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 Guido Molinari  (1933 - 2004)

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Lived/Active: Quebec/New York / Canada      Known for: Abstract-op art-stripes painting, sculpture, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Guido Molinari  OC, LLD, RCA, SAPQ, AANFM (1933-2004)

Guido Molinari was a painter, printmaker, sculptor, art theorist, philosopher, educator and art collector (1) who was born, lived and died in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

His mediums were oil, acrylic, Duco auto paint, lithograph, serigraph (silkscreen), watercolor, charcoal, pastel, ink, gouache, enamel and steel.  His subjects are abstraction focusing on the dynamics of color and new pictorial space. His most famous paintings are hard edge and consist of vertical bands of color. His styles are Plasticien (2), Op Art and Minimalism.  Quotes:" My own position regarding the problem of color is that it is through a redefinition of the color phenomena and dynamism that a painting can realize its full potentialities ?" and " In my painting, the bands of color might measure the same, but in terms of color-energy their size is varied." On another theme "The Renaissance saw the return of the bad values of the Roman Empire, namely realism." - Guido Molinari.

He studied at the Montreal  School of Fine Arts (1948-51) under Umberto Bruni (see AskART), Jacques de Tonnancour (see AskART) and Fleurimond Constantineau (see AskART). He also studied with Marion Mildred Dale Scott (see AskART) and Gordon McKinley Webber (see AskART) at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1951). Some of his stated influences are Italian Futurism, American Abstract Expressionism, Piet Mondrian, the scientist/philosopher Alfred Korzybski (1878 - 1950) (3) and Fernande Saint-Martin (4). His travels include numerous trips to New York City.

He taught at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1963 - 1965) and at Concordia University, Montreal (1970 - 1997).

He was a member of the Society of Professional Quebec Artists (SAPQ) (VP 1967-68), the Association of Non-Figurative Artists of Montreal (AANFM) and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

In addition to exhibiting with the above artist organizations he has also exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1955 "Espace 55" and 1958 - 68); the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa "The Canadian Biennial" (1959, 61 and 63) and "300 Years of Canadian Art" (1967); the Paris Biennale (1961); Spoleto, Italy "Canadian Modern Painters"  (1962); the Guggenheim, NYC (1964) and "Art in the Sixties" (1967); the Museum of Modern Art, NYC "The Responsive Eye" (1965) and "Optical Art" (1966); " the Venice Biennale (1968); the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston "Nine Canadians" (1967); the Museum of Modern Art Paris "Canada: Art Today" (1968), the Winnipeg Art Gallery (1979), the Art Gallery of Ontario (1980) and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1981). From 1970 to 2002 there were 17 exhibitions of his work at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art.

There have been Molinari solo exhibitions at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1961); the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina (1964); the Edmonton Art Gallery (1966); the National Gallery of Canada (1976 and 2004); the Art Gallery of Ontario (1977), the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston (1980); the Vancouver Art Gallery (1989); and at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1995).

His works are in many private, corporate and public collections.  Some of the public collections are the Museum of Modern Art (NYC), the Guggenheim Museum (NYC), the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Quebec (Quebec City), the Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina) and the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art. There are 64 Molinari works in the National Gallery of Canada including his monumental steel and enamel sculpture "Homage to Samuel Beckett".

Among his many honors and awards are the Order of Canada (1971), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1967), a Canada Council Grant 1968 and the Jessie Dow Prize (1962).  He also received an honorary doctorate from Concordia University (2004).

As a very prominent artist his work has been discussed in numerous magazine and newspaper articles dating from 1956 (Montreal Weekend Magazine "Their Objective is Non-Objective" by Louis Jacques). He is listed in A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; in The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar; in The Canadian Encyclopedia  (1985), Hurtig Publishers; in the 1999 and 2006 versions of E. Benezit, published by Grund; in Jaques Cattell Press, Who's Who in American Art 15th Edition; in Who's Who in American Art 2001-2002, 24th Edition (2001), published by Marquis; in The Dictionary of Art (1996), edited by Jane Turner (pg 816, vol 21of 34); and in Falks Who Was Who in American Art.

