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Jean Paul Riopelle

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AUTO CAS OC QMG RCA SCA
1923 - 2002
Canadian

Sans titre (Composition #2)
oil on canvas, 1951
signed and on verso titled Composition #2 on the Marlborough-Godard label, inscribed variously and stamped indistinctly
50 x 64 1/2 in, 127 x 163.8 cm

CAD

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

PROVENANCE
Marlborough-Godard, Toronto
Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto
Important Canadian Art, Sotheby's in Association with Ritchies, Toronto, November 18, 2003, lot 28
Private Collection, Montreal
Canadian Post-War & Contemporary Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, November 19, 2008, lot 55, cover lot
Acquired from the above by an Important Private Collection, Montreal

LITERATURE
Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, addendum to Volume 2, 1954 - 1959, 2004, titled Sans titre, reproduced page 420, catalogue #1951.006H.1951

It is characteristic of Jean Paul Riopelle’s paintings from 1951 to show a web of relatively straight and very thin lines cast on a heavy impasto background. The lines animate the surface, sometimes echoing the rectangular or square format of the canvas, and sometimes not. In Sans titre (Composition #2), for instance, they introduce an oblique that suggests a tilting of the surface towards the left. Each painting of that year is a gem and this one is no exception.

One cannot deal with this 1951 painting by Riopelle without clarifying his position with regard to what was happening in New York at the time. In fact, the confrontation between Paris and New York happened in this same year, in an exhibition organized by the French art critic Michel Tapié de Celeyran, entitled Véhémences confrontées, at Nina Dausset Gallery in Paris.

In this exhibition was Jackson Pollock’s Number 8, 1950, a typical all-over dripping composition that included aluminum paint, and Willem de Kooning’s Untitled (Woman, Wind and Window), 1950, a somewhat figurative picture -- both paintings from Alfonso A. Ossorio’s collection. On the broadsheet published by Tapié on this occasion, the works by Riopelle, Pollock and Wols were labeled as “amorphic.” Greatly admired in post-war Europe, especially by painter Georges Mathieu, Wols (a pseudonym of Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, 1913 - 1951) was less well known in America. But the very fact that Riopelle and Pollock were brought together in the same category is significant.

Tapié, as with many French critics of the time, had difficulties with the concept of an all-over composition, where there is no hierarchy between the elements and no points of focalization on the painted surface to attract the eye in one direction or another. This lack of focalization brought the reproach that one could not know why the painting stops where it does. It could have continued out of the periphery of the canvas, in all directions, without much damaging the general effect. As reported by critic Clement Greenberg in an interview with Deborah Solomon in December 1983 about Pollock’s Mural, 1944: “People said it just went on and on like glorified wallpaper”![1]

For Tapié, Riopelle and Pollock had gotten rid of form completely. He did not see that they were in fact getting rid of, each one in his manner, the orderly and hierarchical composition so common in European painting at the time. Wols, Mathieu and Pierre Soulages kept the opposition between centre and periphery, between shapes and background, and presented their forms standing out on a background receding in depth behind them. It could even be more appropriate to speak of an all-over construction in the case of Pollock and Riopelle, to stress precisely this lack of composition. From this point of view, the title of our painting is a misnomer. Wisely, Yseult Riopelle’s catalogue raisonné designates it as Sans titre.

We suspect that Composition #2 is a title given by a gallery when the painting was exhibited. In those days, composition could have been seen as an equivalent of abstraction. Even Greenberg talked of all-over composition. It seems more logical not to designate as Composition a painting that aims at escaping any form of composition. This is true of both Riopelle’s and Pollock’s works, except that contrary to Pollock, Riopelle maintained the dichotomy between the lines and the spots of colour and created an extremely delicate animated surface that seems carried over by the wind instead of simply staining the canvas.

One has to go to his inks and watercolours of 1946 - 1947 to see examples in Riopelle’s oeuvre of the same delicate balance between colour and line. The black lines were then compared to a spiderweb cast on a brightly coloured background. In his 1951 paintings, white and yellow lines also appear on a darker background and the effect, although similar, became denser, more complex and powerful.

We thank the late François-Marc Gagnon of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University, for contributing the above essay in 2008.

1. Deborah Solomon, Jackson Pollock: A Biography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), 153.

For full cataloguing, essay and images in PDF format, please click here.

Estimate: $3,000,000 - $5,000,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business. Bidders must ensure they have satisfied themselves with the condition of the Lot prior to bidding. Condition reports are available upon request.

