Paul-Emile Borduas

Canadian, Automatism, Contemporary Art Society.

Paul-Emile Borduas

Paul-Émile Borduas, painter, born in Saint-Hilaire, on the south shore of Montreal in 1905. The first contacts with the art of the young Borduas will be the works of the church of Saint-Hilaire, executed by Ozias Leduc. The painter, Leduc also native of Saint-Hilaire has had a significant impact in the career of the young Paul-Emile Borduas. The latter becomes, in the 1920s, the apprentice of the recognized church decorator Ozias Leduc. The master allowed the apprentice to work on orders for church decoration under his supervision, such as that of the private chapel of the Bishop of Sherbrooke from 1921 to 1923. While working on this order, Leduc enrolls his protégé to courses evening drawings at the École des arts et métiers de Sherbrooke. From 1923 to 1927, Borduas took classes at the École des Beaux-Arts in Montreal, and continued to assist Master Leduc during the summer period. The Borduas way was traced, that of church decorator, he followed the same footsteps that Leduc had followed.

He began his teaching career at the elementary and secondary levels, however. Borduas taught drawing at École Champlain and Montcalm as well as École du Plateau, a school that Clarence Gagnon had attended. Unfortunately, following pressure from Charles Maillard, Borduas loses his position at the Plateau School in favor of Léopold Dufresne. However, Leduc and the Sulpician Olivier Maurault, parish priest of Notre-Dame Church will finance the teachings of Borduas at the Maurice Denis workshop, Sacred Art Workshops in Paris from 1926 to 1930. Although with his contacts with Leduc Borduas was able to participate in some church commissions when he returned to Quebec, and the financial crisis of the 1930s did not allow Borduas to continue in this direction, because just like the rest of the society, the churches stopped spending well.

Borduas became a professor at the École du Meuble in Montreal from 1937. His first exhibitions were at the 55th Spring Salon and the Contemporary Art Society in 1938. In the same year, he founded the Contemporary Art Society with John Lyman and Robert Élie, to promote abstract art in Canada. His first major appearance marked in 1940, with three works at the book fair held at the École Technique de Montréal. Borduas will establish himself as a painter thanks to the exhibition at the Palais Montcalm Foyer in Quebec City in 41 and at the Henry Morgan store in Montreal. He then exhibited at the Salon des Independants which preceded the retrospective of Pellan who had just returned to Quebec. Quebec art critics of the time immediately compared the two modern painters Pellan and Borduas.

Borduas' surrealist works are exhibited in the spring of 1942 at the Foyer de l'Hermitage in Montreal. The critics of Charles Doyon and Jacques de Tonnancour are positive and commercial success is at the rendezvous. Most of the gouache works are sold. A second oil painting exhibition will then be held at the Dominion Gallery in 1943, again, Borduas knows the success and sells the majority of his works. Following a solo exhibition at the department store Morgans in 1946.

During the same year of 1946, Francoise Sullivan studying dance in New York gathered works by Borduas, Riopelle, Gauvreau and Mousseau in the dance studio Francisca Boas and tried to approach the galerist Pierre Matisse, but who at the time, is not interested. This changed a few years later, because the Gallery Pierre Matisse will be the official representative in the United States of Jean-Paul Riopelle. The first exhibition of the "automatist" group will take place in Montreal in April 1946 at 1257, rue Amherst. This exhibition will bring together works by Barbeau, Borduas, Fauteux, Gauvreau, Leduc, Mousso and Riopelle. The art critic of the time quickly recognized Borduas as the instigator of the movement. The following year in 1947, the exhibition automatism went to the Galerie du Luxembourg in Paris. Paul-Emile Borduas writes the global refusal, manifested in 1948 at the Librairie henri Tranquille and co-signed by among others Jean-Paul Riopelle, Marcelle Ferron and Pierre Gauvreau, to name only these. The purpose of this manifesto was to respond to the misunderstandings that could have aroused the activities of the group while criticizing the French Canadian society of the time.

This manifesto will have a broad echo on Quebec society, which earned him his dismissal from the School of furniture, where he was a professor. He went to settle in the United States. After a few years spent in New York, he embarked on board the Liberty for Paris from where the painter Marcelle Ferron. He spent the last four years of his life there. He died in 1960 in Paris at the age of 55.
Since 1977, the Government of Quebec has awarded the Paul-Emile Borduas Prize. It crowns the entire career and work of a craftsman or an artist in the fields of visual arts and crafts.


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