Jean Paul Riopelle


Jean Paul Riopelle was born in Montréal on October 7, 1923.

While still a student, he became vital to Québec's emerging Automatistes school of painting, with a Surrealistic influence, and challenged the traditional values of Québec's post-war society. Riopelle was both celebrated and scorned for his radical technique, which sometimes involved dripping or even throwing paint onto the canvas. But learned critics could see, from the perceived chaos, an artistic sense of order and discipline.

In 1946, Riopelle moved to Paris, where he supported the emerging Tachist movement and its spontaneous approach to abstract expressionism. He refined his technique with an imaginative use of white space to create an expansive effect. During the early ‘50s, he participated in group shows in France, Italy, Spain, England and Sweden. From 1954 onwards, he had regular exhibitions at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York; in 1966, Galerie Maeght in Paris, he was given a show every two years.

Riopelle also focused on his sculpting talent, culminating with his masterpiece La joute, created
for the 1976 Montréal Olympics.

The list of citations, prizes and honorary degrees awarded to Jean-Paul Riopelle over the past six decades is extensive. Highlights include the 1958 Prix International Guggenheim award and, in 1962, the coveted Unesco prize. Here in Canada, Riopelle’s many honors include the 1973 Philippe Hébert Prize and, in 1975, induction as a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Jean Paul Riopelle died at his home on Îsle-aux-Grues on March 12, 2002.

His paintings, sculptures, and lithographs, treasured by collectors around the globe, enhance the permanent collections of the world’s finest galleries and museums, including New York’s Guggenheim Museum and The Museum of Modern Art, the Galerie d’art Moderne in Basel, Switzerland, the Museum of Modern Art in Brazil, Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario, and Ottawa’s National Gallery.