Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Four small shows at the MNBAQ

The beauty of the arched brick walls inside the Charles-Baillairgé Pavilion of the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec belies the building's original purpose; it served as a prison until 1969. Several tiny cells are preserved on the first floor as evidence of its past.

The Ursulines, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1951
Four exhibitions of work by four of Quebec's preeminent artists are showing, indefinitely, in its four galleries. I recently had the opportunity to visit all of them: Jean-Paul Riopelle, Methamorphoses; Fernand Leduc, Painter of Light; Alfred Pellan, Wide-Awake Dreamer; and my favourite, Jean-Paul Lemieux, Silence and Space.

The Express Train, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1968
The paintings I photographed were mostly from his "classical" period, the style we think of when we think about his body of work. In fact his style varied a good deal over his long career. In its early years, he was influenced by the naive folk art of his native province.

Corpus Christi, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1944
And at the end of his career, his work was more expressionistic. But it is the iconic austerity of his classical period that most appeals to me: the monochromatic palette, the simplification of form almost to the point of abstraction, the solitary figures in a silent landscape.
The Ladies' Visit, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1971
The Summer of 1914, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1965

Snow-Covered City, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1963

If you have the chance, I would recommend that you treat yourself to a couple of hours exploring these four galleries, and decide for yourself which of the artists best speaks to you.


Dianne Robinson said...

It's been a few years since I've seen Lemieux's work at the Musée and I love the haunting look that his later work has. But I don't think I'd ever seen Corpus Christi or anything else from that period. Thanks for posting it.

Heather Dubreuil said...

It was fascinating to see the preparatory sketch for "Les Ursulines", which is considered to be the first in his "classical period", and to see how drastically he simplified it to get to the final version. The painting won a prize or two and was a turning point in his career. Too bad I didn't take a photo of the preliminary sketch to show the process.