Alfred Pellan

Canadian artist, R.C.A. , Contemporary Art Society, Quebec Modern Group, Prisme d'Yeux

Alfred Pellan

Alfred Pellan was a prolific artist: painter, serigraph, illustrator, stage designer, muralist and educator. He was born in Quebec City in 1906. By discovering the color tubes of his father at the age of 14, the young Alfred Pellan is stung by the desire to paint and discovers his vocation. In 1921, Alfred Pellan enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Quebec, which had just opened rue Saint-Joachim. It exhibits for the first time at the 40th Spring Show of the Art Association of Montreal, the canvas A corner of Old Quebec is acquired immediately by the National Gallery of Canada. With his colleague studies Omer Parent, both won the first scholarship of the arts of the Province of Quebec in 1926. This award allows them to go and perfect their learnings in Paris. Pellan will choose to continue his training at the Ecole Nationale Supérieur de Paris while working in Lucien Simon's studio. In his free time, young Pellan roams the streets of the capital and learns modern art by visiting the galleries. Although the grant from the Quebec Government expired, Pellan decided to stay in France and returned to Quebec only to visit. During these Parisian years, the artist regularly exhibited in various galleries in Europe.

Pellan returns to Quebec in 1940. He settles in Montreal and shares a workshop with the painter Philip Surrey. He exhibited the same year at the Museum of the Province of Quebec followed by the Art Association of Montreal. It is during this exhibition that Pellan tackles for the first time academicism in Quebec. In 1941, Pellan moved into his own workshop rue Jeanne-Mance, he participated in the first exhibition of Independents in Quebec with Borduas, Cosgrove, Roberts to name a few. Although he is a figurehead of modern Quebec art and has participated in the annual exhibition of the Society of Contemporary Artists, Pellan spends the summer of 1941 with the Palardy Charlevoix with a specific goal to reduce the gap between the last production of Pellan and the public. He then painted me landscape and portraits of young girl of the camapagne. This production will be exhibited at his Montreal workshop in December. This exhibition will be well received by critics and has had the desired effect of bringing Pellan closer to the Quebec public. The following year, in 1942, he exhibited at the Bignou Gallery in New York. American critics praise the exhibition, they mention: "... half-abstractions of a splendid composition and painted with colors fallen from the palette of Matisse" - extract from the book Pellan, written by Germain Lefebvre, page 60.

He participated in a letter denouncing the teaching methods of the Montreal School of Fine Arts published in Le Devoir on May 28, 1941. This letter undermines the institution and direction of Charles Maillard, director. The latter defends his positions and although he knows that Pellan is close to the artist-holder of the School of Furniture, he still offers him a job in his school. This is how Pellan became a professor of painting at the École des Beaux-Arts in Montreal. He will have as his first students, Francoise Sullivan and Mimi Parent. This post is attributed to him by Maillard, but Stanley Cosgrove is also a teacher of painting to dilute the influence that the artist could have on the students. It was in 1945, that nothing goes for Maillard, Fernand Léger arrived from France and friend of Pellan pronounces a speech at the Botanical Garden of Montreal against the academism. This set fire to the powder and during the same year, the director Maillard of the school must resign under the pressure of growing protests.

He was the leader of the Prisme d'Yeux manifesto, having their first exhibition in 1948, a group that sought an art "free from all the links of time and place (...), and who can adulate his expression or compromise its purity ". The manifesto was written by Jacques de Tonnancour and will be signed by course Pellan, but among others by Leon Bellefleur, Albert Dumouchel and Goodgride Roberts to name them.

In 1951, Pellan, having won a fellowship from the Royal Society of Canada, left his post at the École des Beaux-Arts to return to France to learn illustration for publishing, sets and theater costumes. Pellan was invited in 1956 to exhibit at the Hall of City Hall at the invitation of Mayor Jean Drapeau. For the occasion Pellan expresses his vision of modern art. He will mention: "Contemporary art will become decadent if it continues to delight in ease, it is up to us to try to make it a lasting work in tune with the art of the great eras" - Alfred Pellan, text taken from his speech at the Hôtel de Ville in 1956, reprinted by Germain Lefebvre in the book Pellan, page 111. In 1963, he created a kaleidoscope stained glass mural for the Great Hall at Place des Art in Montreal.

In 1967, Pellan was made a Companion of the Order of Canada and awarded the Centennial Medal of Canadian Confederation. Winter season 68 to 69, Pellan presents the costumes for the play titled Night of the Kings of Shakespeare by the TNM. The costumes are a sensation and will become exhibits at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art and then at the Canadian Cultural Center in Paris in '71.

In 1968 and 1970, Pellan received several honourary doctorates from the University of Ottawa, Univertisté Laval and Sir Georges Williams. In 1971, Alfred Pellan was named a member of the Royal Academy of Canada, followed by the honorary presidency of the Guilde Graphique de Montréal.

Beginning with simplified abstract forms of representation, Pellan's art progressed to surreal images. He has also painted murals, designed theater costumes and stained glass, as well as illustrated books. His mediums were oil, watercolor, gouache, ink, silkscreen, lithography, engraving and mixed mediums. His subjects were still life, landscape, urban scenes, figures, portraits, eroticism, allegory, dreams, fantasy, symbolism, color, form and texture. His mature styles were surrealism and abstraction. Intense colors, fluid linear rhythms and two-dimensionality identify most of his work.

Alfred Pellan died in Laval in 1988.

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