National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Bulletin 1 (I:1) May 1963

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A criterion for judging the work of Borduas

by Jean-René Ostiguy

Article en Français

Page  1

The art of Paul-Emile Borduas (1905-1960) was based on "automatism", or pure spontaneity. Borduas made several statements on the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious, the "exterior world" and the "interior world". Did his theories lead him to a point of no return, and were his methods truly spontaneous? These questions are raised by Jean-René Ostiguy in discussing the factors which account for rationality and formal  elaboration in the work of Borduas. He endeavours to prove that Borduas did consider the development of forms while he was working rapidly and intuitively. The proof of this can be seen in the evolution of Borduas' work from 1947 until his death in 1960. It is true, however, that before 1947 this painter too often displayed a butterfly-like fancy, though it later transpired that his destiny was rather that of an industrious bee.

Pierre Francastel, scholar and art historian, is one of the outstanding critics of today who appreciated the importance of the exhibition Les jeunes peintres de tradition francaise in 1941. He published an article in Prisme des Arts, in which he proposed a criterion par applicable to the work of any artist. Mr Ostiguy uses Francastel's standard in his criticism of Borduas' painting.

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