An in-depth investigation of one of the most important Canadian painters of the twentieth century.
From his beginnings as a rural church decorator, to his role as catalyst of the social and artistic manifesto the Refus global, to a career as Canada's pre-eminent practitioner of radical abstraction abroad, Paul-Émile Borduas's short life encompassed the reversals and contradictions of the modern condition.
Drawing on a lifetime of published research, François-Marc Gagnon's comprehensive biography is a far-reaching exploration of a Quebec cultural figure renowned for both his art and his thought. Gagnon details each period of Borduas's dynamic career - his apprenticeship with Ozias Leduc, his teaching in Montreal and the role within the Automatiste group, his move to New York at the height of the Abstract Expressionist movement, and then, against the current of the times, to Paris, where he created the iconic images of his "cosmic" period. Borduas's relentless search for an authentic art often put him at odds with his surroundings. As an avant-garde artist in a Montreal art world bound by tradition, his most important work had to be exhibited in makeshift venues; as a surrealist-influenced francophone in New York, he recognized the importance of the major figures of Abstract Expressionism but maintained an independent style and method. A full appreciation of Borduas's radical stance - an artistic and intellectual orientation that was always towards the universal - transforms a Canadian cultural landscape where the narrative of artistic modernism centres on figurative landscape art.
An original and rigorously researched work, Paul-Émile Borduas: A Critical Biography provides an English-language readership with a much-needed understanding of a seminal modernist, an exemplary figure in Canadian art, and the origins of modern art in North America.