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Jean-Paul Riopelle Metamorphoses

May 14, 2014 to April 3, 2022

Jean-Paul Riopelle was a multi-faceted artist who constantly reinvented his artistic practice. Riopelle’s many-sided creative power and insatiable nature will be centre-stage in this gallery devoted to his work.

Riopelle’s art is tied up with the European and American avant-gardes of the twentieth century, whose members he associated with early in his career. It is also connected to questions around abstraction and figuration, with which Riopelle worked by turns according to his creative impulses. One constant, however, was his pursuit of vitality and diversity, whether he was applying paint in mosaics or returning to the figure in the 1960s. To many, he was our Picasso.

The body of work Riopelle created continues to fascinate and is the subject of research which, even recently, has brought out little-known aspects of his many-sided practice through study of his sculptures, prints and drawings. This constant rediscovery of his work’s ramifications reaffirms the range of his art and makes it possible to substitute other figures for André Breton’s legendary description of him as a “superior trapper” when he was welcomed into the Surrealist movement in the 1940s. Riopelle is a conveyor of sensibilities.

Everything points to Riopelle having covered more creative ground than that suggested by his well-known 1950s works – the majestic mosaics made with a spatula. He thus becomes an artist who dabbles in everything, one whose inventiveness has not yet been fully revealed. The works gathered together for this exhibition – paintings, bronzes, lithographs, collages – also demonstrate Riopelle’s extreme versatility and his unmatched thirst for creating.


Jean-Paul Riopelle is born on 7 October on De Lorimier St. in Montréal.

Riopelle studies at the École du Meuble under Paul-Émile Borduas. He participates in the first exhibition of the Automatist group in Montréal in 1946.

Riopelle meets André Breton in Paris. He signs the Surrealist manifesto Rupture inaugurale.

In August 1948 the manifesto Refus global (Total Refusal), written by Borduas, is published in Montréal; Riopelle is one of the 16 signatories. Late that same year he moves to France. His first solo exhibition is held in Paris in 1949.

Riopelle exhibits his work for the first time at the Pierre Matisse gallery in New York. His work is also shown at the Venice Biennale along with that of Paul-Émile Borduas and Bertram Charles Binning.

Riopelle represents Canada at the Venice Biennale, where he wins the UNESCO Award. Following this event, the National Gallery of Canada mounts the exhibition Jean-Paul Riopelle: Peinture et sculpture (Jean-Paul Riopelle: Painting and Sculpture), which travels to various Canadian cities and to Washington D.C.

The Musée du Québec organizes a retrospective of his work: Peintures et sculptures de Riopelle (Painting and Sculpture by Riopelle). On this occasion, the artist donates the large assemblage Untitled to the Musée.

Riopelle has a studio built in the Laurentians. He now divides his time between France and Québec.

The Department of External Affairs of Canada presents the large retrospective exhibition Jean-Paul Riopelle: Peinture 1946-1977 (Jean-Paul Riopelle: Painting 1946-1977) in collaboration with the Musée du Québec and the Musée national d’art moderne (Centre national d’art et de culture Georges-Pompidou, Paris). The exhibition travels within France and Québec and to Mexico and Venezuela.

The government of Québec bestows the prestigious Paul-Émile Borduas award on Riopelle.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts organizes the exhibition Riopelle to mark the opening of the Jean-Noël Desmarais pavilion.

In his studio on Île aux Oies, Riopelle creates L’Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg (Tribute to Rosa Luxemburg), which is presented in 1993 at the Michel Tétreault Art International gallery in Montréal. This imposing triptych is exhibited in France, with the assistance of the Musée du Québec, at the La Roche-Guyon chateau just outside of Paris in the summer of 1995. The work is presented at the Musée du Québec in 1996, an event that attracts no fewer than 33,000 visitors in the space of five weeks.

The Musée du Québec opens a permanent gallery in May devoted to Jean-Paul Riopelle and his work.

Jean-Paul Riopelle dies on Isle-aux-Grues on 12 March.