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 Pierre Gauvreau  (1922 - )

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Lived/Active: Quebec / Canada      Known for: abstract painting, graphics and printmaking

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Pierre Gauvreau is a painter, graphic artist, printmaker and broadcaster (1).  He was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and he has lived and worked in Montreal all his life.
His mediums are oil, acrylic, collage*, watercolour, gouache*, egg tempera*, ink, pastel, serigraph* and mixed mediums.  The subjects of his early works were figures, nudes and still life influenced by Fauvism* and Surrealism*.  Since the mid 1940s, and his association with Paul-Emile Borduas (see AskART) and Les Automatistes*, his work has focused on achieving effects through colour, form, line and texture.  His mature styles include Color Field*, Abstract Expressionism*, Lyrical Abstraction*, and Automatism*.  Good illustrations of the range and nature of his mature work from the mid 1940’s to present day can be found in AskART's image examples.
Quote: "I don't like to intellectualize what I do . . . I find non-figurative painting more interesting because the other is épuisé - worn out. This is the point we've reached in the history of painting. That's all." - Pierre Gauvreau.
His formal art education includes two periods at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Montreal starting in 1937 and ending about 1946, separated by the time he served with the Canadian Army in Europe (c.1943-1946).
He was a member of the Contemporary Art Society (c.1943) and, a founding member of Les Automatistes* (1946) and of the Non-Figurative Artists Association of Montreal (1956).  He was also one of the 16 signatories of the "Refus Global"* manifesto in 1948.
Quote: "A woman recently asked if my husband was the Pierre Gauvreau who had signed Le Refus Global," recalled the painter Janine Carreau. "When I told her 'yes', her eyes filled with tears. -This document was permission for us to be who we are."  Source: Jordan Himelfarb (This Magazine, November 2008).
In addition to showing with the above artist groups Gauvreau’s works were also featured in many important Canadian exhibitions including “Les Sagittaires” (2) at the Dominion Gallery, Montreal (1943); “Espace 55” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1955); the First Biennial of Canadian Painting at the National Gallery of Canada (1955); “Panorama of Painting in Quebec, 1940 -1955” at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1967)”; "Borduas and the Automatistes" at the Grand Palais, Paris (1971); "The Collective Unconscious: American and Canadian Art, 1940 - 1950" at the Edmonton Art Gallery (1975); ”Three Generations of Quebec Painting” at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1976); “Thirty Years of Refus Global” at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1978); "Frontiers of Our Dreams" at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba (1979); “Contemporary Art Society” at the Edmonton Art Gallery (1980); “Modern Art in Quebec 1916 - 1946” at the National Gallery of Canada (1982); "Toward Automatism" at the National Gallery of Canada (1994); “Borduas and the Automatiste Epic” at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1998)”; and “The Place of Magic, Quebec in the 40s, 50s and 60s” at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (2006) .  He also exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1947, 1949, 1953 and 1961. (3)
Recently, his works were included in “Refus Global: 60 Years Later” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (2008) and “Big Bangs: Abstraction in Canada” at the University of Lethbridge (Alberta)(2008).  In 2009 and 2010, his works are included in the Varley Art Gallery (Unionville, Ontario) exhibition “The Automatiste Revolution: Montreal 1941-1960”, showing at the Varley from October 23, 2009 to February 28, 2010 and at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, New York) in March 2010.
Gauvereau had his first solo exhibition in 1947.  In the last 30 years there have been solo and retrospective exhibitions of his work at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (“Pierre Gauvreau: works” - 1978); at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario (“Pierre Gauvreau: The First Decade, 1944 -1954” -1981); at the University of Quebec, Montreal (“Pierre Gauvreau, 1938 -1946” - 2003); and at the Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec (2004). Currently (Fall 2009), Gallery Gevik is having a solo exhibition of his work in the same location as his first solo exhibition in Toronto 30 years ago and Galerie Michel-Ange in Montreal is exhibiting his and, his wife, Janine Carreau’s paintings.
His works are in many private and corporate collections. They are also in numerous public collections including the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University, Montreal), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Gallery of Windsor (Ontario), the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), the Joliette Art Museum (Quebec), the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, Quebec), the Museum of Quebec (Quebec City), the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, and the National Gallery of Canada.
(1) Gauvreau was involved in broadcasting since the early 1950s with CBC - Radio; in the early 1960’s he stopped exhibiting his paintings and turned his attentions almost entirely to radio, television and film-making.  He has won several awards for his work in those mediums including two Gemini Awards (Canadian TV) (1985, 1987), a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television in 1990, and the Award of Merit in French Culture from the Office of the French Language in Quebec in 1995.  His work is also in the Cinémathèque Québécoise, Montreal's Museum of the Moving Image.
(2) The significance of the Sagittaires exhibition, organized by Maurice Gagnon (art historian and teacher), is that it was restricted to artists under 30 years old to showcase a new order and changing of the guard in modern art.  Fifteen of the 23 exhibitors were Borduas’s students and followers, six of whom were future Automatistes.  Source: The History of Painting in Canada – Toward a People’s Art (1974), by Barry Lord, and Abstract Painting in Canada (2007) by Roald Nasgaard (see AskART book references).
(3) A small but historic show was in April 1946 when he joined Paul-Emile Borduas, Fernand Leduc, Jean-Paul Mousseau, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Marcel Barbeau (see all in AskART) and Roger Fauteux (b. 1920?) to exhibit at an office space loaned to them on Amherst Street (Montreal).   According to Dennis Reid, “It was the first exhibition by a group of abstract painters ever held in Canada.” - Source: page 220 A Concise History of Canadian Painting – see AskART book references.
* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary
Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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