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Jean-Paul Riopelle (France 1923-2002)

Abstract composition

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary 18 – 20 May 2022

Lot 323 Jean-Paul Riopelle (France 1923‑2002). Abstract composition. Signed Riopelle lower right. Oil on paper laid on canvas, 79 x 59 cm.

Executed in the 1950s.
The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Yseult Riopelle.


200.000 – 300.000 SEK
€ 19.000 – 29.000


Kunsthalle Basel, ”Appel, Matta, Moreni, Riopelle”, 24 January-1 March 1959.
Musée des Beaux-arts, Neuchâtel, ”Appel, Matta, Moreni, Riopelle”, 15 March-12 April 1959.

In context

Jean-Paul Riopelle and the power of abstraction 

“Riopelle succeeds where memory fails. The intangible is given a body, desire a pictorial life. Objects astray, discarded impressions, forgotten emotions are put together in a cocktail-shaker and are poured out on the rocks in a Venetian glass of exquisite transparency in a splendid explosion.” (P. Boudreau, introduction to exhibition catalogue, London 1959).

With his individual and characteristic style, Jean-Paul Riopelle was among the first Canadian artists to achieve international fame and recognition. Known for his abstract works that are expressive, strong and powerful, showing vivid compositions in a style that he was later to describe as ‘abstract landscapism’.


Born in Montreal in Canada, Jean-Paul Riopelle commenced his artistic training at the École des Beaux-Arts and the École de Meuble during the 1940s. He became associated with the group Les Automatistes that consisted of Canadian artists working adjacent to the European Surrealists. The group was founded by Paul Émile Borduas, for whom Riopelle studied. The members of Les Automatistes turned away from the traditional establishment and traditions and instead searched for the subconscious influence on the abstract nonfigurative painting. After the end of World War II Riopelle decided to leave Canada and travel to New York and Paris where his works became included in several important Surrealist international exhibitions. Riopelle met the American artist Joan Mitchell who was one of the leading Abstract Expressionist painters. They both influenced one another during the following decades and at this time, in the beginning of the 1950s, Riopelle started to experiment with his medium and material, dripping, splashing and throwing paint onto his canvases. This eventually advanced into the using of the palette knife, where he approached the canvas with thick, very distinctive fields of colour in imposto, creating a sculptural relief surface. One can easily find parallels to other Abstract Expressionist painters in Riopelle’s paintings, like in the works of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, however Riopelle never joined them officially. Instead he often referred to his style as a kind of interpretation of the nature, the abstract landscapism, and joined the European variant, the Art Informel movement, where he became a key figure, joining among others Pierre Soulages, Jean Fautrier and Georges Mathieu.

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