“My first encounter with Jean Paul Riopelle was a surprise—and a pleasant relief. I had expected to meet a difficult, temperamental artist, but after I had climbed the stairs to his top-floor rooms in a working-class district of Paris, I discovered a natural, robust fellow. There was about him a gallant, courtly quality— a born gentleman in the guise of a rough-hewn cavalier. He welcomed Estrellita and me warmly and hospitably and opened a bottle of wine, prelude to much good conversation.
Riopelle’s working method [was] erratic and rapid, like the speed of his Bugatti as he drove me along the narrow, gravel-strewn roads of France. He will go for weeks, or even months, without lifting a brush. Then, all of a sudden, will come a period of intense, almost frantic activity when art simply explodes in him. He will paint for weeks; he will not eat; he will not sleep; he will cover canvas after canvas with his highly individual, textured interlacings of bright impasto. Only when the compulsive surge has been fulfilled will his creative labours also subside.
But he is more than a painter. When I met him in 1965, he had been experimenting with a sculpture he had recently completed. It stood beside him while we chatted, and I incorporated it into his portrait.”