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Jean-Paul Riopelle (France 1923‑2002)


To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary 9 – 12 November 2021

Lot 118 Jean-Paul Riopelle (France 1923‑2002). ”Couchant”. Signed Riopelle lower right. Oil on canvas, 81 x 100 cm.

Executed in 1973.
The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Yseult Riopelle.


800.000 – 1.000.000 SEK
€ 80.000 – 100.000


Galerie Maeght, Paris, no. 13651.
Galerie Bel’Art, Stockholm.
A Swedish Private Collection.


Galerie Maeght, Paris, ”Jean-Paul Riopelle 1974”, 1974, cat. no. 17.

In context

The suggestive impression of Riopelle’s powerful “Couchant”

When Jean-Paul Riopelle left his native Canada for Paris in the year of 1947, he developed a style in which he combined his North American background with a distinct European sensibility. In the year of 1951, he was one of the artists included in an exhibition in the French capital called “Véhémences Confrontées” (Opposing Forces), a term that could describe this strong and individual artist quite well. Further on he went on to develop a distinctive technique, using only a palette knife to apply the paint onto his canvas in different layers. The sharp, quick strokes that flourishes over the surface, resulting in a thick suggestive layer of paint is the significant style of the peculiar artist Jean-Paul Riopelle. “There is no abstraction or figuration: there is only expression and expressing oneself is about placing oneself in front of things. To abstract means to take away, to isolate, to separate, whilst I try to do the contrary, to add, to approach, to link” (Riopelle cited in Y. Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle. Catalogue raisonné 1954-1959. Volume 2, Montréal, 2004).

Riopelle never searched to create a rational nor depicting art but was proceeding from an autonomous process beyond the conscious, sometimes named as lyric abstraction. He was fascinated about different materials that he loved to experiment with, being as much of a sculptor as a painter, often even referring to his paintings as “sculptures in oil”. In France he became one of the leading artists of the Art Informel movement, making him one of the most interesting artists active on the European art scene in the 1950s-70s. During the later part of his artistry, Riopelle became closer to nature in his creating, often referring to his style as abstract landscapism. “Abstract: abstraction, pulling from, taking from… I take the opposite approach. I do not take from Nature, I go towards Nature” (Riopelle cited in Y. Riopelle, Jean Paul Riopelle. Catalogue raisonné 1939-1953. Tome 1, Montréal, 1999).

When Riopelle made his entry on the French avant-garde scene he was utterly influenced by the buzzing Parisian life and his creativity exploded. When he had found the essence of his abstract style, creating mosaic-like patterns over the canvas, abandoning the paintbrush and choosing the palette knife as his primarily working tool, he was at ease with his material, building paintings in imposto, sculpturing each stroke as effective as the following. When using this very individual technique, Riopelle created masterpieces that recalls elements of nature, linking them to creations by artists from other ages and times, making them somewhat timeless and universal. The painting “Couchant” is part of Riopelle’s later oeuvre. This dramatic composition in darker and earthy tones, combined with orange, red, yellow and violet tones, construed by the title of the painting, recall the rendering of a landscape after sun has set. The different rectangular volumes of the palette knife seem to have been created in a wild and spontaneous flow of creativity and intensity. The result is like a kaleidoscopic pattern of brilliance that encourages the viewer to a wonderful experience, with eyes dancing across the dynamic composition.

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