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LOT 027

Paul-Émile Borduas
1905 - 1960

Allegro furioso
oil on canvas
signed and dated 1949 and on verso titled
28 x 24 3/4 in 71.1 x 62.9 cm

Estimate: $200,000 - $300,000

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

The Morris Gallery, Toronto
Acquired from the above by a Private Collection, Toronto, 1972
Sold sale of Canadian Post-War & Contemporary Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, November 26, 2009, lot 5
Private Collection

Paul-Émile Borduas, Écrits/Writings 1942 - 1958 (Nova Scotia series), "Projections libérantes," English translation, 1978, pages 81 and 115

“Enfin libre de peindre!” (At last, free to paint!) exclaimed Paul-Émile Borduas when, after the publication of the manifesto Refus global in 1948, he lost his job at the École du meuble. Indeed, his painting production in 1949, done at the same time as the pamphlet "Projections libérantes" that he wrote in his defence, is abundant. By the spring of 1949, he already had 18 recent works to exhibit with his friends the Viau brothers. Allegro furioso was not shown on this occasion and probably dates to a little later in the same year. Borduas, who had been in the habit of giving sequential numbers for the titles of his paintings (for example, 8:48 for the eighth painting of 1948), abandoned this practice in 1949 – so we are less sure about the exact succession of the paintings from then on.
It is an aptly titled canvas, for Borduas had many reasons to feel both happy (allegro) and furious (furioso) at that time. He was happy to be able to resume painting, worried because painting became – with the exception of some drawing lessons given to the children of Saint-Hilaire – his only source of income, and furious with the authorities, both civil and religious, that caused him to lose his job because of his beliefs. "Projections libérantes" was written precisely to give vent to this anger and to express defiance against the powers that wanted to crush him. “You have ended it!” he wrote at the end of "Projections libérantes" - “So be it! But I defy any power to erase its memory or its example.”
In Allegro furioso, as he often did during his Automatist period, Borduas proceeded in two steps. First, the background was treated almost like a landscape, in green at the bottom with vigorous strokes, and in a more gentle way, greyish at the top; one almost sees a horizon line at the visual centre of the painting. Second, the objects, painted with a spatula, stand out in the foreground. But what is different here, which was typical of his paintings of 1947 and 1948, is the fact that these objects seem to enter from the left and go out at the right of the pictorial space. This gives an impression of movement to the whole scene, and the many pointed shapes augment this impression. Moreover, if you follow the spatula, you will see movement and counter-movement, leaps forward and backward, as if you were listening to music. With the suggestion of movement, we are not, indeed, so far from music, which is probably the reason for the title - given, as always, after the fact.
There are some allusions to music in the works of Borduas – a 1955 painting was titled Tango, another from 1957 Symphonie en damier blanc, and there are others: Chant de fête and Chant de la Pierre from 1956, and Chant d’été, 1955. The idea of transposing music into painting has always been a temptation for artists, especially abstract painters. But it also must be said that painting as such is “mute,” as they used to say in the seventeenth century - movement and music are, by definition, out of its bounds. It is only through the movement of the hand of the painter and of the eyes of the onlooker that something like music can be translated mentally into image. Here, Borduas has succeeded very well. He is just asking us to listen with our eyes.
We thank François-Marc Gagnon of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute of 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.

Estimate: $200,000 - $300,000

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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