Photographic book

Canadian art in the 1950s - 1960s


Montréal: Les Plasticiens
Montréal: Les Plasticiens

The spontaneous, gestural expression of the Automatistes came under criticism in the early 1950s from a new group of abstract artists in Montréal called Les Plasticiens. The founders of this group were Louis Belzile, Jean-Paul Jérôme, Fernand Toupin, and Jauran—the pseudonym of influential art critic Rodolphe de Repentigny. The Plasticiens advocated a more controlled abstraction inspired by modern painting in France and based on geometric forms and planes of overlapping color.

In the mid-1950s Jauran and the Automatiste Fernand Leduc formed a society to present exhibitions, the Non-Figurative Artists’ Association of Montreal (NFAAM). The NFAAM was a coalition of more than 40 Automatistes, Plasticiens, and other abstractionists, many of whom were women. It was the largest and most unusual alliance of abstract painters, sculptors, and printmakers in Canada at the time.

By 1960, however, the pure geometry of a second generation of Plasticiens had taken hold and supplanted the NFAAM’s belief in the coexistence of various styles of abstract art. Led by Guido Molinari, Claude Tousignant, and later Yves Gaucher, the younger Plasticiens created a Montréal school of geometric abstraction with their large-scale, hard-edged paintings that featured bands of strong color. Another tradition of more lyrical, non-representational painting began in Montréal in the 1960s. These painters combined elements of gestural and geometric abstraction. Among the artists who contributed to it were Jean McEwen, Rita Letendre, Ulysse Comtois, and Charles Gagnon.

The first shared commitment to abstraction in Ontario occurred in Toronto during the early 1950s with the formation of a group known as Painters Eleven.

Prominent members of the group included Jock MacDonald, Jack Bush, William Ronald, Harold Town, Alexandra Luke, and Hortense Gordon. Their painting was influenced by New York abstract expressionism and backed by American art critic Clement Greenberg. Painters Eleven created intensely colored abstract works that sometimes incorporated collage (torn paper or other materials stuck to the surface). These works stimulated an appreciation for modern art in Toronto, a city known for its conservative taste. Painters Eleven disbanded in 1960.

New York painting similarly influenced the next generation of artists in Toronto, although this group reintroduced representational imagery into abstract painting in Ontario. Graham Coughtry and Michael Snow, for example, incorporated the human figure, while Joyce Wieland, Gordon Rayner, and Gershon Iskowitz found inspiration in the landscape. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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