art critics to compare his work to that of the Abstract Expressionists, particularly Jackson Pollock.

Then, in 1955, Riopelle met the great American painter Joan Mitchell, who would become his partner for nearly 25 years. Their tumultuous relationship provided fertile ground for cross-pollination as both artists grappled, each in their own way, with the fundamental questions of abstraction. Riopelle had already begun to explore new territory in 1954 to 1955, interrogating the white field as both ground and plane to disrupt the habitual perception of spatial depth. In the late 1950s, Riopelle’s experiments in gouache allowed him to play with opacity and fluidity, applying successive strokes of contrasting colours in spontaneous calligraphy, unified by patches of white. The painter himself admitted that these works resembled Mitchell’s own signature style in a letter he wrote to her during that period.[1] By 1960, Riopelle had created a new compositional architecture. Still within the repertoire of gestures permitted by the spatula and the palette knife, his familiar hatched fragmentations expanded into rectangles or fanned out into areas of saturated pigment. Fields of colour jostled against one another, and from these juxtapositions, forms began to emerge.[2]

Pawdawe perfectly encapsulates these emergent tendencies in Riopelle’s practice. Lashes of pigment produced by rapid strokes of the palette knife have replaced the staccato rhythm of the mosaic tesserae. Fields of white, highlighted with gold, push into the foreground while areas of deep garnet red and black plunge the eye into depths, disrupting the picture plane and creating an undulating movement against striations of marine blue and forest green, the colours of landscape. The looser application of paint recalls Riopelle’s works in gouache and brings him a step closer to Mitchell’s broad sweeps and dashes, although Riopelle’s dense impasto contrasts with Mitchell’s openness and buoyancy. Both expression and palette suggest undercurrents of violence, which are given form by the painting’s title.

Pawdawe refers to a traditional offshore whale hunt among the Shinnecock, historically Algonquian-speaking Native Americans located at the eastern end of Long Island, NY. In 1960, Riopelle spent more than a year in East Hampton, Long Island, where he executed numerous works with titles referencing the Indigenous peoples in the area. While the title Pawdawe hints at figuration, Riopelle often titled his works after they were completed, interpreting the results of his spontaneous gestures. The titles not only presented a possible reading of the paintings but also helped him to remember the context in which a work was painted. As Riopelle explained, “Even if you select a title that doesn’t suit the picture perfectly, at least it leaves a trace, it’s like a marker for your memory.”[3]

1. Cited in Michel Martin, "Mitchell/Riopelle: Painting Bears Witness," in Mitchell/Riopelle: Nothing in Moderation, ed. Catherine Morency (Quebec City: MNBAQ; Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, in assoc. with 5 Continents, 2017), exhibition catalogue, 26.

2. Guy Robert, Riopelle ou la poétique du geste (Montreal: Éditions de l’Homme, 1970), 76.

3. Quoted in Andréanne Roy, “Riopelle and the Memory of Places: A Voyage to the Land of Titles,” in Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures, ed. Andréanne Roy, Jacques Des Rochers, and Yseult Riopelle (Montreal: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2020), exhibition catalogue, 152.

Estimate: $200,000 - $300,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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