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 Alfred Pellan  (1906 - 1988)

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Lived/Active: Quebec / Canada/France      Known for: easel and mural painting, printmaking, illustration, teaching

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
© 2003 Alfred Pellan Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Alfred Pellan was a painter, printmaker, illustrator, graphic artist, theatrical designer, muralist and educator.  He was born in Quebec City, Quebec and died in Laval (a Montreal suburb), Quebec where he lived most of his life.  He also lived in Paris, France for two extended periods, 1926 to 1940 and 1952 to 1955.
His mediums were oil, watercolour, gouache, ink, silkscreen, lithograph, serigraph, etching, charcoal, graphite and mixed mediums.  His subjects were still life, landscape, urban scenes, figures, portraits, eroticism, allegory, dreams, fantasy, symbolism, colour, shape and texture.  His mature styles were Surrealism and Abstraction.  Intense colours, fluid linear rhythms and two-dimensionality identify most of his work.  Quote: "I began painting landscapes, and still life and figurative portraits.  But then I started transposing shapes and colours more and more in my paintings, I discovered the forces in this kind of transposition, the poetry, the dreams and the mystery." - Alfred Pellan.
He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Quebec City (1920 - 1925); and won a Quebec provincial scholarship to study, in Paris, at l'Ecole Nationale superieure des Beaux-Arts (1926 -1930).  While there he studied under Lucien Simon (see AskART) and attended the academies Grande Chaumière, Colarossi and Ranson.  He also visited Italy (1935) and Greece (1936). He didn't return to Canada until 1940. The bulk of his teaching career consisted of 10 years at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts du Montreal (1943 - 1952).
Pellan was a member of the Contemporary Arts Society (1940) and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (Associate 1971, Academician 1973).  He was also the founder of the Prisme d'Yeux group (Prism of Eyes) in 1948 (1).
In addition to exhibiting with the above organizations he was also included in group exhibitions at the Galerie des Beaux Arts, Paris (1933); the Salon d'Automne, Paris (1934); the Salon des Tuileries, Paris (1935); the Salon des Surindependants, Paris (1938, 1939); the "Paris: Painters Today"  exhibition, in Washington, D.C.(1939); the Pan-American Exhibition at Andover Museum, Boston (1943); the "UNESCO International Exposition of Modern Art", in Paris (1946); the Art Gallery of Toronto (2), Ontario ("50 Years of Canadian Painting", 1949); the Venice Biennale (1952); the Salon de Mai, Paris (1954); the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa ("French Canadian Painters", 1956; the "Sixth Canadian Biennial", 1965; and "300 years of Canadian Art", 1967); the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts ( "35 Contemporary Painters", 1957); the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels ( "Contemporary Canadian Art", 1958); the "Festival of Two Worlds" in Spoleto, Italy (1963); the Tate Gallery, London ( "Canadian Painting 1939 -1963", 1964); the San Francisco Museum of Arts (Fifteen Canadian Artists, 1965); the Art Institute of Chicago (Modern Art in Advertising, 1967); the Montreal Museum of Modern Art ("10  Quebec Painters", 1968 and "Drawing and Surrealism", 1979 ); the Art Gallery of Ontario ("A Survey of Canadian Painting", 1975); "The Canadian Landscape" travelling exhibition in London, Madrid and Paris (1983); and the Museum of Quebec (1985).
The public venues for his solo exhibitions and retrospectives include the Academie Ranson, Paris (1935); the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1940); the Musee National d' Art Moderne, Paris (1955); the Hall of Honour, Montreal (1956); the National Gallery of Canada (1960, 1973, 1980); the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Ontario (1964); the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1968); the Montreal Museum of Modern Art (1969, 1972, 1994); and the Museum of Quebec (1972, 1993, 1998).
Pellan's works are in many private and corporate collections. They are also in numerous public collections including the Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton, New Brunswick), the Dalhousie Art Gallery (Halifax, N.S.), the Museum of Quebec, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Montreal Museum of Modern Art, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan), the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), the Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, D.C.) and the Museum of Modern Art, Georges Pompidou Centre (Paris). The National Gallery of Canada bought its first Pellan painting in 1923, when the artist was 17 years old. Currently, it has  44 Pellan works in its permanent collection, including its first the 1922 painting "Corner of Old Quebec".
Pellan also did several murals, mosaics and stained glass works for public buildings. Some of their locations are the Winnipeg Airport; the Canadian Consulate in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Place des Arts, Montreal; the City Centre Building, Montreal; the National Library and Archives, Ottawa; and St. Theophile Church, Laval, Quebec.
In Montreal he also designed sets and costumes for the Monument National (1944,1945), the Gesu Theatre (1946), the Montreal Theatre Ballet (1957) and Théâtre du Nouveau Monde at Port Royal Theatre, Place des Arts (1968, 1969).
His numerous honours and awards include, the very highest Canadian honour, the Order of Canada CC (3) in 1967, which recognizes "a lifetime of outstanding achievement and merit of the highest degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large". In 1985, he received one of the highest honours of his home province, the National Order of Quebec (OQ). Over the years, he was also awarded four honorary doctorates ( 2 - D.F.A.s, LL.D, D. Lit.), the Centennial Medal (1967) and, ironically (see footnote 1), the Paul-Émile Borduas Prize (1984) (4).
The most recent posthumous honour came in 2004, when the Canadian Parliament renamed the federal election riding of "Laval East", where he had lived since 1950, "Alfred Pellan".
(1) A Canadian group of artists founded in 1948, largely on the initiative of Alfred Pellan, to counteract the rising influence of Paul-Emile Borduas and Les Automatistes. Alfred Pellan, Louis Archambault, Léon Bellefleur, Jean Benoit, Jacques de Tonnancour, Albert Dumouchel, Gabriel Filion, Pierre Garneau, Arthur Gladu, Lucien Morin, Mimi Parent,  Jeanne Rhéaume, Goodridge Roberts, Roland Truchon and Gordon Webber were the founding members.They had an exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in February 1948. Having accomplished its goal of eroding Borduas's control of the Contemporary Arts Society, Prisme d'Yeux folded shortly after the CAS disbanded. It was active for only about 18 months. Source: Egregore: A History of the Montreal Automatist Movement (1998), by Ray Ellenwood. (see book references).
(2) Since 1966, the Art Gallery of Ontario.
(3) The rules are that there cannot be more than 165 living Companions of the Order of Canada (CC) at any one time.
(4) Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas is the highest distinction, in the arts, given to an individual by the government of Quebec, underscoring outstanding career achievement in the field of visual arts, applied arts, architecture or design. It is the visual arts component of the group of awards given annually by les Prix du Québec to honour achievement in eleven categories of arts and sciences. Source: Manifestation internationale d'art de Québec and les Prix du Québec.
Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke

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