Riopelle at the MMFA

On view.

Jean Paul Riopelle, one of the greatest Canadian artists of the 20th century, is the subject of a new exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA). Riopelle, influenced by the Surrealists, was one of the first members of Les Automatistes, a Québécois movement known for its use of automatism, a method of creating straight from the subconscious. Untethered from conscious control, the true self is allowed to exhale onto the canvas.


Left: Grand duc, 1970, oil on canvas, 242 x 163 cm. Private collection. © Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2020).  Right: Fontaine, about 1964-1977, painted plaster and ropes, 400 x 300 x 300 cm. Private collection. © Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2020). Photos by MMFA, Jean-François Brière.


Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures, on view until March, will explore the painter’s fascination with the North through nearly 175 works and more than 200 artefacts and archival documents. With an intercultural approach, the exhibition will be the first of its kind to trace Riopelle’s travels in the Far North of Canada during the 1970s and offer a parallel between his works and the sources that influenced him. Alongside his surrealist pieces, a selection of historical and contemporary Inuit masks and works of Pacific Northwest Coast First Nations will offer insight to how Indigenous culture informed Riopelle’s art.