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Paul-Émile Borduas

Composition 69


Paul-Émile Borduas
Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, 1905 – Paris 1960


Composition 69




Oil on canvas


61.5 x 50 cm


Purchase, inv. 1994.3


Quebec and Canadian Art

This painting is usually considered to be Borduas' last, since it was found on his easel when he died. The poet Jean-Paul Filion, who visited Borduas' studio on February 26, 1960, on the day of the artist's funeral, brought back this gripping image: “The painting, still fresh, that I see attached to the easel, seems to me to be the pure and simple representation of mourning. Let me describe it: one immense black mass covering almost the entire surface of the canvas. At the top, a thin white horizon, with a hint of limpid green, in which the painter has jabbed two small rectangular black shapes, thus creating a fascinating space-bound perspective. What is the purpose of these two blocks, these two masks, these two ghosts, like pieces of shroud, which take up all the room in a limited space of inaccessible light, all placed as an epigraph at the top of a high wall of glistening coal? I am led to see in this last work the illustration of a sort of despair lived at the limits of the cosmos. Am I wrong in imagining this?”

© Estate of Paul-Émile Borduas / SOCAN (2023)

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