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Born in Montreal on October 7, 1923, Jean Paul Riopelle is a Canadian and Quebec artist of international stature. During his long career, he approached the most diverse techniques and produced nearly 7000 works. He particularly exploited painting, engraving and sculpture. He has exhibited all over the world and has distinguished himself by his unique style, at the crossroads of the surrealist, automatist and “all over” movements. He approached both abstraction and figuration while ignoring their respective boundaries. Jean Paul Riopelle died on March 12, 2002 in Saint-Antoine-de-l’Isle-aux-Grues.

Here is a video clip from Studio Riopelle presenting the childhood and adolescence of Jean Paul Riopelle.
His childhood
His teenage years
His life as a young adult
His career in France
His death

Riopelle, a child who grew up

From his birth in 1923 on De Lorimier Street in Montreal to his death in L’Isle-aux-Grues in 2002, Jean Paul Riopelle lived a rich, creative and free life. A life whose strong points were established very early on: a passion for nature, a taste for discovery and a total commitment to art.

His childhood

Jean Paul Riopelle enfant, vers 1926, archives Yseult Riopelle

Jean Paul Riopelle enfant, vers 1926, archives Yseult Riopelle

His childhood

1923-1935

  • Jean Paul Riopelle was born on October 7, 1923 in Montreal
  • He is the son of Anna and Léopold Riopelle
  • As a child, he drew and went fishing with his father
  • He dreams of becoming an engineer, a car mechanic or a professional field hockey player!

His teenage years

Jean Paul Riopelle, Hibou premier, oil on canvas, 40,5 x 30 cm (1939-1941) © Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2022)

Jean Paul Riopelle, Hibou premier, oil on canvas, 40,5 x 30 cm (1939-1941) © Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2022)

His teenage years

1936-1939

  • Starting in 1936, he attended the St-Louis-de-Gonzague school in Montreal, then the Mont Saint-Louis
  • The same year, he began his private drawing lessons with Mr. Bisson
  • In 1938, he attended a conference by the naturalist Grey Owl which inspired his passion for nature, wildlife and the environment
  • In 1939, he joined the Saint-Jacques Scouts and became passionate about life in nature

His life as a young adult

Riopelle à Saint-Fabien-sur-mer, vers 1941, archives Yseult Riopelle

Riopelle à Saint-Fabien-sur-mer, vers 1941, archives Yseult Riopelle

His life as a young adult

1940-1946

  • In 1942, Riopelle entered the École polytechnique de Montréal
  • In 1943, he enrolled at the École du meuble. There he met professor Paul-Émile Borduas
  • In 1944 and 1945, he stayed in Saint-Fabien-sur-Mer and painted landscapes
  • In 1946, he painted in a shed with a few friends who were also students of Borduas: they became the “Automatistes”
  • He married his childhood sweetheart, Françoise Lespérance, and the couple moved to France

His career in France

Jean Paul Riopelle and Pierre Gauvreau, Cover of the manifesto Refus global, 1948<br />
Ink on paper, 21,5 x 18,5 cm © Estates of Pierre Gauvreau and Claude Gauvreau / SOCAN (2022).
<p>Pierre Gauvreau and Claude Gauvreau, Title page of the manifesto Refus global, 1948<br />
Ink on paper, 21,5 x 18,5 cm © Estates of Pierre Gauvreau and Claude Gauvreau / SOCAN (2022).</p>

Jean Paul Riopelle and Pierre Gauvreau, Cover of the manifesto Refus global, 1948
Ink on paper, 21,5 x 18,5 cm © Estates of Pierre Gauvreau and Claude Gauvreau / SOCAN (2022).

Pierre Gauvreau and Claude Gauvreau, Title page of the manifesto Refus global, 1948
Ink on paper, 21,5 x 18,5 cm © Estates of Pierre Gauvreau and Claude Gauvreau / SOCAN (2022).

His career in France

1947-1989

  • In June 1947, Riopelle signed the text Rupture inaugurale in solidarity with André Breton and the Surrealist group
  • In 1948, he returned to Quebec and signed the manifesto Refus global
  • His daughters Yseult and Sylvie were born in 1948 and 1949.
  • In France, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, he acquired an international reputation as a painter and sculptor
  • Later, in the 1970’s, he went on hunting and fishing trips in the Canadian North and nature became more and more present in his works.
  • At the end of 1989, Riopelle returned to Quebec to settle down

His death

Jean Paul Riopelle, L&#8217;Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg, mixed media on canvas, 155 x 4039 cm (assembled) triptych (1992) © Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2022)

Jean Paul Riopelle, L’Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg, mixed media on canvas, 155 x 4039 cm (assembled) triptych (1992) © Estate of Jean Paul Riopelle / SOCAN (2022)

His death

1990-2002

  • In the fall of 1992, following the death of Joan Mitchell, who had been his partner for 25 years, Riopelle created the imposing fresco dedicated to her memory, L’Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg
  • He died on March 12, 2002, at his home in L’Isle-aux-Grues, in the world of white geese.

To learn more, visit the website of your partner the Art Canada Institute:

Art Book Jean Paul Riopelle: Life & Work