This painting shows many women outlines in conversation seated on chairs. Their tangled bodies are made up of various facets defined by small lines of yellow, pink, red, orange, blue, green, purple and black.

Alfred Pellan

(Québec City 1906 – Laval, Quebec, 1988)



[Secret Conversation]

about 1945

Oil on canvas

208 x 167.5 cm

Purchased in 1985

Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec collection, 1985.03

© Estate of Alfred Pellan / SODRAC (2018)

Photo: MNBAQ, Patrick Altman

Alfred Pellan’s Cubist painting Conciliabule [Secret Conversation] shows multiple facets of female bodies simultaneously. The profusion of profiles creates the impression that the figures are conversing in a small group. Four faces with rudimentary features appear in a decorative band below the scene. Pellan has created textural effects by juxtaposing small colourful lines that lend movement to the forms. His investigation of a freer style led him to deconstruct the representational space. Works like this one, midway between figurative and abstract, made Pellan one of the leading painters of modernity in Quebec.

In 1926, Alfred Pellan received a Quebec government scholarship that allowed him to study in Paris, where his painting style evolved through exposure to Cubist, Fauve and Surrealist art. Although his subjects were still recognizable, the colours became brighter and the images more abstract. After returning to Quebec in 1940, Pellan taught at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal, where he challenged the academic approach of some of the teachers. In 1948, he co-signed the manifesto Prisme d’Yeux (Prism of Eyes), which advocated expressive freedom unhampered by ideology. Around the same time, he undertook an interdisciplinary projects involving stage set and costume design.


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