Art Gallery of Alberta

The Automatiste Revolution: Montreal 1941-1960
June 23-October 14, 2012


image credits [click to view]


Pierre Gauvreau, Colloque Exhubérant, 1944. © Pierre Gauvreau / SODRAC (2012)

Paul-Émile Borduas, Composition, 1942, Public Domain

Paul-Émile Borduas, Bercement silencieux, 1956. © Estate of Paul-Émile Borduas / SODRAC (2009)

Françoise Sullivan performing Danse dans la neige, February 1948. Photo: Maurice Perron. Collection of Musée National des beaux-arts du Québec. 



Curated by Roald Nasgaard

This exhibition includes 60 works of art, as well as photographs, books, and other ephemera documenting the history of the Automatiste, Canada’s first truly avant-garde art movement.

The Automatistes were the first artists to bring modernist painting to Canada and the first Canadian artists to embrace avant-garde gestural abstraction. Gathered under the leadership of Paul-Émile Borduas in the early 1940s, they were inspired by stream-of-consciousness writings of the time and approached their works through an exploration of the subconscious. They published Refus global (Total Refusal) in 1948 and it became one of the pillars of the Quiet Revolution, a period of intense change in Quebec. Refus global was an anti-religious and anti-establishment manifesto—one of the most controversial artistic and social documents in modern Quebec.

The Automatistes were not solely painters, but also included dancers, playwrights, poets, critics, and choreographers. After twenty years of challenging the politically and religiously repressive Quebec society, the Automatiste group disbanded in 1960 after the death of Borduas.

Organized and circulated by the Varley Art Gallery of Markham

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