Works restored or never previously shown
Laid out chronologically and by theme, the exhibition takes visitors on a tour of nearly 110 works by Riopelle (paintings, sculptures and works on paper) from the MMFA’s collection and some 50 institutional and private collections in Canada, the U.S. and France. Of notable interest is the unveiling of two recently restored major works: the monumental sculpture Fontaine (about 1964-1977), on public display for the first time, and the immense canvas Point de rencontre (1963), the artist’s only commissioned work, previously exhibited at Paris’s Opéra Bastille.
Several major works
Also to discover is a 1946 Riopelle watercolour that belonged to André Breton, a little-known series of remarkable works on silver-point paper and several major works, including Blizzard sylvestre (1953), L'étang – Hommage à Grey Owl (1970), D’un long voyage (1973) and Pangnirtung (1977). Artifacts and an extensive selection of documents (photographs, videos and extracts from unpublished correspondence) give added context to the artist’s work.
Inspiring and inspired works
Also showcased are historical works from the Yup’ik, Kwakwaka’wakw and Tlingit communities, among others, which inspired the artist’s vision, as well as works by contemporary Inuit artists, including Luke Akuptangoak, Noah Arpatuq Echalook, Mattiusi Iyaituk and Pudlo Pudlat, as well as Atikamekw artist César Newashish. Still others, such as Kwakwaka’wakw artist Beau Dick, invite visitors to broaden their view of current Indigenous creativity. Similarly, the exhibition incorporates a commissioned work by Tlingit artist Alison Bremner, Ceremonial Wealth (2020), and a recent MMFA acquisition, A Gift from Doreen (2016-2019) by Cree artist Duane Linklater.
About the artist
Jean Paul Riopelle (Montreal, 1923 – Isle-aux-Grues, 2002) is recognized as one of the most important and prolific Canadian artists of the 20th century. He studied at the École du Meuble de Montréal, where he met painter Paul-Émile Borduas and the Automatistes, with whom he signed the Refus global manifesto in 1948. While living in Paris, he met the Surrealists and art collector Georges Duthuit, who sparked his interest in Indigenous art and cultures. His work in the 1970s was influenced by a number of expeditions to Nunavik and Nunavut.
Today, Riopelle is renowned worldwide, and his work is found in the public collections of over 60 cities, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Center Pompidou in Paris and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. The MMFA, which owns 370 of the artist’s works, including 27 paintings, previously dedicated two major solo exhibitions to the artist, in 1991 and 2002. The Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation was established in 2019 to preserve, promote and disseminate the artist’s work, and to celebrate Riopelle’s contribution to the history of international art as well as his immense artistic legacy, particularly as we look toward the centenary of his birth in 2023.
The ideal companion to the exhibition, this scholarly work includes essays and a wealth of illustrations that allow us to explore the northern and Indigenous influences that permeate the work of Jean Paul Riopelle. Using an interdisciplinary combination of art history and anthropology, this catalogue, edited by Andréanne Roy, Jacques Des Rochers and Yseult Riopelle, is enriched by the contribution of specialists, including several from Indigenous communities.
In the media
L’approche humaniste de Riopelle, son attirance pour la nature, les grands espaces du Nord canadien et les autochtones sont traités avec brio dans une nouvelle exposition du Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal
L’heure du monde
Dessine-moi un dimanche
ICI Radio-Canada Première, Tout un matin
Désautels le dimanche
Du côté de chez Catherine
Puisqu’il faut se lever
All in a Weekend
Regards sur l'Arctique
Art and Antiques Magazine
Credits and curatorial team
An exhibition developed, organized and circulated by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA). It was curated by guest curators Andréanne Roy and Yseult Riopelle as well as by Jacques Des Rochers, Curator of Quebec and Canadian Art (before 1945), MMFA.
Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures is an exhibition developed, organized and circulated by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
It is presented by Hydro-Québec and was made possible by the generous contribution of the Audain Foundation. This project is funded by the Government of Canada, and receives support from its partners Hatch, the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation, the Heffel Fine Art Auction House, Tourisme Montréal, RBC, the MMFA’s Angel Circle and official media partner, La Presse. The Museum wishes to underscore the invaluable contributions of its official sponsors, Air Canada and Denalt Paints, and its media partners Bell and Montreal Gazette.
The exhibition has benefited from Heritage Canada’s Canada Travelling Exhibition Indemnification Program. The MMFA is profoundly grateful to the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts de Montréal for their ongoing support.
The Museum’s International Exhibition Program receives funding from the Exhibition Fund of the MMFA Foundation and the Paul G. Desmarais Fund.
The Museum thanks its Volunteer Guides for their abiding dedication, as well as all its members and the many individuals, corporations and foundations – in particular the Fondation de la Chenelière, directed by Michel de la Chenelière, and Arte Musica, presided by Pierre Bourgie – for their generosity.
We further extend our gratitude to all those who, through their generous assistance, encouragement and support, made this exhibition and its scholarly publication possible.
Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002), La Fontaine, about 1964-1977, painted plaster and ropes, 400 x 300 x 300 cm. Private collection. © Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2020). Photo MMFA, Jean-François Brière
Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002), L’étang – Hommage à Grey Owl, 1970, oil on canvas, 299.5 x 400 cm. MMFA, gift of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. © Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2020). Photo MMFA, Christine Guest
Noah Arpatuq Echalook (born in 1946), Woman Playing a String Game, 1987, dark green stone, ivory, hide, 26 x 39 x 24 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, purchased in 1991. © Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec. Photo NGC
Basil Zarov (1905 (?)-1998), Jean Paul Riopelle outside of the Studio at Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson with “La Défaite” in the Distance, about 1976, black and white photograph. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa. © Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2020). Photo © Library and Archives Canada. Reproduced with the permission of Library and Archives Canada/Basil Zarov fonds/e011205146
Claude Duthuit photograph of Paul Rebeyrolle, Riopelle, Jacques Lamy and Champlain Charest on a fishing trip, about 1975, print 2020, black and white photograph. Archives Yseult Riopelle. © Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2020). Photo Claude Duthuit – Archives Yseult Riopelle
Catalogue Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures, Publishing Department of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in association with 5 Continents Editions, Milan