This monumental oil is composed of three vertical panels set side by side. Small patches of red, burgundy, white, yellow and blue fill the canvas to form a large mosaic of colours.

Jean Paul Riopelle

(Montréal 1923 – Isle-aux-Grues, Quebec, 2002)




Oil on canvas

300 x 550 cm

Purchased in 1963

National Gallery of Canada, 15038

© Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SODRAC (2018)

Photo: National Gallery of Canada

Pavane is a very large oil painting composed of three panels in which texture and colour are fundamental. Squeezed directly from the tube onto the canvas surface, the paint was applied with a spatula to build up a heavy, irregular impasto. Riopelle created this triptych using the spontaneous, automatic technique that defines the style of Abstract Expressionism. The internationally acclaimed Pavane belongs to the artist’s most famous period, during which he produced large, colourful mosaic-like works. It was exhibited at the 31st Venice Biennale (1962), where Riopelle represented Canada.

Trained at Montréal’s École du meuble under Paul-Émile Borduas, Jean Paul Riopelle was an Automatiste and one of the signers of the 1948 manifesto Refus global [Total Refusal]. Living in Paris and spending time in New York, he associated with both Surrealists and Abstract Expressionists. In the 1950s, he developed a practice based on densely applying thick dabs of colour in a so-called mosaic style. For his use of spontaneous gestures, Riopelle is often compared with the American painter Jackson Pollock (1912-1956). He is among the best known of all Quebec painters.


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