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Sous le vent de l'île
by Bernard Teyssedre
Article en français
The large painting Sous
le vent de l'île (Wind over the Island) by Paul-Émile Borduas,
in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, is a milestone
in the artist's production and should be dated to January 1947. This
dating is supported by evidence contained in a photograph taken at
the time of the automatists' exhibition at the Montreal home of
Pierre Gauvreau early in 1947, and in a criticism of the exhibition
that appeared in Le Quartier Latin.
Borduas's evolution towards abstraction, from the Montreal Museum of
Fine Arts' Nature morte (Still Life) of 1941 to the gouaches
of 1942 and the oils of 1943, is striking. There is then a return to
figurative work in 1945, illustrated by Poisson rouge (Red
Fish) and Léda, le cygne et le serpent (Leda, the Swan and the Serpent).
thus comes back to earth and regains strength. He experiments with a
new technique which will later bring him to the use of the
palette-knife, as in Éternelle Amérique (Obsessive
it is later still, after Carquois fleuris (Quivers in
Bloom) and Parachutes végétaux (Suspended Algae), that he arrives at
le vent de l'île.
This canvas ideally exemplifies his concern for a painting that
presents "an object upon a background that extends to
infinity." Reminiscences of figurative or narrative elements
have almost disappeared, the background has become lighter, the
baroque composition has given way to a more classical organization.
It was in January 1947 also that Borduas refused an invitation from
André Breton to exhibit at the Galerie Maeght in Paris. He believed
that he should no longer identify himself with the surrealists, and
this differentiates him from other members of the automatist group,
namely J. P. Riopelle and Marcel Barbeau.
It is evident today that Wind over the Island can be regarded
as the earliest prediction of the more classical space-light
paintings of his Paris period.
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