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Jean-Paul Riopelle (France 1923‑2002)

”Peinture I”

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

Lot 117 Jean-Paul Riopelle (France 1923‑2002). ”Peinture I”. Signed Riopelle lower right and dated 1964 on the stretcher. Oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm.

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


1.200.000 – 1.500.000 SEK
€ 120.000 – 150.000


Gimpel Fils Gallery, London.
Gimpel & Hanover Galerie, Zurich.
Galerie Haaken, Oslo, acquired in July 1967 from the above.
Christie’s, London, Contemporary Art, 23 October 1997, lot 38.
A Swedish Private Collection.

In context

Jean-Paul Riopelle’s striking “Peinture I” – the grand master of the palette knife

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’. By the use of scraping with his palette knife, letting the knife succeed the brush, he managed to create a unique painting method. A method in which he dragged the colours, often straight from the tube, across the surface of the canvas, arranging the colours in different fields that crosses one another, concluding in a rhythmical and dynamic harmony. Included in this sale is “Penture I”, created in 1964, a fine example of the above, a monumental and joyful composition in vibrant, striking volumes of colour. By then, Riopelle was already a well-established artist with many prominent exhibitions behind him.

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 conducted 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.

The signature style of Riopelle, in which he is smearing the paint with his palette knife became highly acclaimed and he got the opportunity to present many important exhibitions during his lifetime. He participated at three Venice Biennales, the first in 1954, at the Sao Paolo Biennale, at the Kölnischer Kunstverein in Cologne, the National Gallery of Canada and the Musée du Québec and also at the Fondation Maeght and at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. His first solo exhibitions were held in the year of 1956, at Gimpel Gallery in London and Galerie Jacques Dubourg in Paris. The present work has a provenance from the Gimpel Gallery in London.

“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.)

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