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    Sale 1998

    Post -War And Contemporary Art Morning Session

    14 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 150

    Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923-2002)


    Price Realised  


    Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923-2002)
    signed 'Riopelle' (lower right); signed again and dated 'Riopelle 52' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    35 x 57½ in. (89.9 x 146 cm.)
    Painted in 1952.

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    Painted in 1952, Untitled marks the important transitional phase in Riopelle's career, when the influence of Action Painting, and especially Jackson Pollock, began to blossom into his own unique style. It is an intricate mosaic of color and matter. Riopelle has applied the paint both through drips and directly with the palette knife, creating an intriguing interplay of contrasts. The use of the palette knife was a new feature in Riopelle's paintings, and would soon come to dominate and form his signature style. The smeared colors that are the result of this technique form opal-like rainbows, infinitely fine threads and patches of contrasting color. The resultant shimmering, kaleidoscopic surface, is filled with life, forcing the viewer's eye to dance across it. The surface is a shifting organism, a revelation in its own right. It is a record of sensation, a celebration of sight. It is filled with an exuberance that bears witness to the recognition and consequent financial success that suddenly came to Riopelle in 1952.

    As well as using the palette knife directly, Riopelle has covered the surface of Untitled with drips that add an extra zest to the picture. This creates a superficial similarity to the works of Jackson Pollock, and indeed this similarity resulted in their works often being shown side by side, beginning in the year that Untitled was painted. However the techniques and intentions of Pollock and Riopelle were very different. Where Pollock placed his canvas on the ground and therefore involved himself in it, Riopelle stood at an easel, channelling his sensations stroke by stroke, drip by drip in a process by which the painting would organically develop. Indeed, Riopelle did not consider his works abstract at all: 'My paintings that are considered the most abstract are, in my opinion, the most representational in the strictest sense of the term. Conversely, are those paintings whose meanings we believe we are able to read - the geese, the owls, the moose - not actually more abstract than the rest? Abstract: 'abstraction,' 'taken from,' 'to bring from'... I work the other way round. I do not take from Nature, I move toward Nature' (J.-P. Riopelle, quoted in M. Waldberg, Riopelle, The Absolute Gap, pp. 39-54).

    Riopelle believed that to paint successfully, he had to by-pass his intellect, to avoid the rational thoughts that would make his work a representation instead of a product of Nature. "The painting must work itself out," he said. "It is a process... I am not one of those artists seeking a wonderful green... I never tell myself, for instance, that I have to paint like this or like that to get one effect or another. If I reach that point, I stop. It's dangerous... because then I am on the technical side of painting. There is always some solution to improve a painting that isn't working. But this does not interest me. It loses its emotional unity. Because technique will unfortunately always win out." (J.-P. Riopelle, quoted in M. Waldberg, Riopelle, The Absolute Gap, pp. 39-54).

    Special Notice

    On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.


    Walter Moos, Toronto
    Acquired from the above by the previous owner, 1982
    Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 10 November 2004, lot 64
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    Pre-Lot Text



    Y. Riopelle, Catalogue raisonné de Jean Paul Riopelle 1954-1959, Montreal, 2004, vol. 2, p. 422, no. 1952.013H1952 (illustrated in color in the addendum of Vol. 1).