Jean-Paul Riopelle (7 October 1923 – 12 March 2002) was a painter and sculptor from Quebec, Canada.
Born in Montreal, he studied under Paul-Émile Borduas in the 1940s and was a member of Les Automatistes movement. He was one of the signers of the Refus global manifesto. In 1949 he moved to Paris and continued his career as an artist, where he commercialized on his image as a “wild Canadian”. His life and artistic partner was the American painter, Joan Mitchell. They kept separate homes and studios near Giverny, where Monet had lived. They influenced one another greatly, as much intellectually as artistically, but their relationship was a stormy one, fueled by alcohol. At times their styles were remarkably similar.
Riopelle’s style changed gradually from Surrealism to Abstract expressionism, in which he used myriad soft cubes of color, applied as flat planes with a palette knife, on large canvases to create powerful atmospheres.
Tête de sanglier, eau-forte
In 1969 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, and began to spend more time in Canada. He was specially recognized by UNESCO for his work. One of his largest compositions was originally intended for the Toronto airport, but is now in the Opera Bastille in Paris. In 1988 he was made an Officer of the National Order of Quebec and was promoted to Grand Officer in 1994. His relationship with Mitchell soured badly, and he returned to Canada permanently. He was the grand old man of 20th century Canadian painting and enjoyed the role.
There was a bitter legal dispute over his will between his survivors, pitting his children against his life partner. Another controversy involved the disposition of his work La Joute, a public sculpture in Montreal.
In 2000 Riopelle was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.
In June, 2006 the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts organized a retrospective exhibition which was presented at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia and the Musee Cantini in Marseilles, France. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has a number of his works, spanning his entire career, in their permanent collection.
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