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[ translate ]

AUTO CAS OC QMG RCA SCA
1923 - 2002
Canadian

Sans titre (Composition #2)
oil on canvas, 1951
signed and on verso titled Composition #2 on the Marlborough-Godard label, inscribed variously and stamped indistinctly
50 x 64 1/2 in, 127 x 163.8 cm

CAD

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

PROVENANCE
Marlborough-Godard, Toronto
Mira Godard Gallery, Toronto
Important Canadian Art, Sotheby's in Association with Ritchies, Toronto, November 18, 2003, lot 28
Private Collection, Montreal
Canadian Post-War & Contemporary Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, November 19, 2008, lot 55, cover lot
Acquired from the above by an Important Private Collection, Montreal

LITERATURE
Yseult Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle Catalogue Raisonné, addendum to Volume 2, 1954 - 1959, 2004, titled Sans titre, reproduced page 420, catalogue #1951.006H.1951

It is characteristic of Jean Paul Riopelle’s paintings from 1951 to show a web of relatively straight and very thin lines cast on a heavy impasto background. The lines animate the surface, sometimes echoing the rectangular or square format of the canvas, and sometimes not. In Sans titre (Composition #2), for instance, they introduce an oblique that suggests a tilting of the surface towards the left. Each painting of that year is a gem and this one is no exception.

One cannot deal with this 1951 painting by Riopelle without clarifying his position with regard to what was happening in New York at the time. In fact, the confrontation between Paris and New York happened in this same year, in an exhibition organized by the French art critic Michel Tapié de Celeyran, entitled Véhémences confrontées, at Nina Dausset Gallery in Paris.

In this exhibition was Jackson Pollock’s Number 8, 1950, a typical all-over dripping composition that included aluminum paint, and Willem de Kooning’s Untitled (Woman, Wind and Window), 1950, a somewhat figurative picture -- both paintings from Alfonso A. Ossorio’s collection. On the broadsheet published by Tapié on this occasion, the works by Riopelle, Pollock and Wols were labeled as “amorphic.” Greatly admired in post-war Europe, especially by painter Georges Mathieu, Wols (a pseudonym of Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze, 1913 - 1951) was less well known in America. But the very fact that Riopelle and Pollock were brought together in the same category is significant.

Tapié, as with many French critics of the time, had difficulties with the concept of an all-over composition, where there is no hierarchy between the elements and no points of focalization on the painted surface to attract the eye in one direction or another. This lack of focalization brought the reproach that one could not know why the painting stops where it does. It could have continued out of the periphery of the canvas, in all directions, without much damaging the general effect. As reported by critic Clement Greenberg in an interview with Deborah Solomon in December 1983 about Pollock’s Mural, 1944: “People said it just went on and on like glorified wallpaper”![1]

For Tapié, Riopelle and Pollock had gotten rid of form completely. He did not see that they were in fact getting rid of, each one in his manner, the orderly and hierarchical composition so common in European painting at the time. Wols, Mathieu and Pierre Soulages kept the opposition between centre and periphery, between shapes and background, and presented their forms standing out on a background receding in depth behind them. It could even be more appropriate to speak of an all-over construction in the case of Pollock and Riopelle, to stress precisely this lack of composition. From this point of view, the title of our painting is a misnomer. Wisely, Yseult Riopelle’s catalogue raisonné designates it as Sans titre.

We suspect that Composition #2 is a title given by a gallery when the painting was exhibited. In those days, composition could have been seen as an equivalent of abstraction. Even Greenberg talked of all-over composition. It seems more logical not to designate as Composition a painting that aims at escaping any form of composition. This is true of both Riopelle’s and Pollock’s works, except that contrary to Pollock, Riopelle maintained the dichotomy between the lines and the spots of colour and created an extremely delicate animated surface that seems carried over by the wind instead of simply staining the canvas.

One has to go to his inks and watercolours of 1946 - 1947 to see examples in Riopelle’s oeuvre of the same delicate balance between colour and line. The black lines were then compared to a spiderweb cast on a brightly coloured background. In his 1951 paintings, white and yellow lines also appear on a darker background and the effect, although similar, became denser, more complex and powerful.

We thank the late François-Marc Gagnon of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University, for contributing the above essay in 2008.

1. Deborah Solomon, Jackson Pollock: A Biography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), 153.

For full cataloguing, essay and images in PDF format, please click here.

Estimate: $3,000,000 - $5,000,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business. Bidders must ensure they have satisfied themselves with the condition of the Lot prior to bidding. Condition reports are available upon request.

[ translate ]
Sale price
Unlock
Estimate
Unlock
Time, Location
23 Nov 2023
Canada
Auction House
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