His work is also illustrated and discussed in Art Gallery of Ontario - The Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield; in Contemporary Canadian Art (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff; in Visions - Contemporary Art in Canada (1983), various authors and editors; in The History of Painting in Canada - Toward A Peoples Art (1974) by Barry Lord; in Sculpture 67 (1968), by Dorothy Cameron and Don Wallace; in A Concise History of Canadian Painting (1973), by Dennis Reid; in Great Canadian Painting - A Century of Art (1966), by Elizabeth Kilbourn; in Four Decades (1972) by Paul Duval; in Painting in Canada: a history (1966) by J. Russell Harper; in Landmarks of Canadian Art (1978), by Peter Mellen; in Contemporary Artists (1977), edited by Colin Naylor and Genesis P-Orridge; in Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art (1967), by R.H.Hubbard and J.R. Ostiguay; in Passionate Spirits: a history of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880-1980 (1980), by Rebecca Sisler; in Enjoying Canadian Painting (1976), by Patricia Godsell; in Contemporary Canadian Painting (1972), by William Withrow; in The Best Contemporary Canadian Art (1987), by Joan Murray; in Canadian Art Today (1970), by William Townsend; in Cineplex Odeon(1989), by David Burnett; in Canadian Art in the Twentieth Century (1999), by Joan Murray; in Contemporary Canadian Artists (1997), edited by Robert Lang and others; in Modern Painting in Canada (1978), by Terry Fenton and Karen Wilkin; in Canadian Art: From its Beginnings to 2000 (2000), by Anne Newlands; in Abstract Painting in Canada (2008), by Roald Nasgaard; in Interviews with the Phoenix - Interviews with fifteen Italian-Quebecois artists (1998) by Fulvio Caccia; in Documents in Canadian Art (1987), edited by Douglas Fetherling; in Canadian Paintings, Prints and Drawings (2007), by Anne Newlands; in On the Enjoyment of Modern Art, by Jerrold Morris; in Masterpieces of Canadian Art from The National Gallery of Canada (1990), by David Burnett; and in Painting & Sculpture in The Museum of Modern Art, 1929-1967, by Alfred H. Barr Jr. There is also Guido Molinari (1976), by Pierre Theberge.


(1) His substantial collection included works by Mondrian, Jasper Johns and Matisse.

(2) The Plasticiens were a Canadian non-figurative painting movement, descended from cubism, which began in 1955 with Manifesto des plasticiens, written by  Rodolphe de Repentigny (AKA: Jauran).  Adherents included Claude Tousignant, Fernand Leduc, Louis Belzile, Jean-Paul Jerome, Fernand Loupin and de Repentigny.  They followed the example of Piet Mondrian.  The focus of their works was color, line and contrast.

(3) Korzybski's theory of General Semantics called for a change in our awareness through "consciousness of abstracting".  He suggested we modify our approach to the world by acknowledging that our beliefs about it are often misled by the abstract words we use to describe it, or in the case of a painting, the objective image.  The reality according to him was constantly changing with the each individual's perception.  In art, this was acknowledged by eliminating the distracting object from a painting, thus allowing the viewer to become a part of it.  One of the techniques he advocated was becoming inwardly and outwardly quiet, an experience he called  "silence on the objective levels."  In 1951 Molinari, on a similar thought track, experimented by painting in a dark room to eliminate visual influences.  This was two years before he'd heard of Korzybski.

(4) Fernande Saint-Martin (B.1927) is a professor, writer, journalist, poet, and art theorist.  She is a former President of the International Association of Visual Semiotics, an elected member of the Royal Society of Canada (scientists and scholars), and an elected member of the French-Canadian Society.  She is the author of several books, including Semiotics of Visual Language (1990).  Her many honours include the Order of Canada (1988) and the Molson Prize (1989). She married Guido Molinari in 1958 and is his widow.

Prepared and contributed by M.D.Silverbrooke

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Guido Molinari was a Canadian artist, known for his abstract* paintings. He was born in Montreal of Italian heritage with parents from Cune (Borgo a Mozzano, Tuscany) and Naples, Campania. He began painting at age 13, and his existentialist approach to art was formed during a bout with tuberculosis at age 16, during which he read Nietzsche, Sartre, Piaget, and Camus. He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts de Montréal* and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

He practiced abstraction in New York, inspired by Barnett Newman, and Jackson Pollock, and then returned to Montreal where he produced some of the finest pieces of his career. He married Fernande Saint-Martin in 1958. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship* in 1967, was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1971, and won the Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas in 1980.

His work is known for its focus on modular and contrasting colours, shapes, and lines. It is exhibited worldwide, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, and the Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York.

An avid art collector, his extensive private collection includes the work of Mondrian, Matisse, John Cage, Jasper Johns, and Quebec artists Denis Juneau, John Lyman, and Ozias Leduc.

He died in Montreal.

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Guido Molinari, painter, studied briefly at the School of Design at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1950-51), and began making drawings and paintings combining automatic methods with a disciplined approach. He was a leader in the development of a rigorous colour abstraction in Montréal.

Characteristic of his paintings in the 1960s were vertical, hard-edged bands of colour. Pictorial space in these paintings was created by the spectator's perception of the shifting and mixing of the colours. More recently, colour in his work had been reduced to very dark values, and rather than narrow bands, the paintings were divided into 2 to 5 large vertical sections.

In 1956 Molinari was a founding member of the Association des artistes non-figuratifs de Montréal. He exhibited at the Biennale in Venice in 1968, where he was awarded the David E. Bright Foundation prize. In 1977 he participated in the Paris Biennale, and in 1980 he was awarded the Paul-Émile BORDUAS Prize by the Québec government.

Molinari, who taught at Concordia University until 1997, exerted a powerful influence on younger artists, through his teaching, his theoretical writing and his opinions, firmly held and strongly stated. The exhibition Guido Molinari: 1951-1961, Peintures en noir et blanc, was organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1989 and toured the country.

The Canadian Encyclopedia,

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