Toronto-based auction house, Heffel has announced its highlights for its upcoming Postwar and Contemporary Art sale slated to take place on July 15th as a live sale in the Design Exchange in Toronto’s financial district. Among the top lots in the sale’s offerings is Postwar master and Canadian native, Jean-Paul Riopelle’s sprawling canvas Le réveil dated 1970, which carries an estimate of $700,000-$1 million.
Le réveil features an abstracted set of planes reminiscent of a landscape, created through a scaled texture of palette-knife markings against a backdrop of white. The white field was an important aspect of the lyrical abstraction movement, which emphasized voids in representation. Riopelle famously did not believe in an abstract way of painting, he claimed there was no separation in method between abstraction and figuration. “I move just the right distance away from reality, but I don’t totally separate myself from it,” Riopelle said.
Most widely known for his nonrepresentational landscape paintings, the work on offer is thus signature Riopelle. “The scale alone is monumental,” Robert Heffel notes of the 6 ft by 9 1/4 ft. canvas. “In that year in 1970, he only painted one other painting that was larger than this. It’s one of those paintings you really need to see in person.” The work mimics the feeling of standing in front of nature, according to the auctioneer.
Influenced by artists such as Andre Breton, whom he met in the late 1940s in Paris, Riopelle was brought into the circle of European surrealism. He went on to sign the seminal surrealist manifesto Rupture inaugural published in 1948. In the mid-1950s, Riopelle became interested in sculpture, and so began his foray into the concept of allover landscape that would come to define his style. It was around this time in 1995 in Paris, he met abstract expressionist, Joan Mitchell with whom he had a formative and tumultuous 24-year relationship.
Riopelle’s work is receiving renewed institutional attention, Heffel notes, with a forthcoming exhibition currently on hold at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and a foundation recently established in Montreal in 2019. Riopelle’s works are included among globally renowned museum collections including the Tate in London, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Venice Guggenheim Collection.