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Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002)
Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002)
Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002)
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Artist's Resale Right ("droit de Suite"). If the … Read more Property from an Important Collection, Switzerland
Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002)

Brumaire

Details
Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002)
Brumaire
signed and dated 'Riopelle 53' (lower left)
oil on canvas
35 x 45 5/8 in. (89 x 115.8 cm.)
Painted in 1953.
Provenance
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, acquired directly from the artist
The Colin Family Collection, acquired from the above
Anon sale; Christie's, London, 1 July 2008, lot 185
Private collection
Galerie Applicat-Prazan, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Exhibited
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Riopelle: first American exhibition, January 1954, no. 11.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("droit de Suite"). If the Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer also agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5,5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Post lot text
This work has been authenticated by Madame Yseult Riopelle. A certificate of authenticity accompanies the work.
Sale room notice
Please note that a certificate of authenticity from Yseult Riopelle accompanies the work.

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Etienne Sallon
Etienne Sallon

Lot Essay

Included in the artist’s debut American solo show at Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, in 1954, Brumaire (1953) is an explosive abstract painting by Jean Paul Riopelle. Bold, radial facets of red, black, white, green and sky-blue impasto are woven into an electrifying mosaic of color and energy, the thick paint shot through with dripped filaments of white flung directly at the canvas. Taking its title from the October-November period of the French Republican calendar—itself named for the brume, or fog, common in the autumn—Brumaire conjures a vivid, elemental atmosphere. Its marbled strokes seem charged with the force of the natural world. Indeed, the introduction to the New York show’s catalogue—written by Henri Matisse’s son-in-law Georges Duthuit and translated into English by Samuel Beckett, a close friend of Riopelle’s—likened the painter’s technique to the “immediacies of earth, of nerves, of epidermis, [which] unfold and flower as one … Like a trapper fresh from the Canadian solitudes measuring his stride to our narrow pavements, Jean Paul Riopelle seems hardly to contain the flooding energies of youth at its full, its impetuosity and peremptoriness that bid defiance to distance and bulk” (G. Duthuit, “A painter of awakening: Jean Paul Riopelle,” trans. S. Beckett, in Riopelle: First American Exhibition, exh. cat. Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, 1954, n.p.).

Duthuit’s picture of Riopelle as a kind of wild man of the forests was somewhat exaggerated, but the artist himself—he had first been called a “superior trapper” by André Breton in 1949—did little to discourage such characterizations. He had first bonded with Pierre Matisse over their shared passions for fast cars, sailing and the great outdoors, and in 1977 he would take Duthuit’s son, an underwater archaeologist, on a tour of the Canadian Arctic. Intense, outspoken and single-minded, Riopelle adhered to no movement or school of painting. In his unbridled, improvisatory approach to the canvas he sought to directly embody nature rather than to depict it, creating works that bypassed rationality or representation. Duthuit aptly compared his paintings to primordial landscapes, saying that “in truth, before certain canvases of Riopelle, we are tempted to exclaim: the source of the Loue, in its first infancy!” (ibid.). This reference to Gustave Courbet’s The Source of the Loue (1864), which would have been familiar to New York viewers as a prized painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, placed Riopelle in dialogue with a European landscape tradition. While governed by abstract rather than figurative logic, Brumaire captures the same essence of natural majesty as Courbet’s river, foaming luminous white as it emerges from its deep, dark grotto into sunlight.

Following the success of the 1954 exhibition, Pierre Matisse wrote to Riopelle with the reactions of American collectors and critics, some of whom compared the liquid threads of paint in works like Brumaire with the drip technique of Jackson Pollock. Riopelle’s method was in fact entirely different—he would throw paint at a vertical canvas with a loaded brush or palette knife, rather than looping and splashing from above like Pollock—and his outlook equally distinct. “I didn’t know Jackson Pollock personally,” Riopelle wrote back to Matisse. “It’s a shame because I believe he is very intelligent and sincere … Far from sharing a common cause, we are directly opposed” (J-P. Riopelle, letter to Pierre Matisse, January 25, 1954, collection of the Morgan Library & Museum, New York).

One reviewer, James Fitzsimmons, recognized the distinctive lyricism of Riopelle’s approach. “Pollock works with line … Riopelle works with color; he composes forest fugues with wedges of color. And, of course, he paints, he does not weave color through his fingers. As a result, his rhythms are entirely different from Pollock’s: less somatic, coiling, darting … He puts himself in tune with natural laws but also with his own: he dances with nature” (J. Fitzsimmons, “Art”, Arts and Architecture, New York, vol. LXXI, no. 1, January 1954, pp. 29-32). Where Pollock’s paintings plumbed the depths of his artistic psyche, Riopelle’s sought rather to move in harmony with the external world. Glinting with mineral texture and crystalline light, Brumaire is a spectacular realization of his mission.

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