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 Fernand Leduc  (1916 - )

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Lived/Active: Quebec / Canada/France      Known for: abstract painting, printmaking, tapestry design

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Ad Code: 3
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from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Fernand Leduc is a painter, printmaker, tapestry designer (1), art theoretician and educator.  He is also a major figure in Canadian art: a senior leader of the Montreal art scene in the 1940's and 1950s; an associate of Alfred Pellan (2), Paul-Emile Borduas, Guido Molinari, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Pierre Gauvreau and most of the other mid 20th-century art legends of Quebec; and, in 2010, he is the oldest surviving (and still working) former member of the Automatistes* and signatory of the Refus Global*.

Born in Montreal, Quebec, which is currently his home, Leduc spent much of his life, since 1959, in France and Italy; living in Paris, Chartres and Casano (3).

His mediums are oil, gouache*, pastel, acrylic, casein*, collage*, colored pencil, pen and ink, graphite, serigraph* and mixed mediums.  As an abstractionist his subjects are color, shape, and texture; the 'cerebral construction of paintings, order clarity and the effects of light on color' are his primary concern.

Quote: "It is most important to reach the highest level of intensity with the simplest means.  I'm looking for the most intense colour so as to trigger the densest response and attain the strongest dynamism possible? Shape and colour must interact in such a way that both equally contribute to create a dynamic force." - Fernand Leduc,1965 Montreal Gazette interview (4). See "Chromatisme binaire: noir-rouge" in AskART Image Examples.

His styles have gone through distinct stages: Abstract Expressionism* and Abstract Surrealism* in the 1940's and 1950s; Hard Edge* and Geometric Abstraction* in the late 1950's and 1960's; and since 1970, Color Field* and Neo-Op Art works, which he calls Microchromies.

Quote: "I followed the voice of automatism* always seeking the unknown.  From unknown to unknown I was brought to the abstract"--Fernand Leduc.

Quote: "?abstract as opposed to nonfigurative; nonfigurative being by definition related to figuration because it retains the essential laws of three-dimensional representation, suggesting depth and volume applied to an imaginary or interior landscape, while abstraction refers only to the structural laws of formal and coloured elements." --Fernand Leduc 1955 (5).

AskART has some very good illustrations of his early, and most famous, periods of work.  Unfortunately, his 'Microchromie' paintings (1970 to the present) have a complexity of subtle superimposed color onto color that photographically appears to be only a solid color.  Examples of them can be seen in the background of the photo of Leduc in his studio (see AskART biography page).

Quote - "My challenge since 1970: to paint light, and to capture its energy. The path is one of reduction inherent to all artistic production, a path that becomes narrower, clearer, and luminous and leads to islands of light." - Fernand Leduc (1993).

His formal art education includes studies at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Montreal from 1938 to 1943, and in Paris, on his first visit, with Jean Bazaine.  Other stated influences are the works of Mark Rothko and Joseph Albers.

Leduc taught from 1944 to 1947 at the College of St. Denis and College Notre Dame, both in Montreal; from 1968 to 1970 at the University of Quebec, Montreal; and from 1970 to 1971 at Laval University, Quebec City .(6)

He was an original member of Les Automatistes*; and, a contributor to and signatory of the Refus Global*.  He was also a member of the Contemporary Arts Society* (1945 - 1947); and a founder and the President of the Non Figurative Artists' Association of Montreal* (1956 - 1961).  He is often referred to as member of Les Plasticiens*; however, though the NFAAM was joined by members of Les Plasticiens in 1956, and while Leduc's artistic style and philosophy aligns with theirs, he does not appear to have been a formal member of Les Plasticiens.

In addition to exhibiting with the above artist groups Leduc's works were also featured in many important Canadian exhibitions including "Les Sagittaires" (7) at the Dominion Gallery, Montreal (1943); Amherst Street, Montreal (1946)(8); "Les Automatistes" Galerie du Luxembourg, Paris (1947); "Espace 55" at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1955); "Four Canadians" (with Leon Bellefleur, Claude Picher, Jean-Paul Lemieux) at the Art Gallery of Toronto (1957) (9); "Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art", National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1967); "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); "Three Generations of Quebec Painting" at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1976); "Modern Art in Quebec 1916 - 1946" at the National Gallery of Canada (1982); "Borduas and the Automatist Epic" at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1998)"; "The Place of Magic, Quebec in the 40s, 50s and 60s" at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (2006); and in "Refus global: 60 Years Later" at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (2008). His works were also exhibited in three Canadian Biennials at the National Gallery of Canada (1959, 1963, 1965) and at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts 1953 Spring Exhibition.

Recently, his paintings  were 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.

The public venues for his solo and retrospective exhibitions include the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1966,1971,1980); the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (tapestries), Kingston, Ontario (1975); the Centre for International Contemporary Art, Montreal (1985)(10); the Museum of Fine Arts, Chartres, France (1985); and the Museum of Quebec, Quebec City (1997, 2006). (11)

His works are avidly collected.  They are also in numerous public collections. According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* there are 158 Leduc works in museums across Canada. They include the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Joliette Art Museum (Quebec), the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University, Montreal), the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum London (Ontario) and the National Gallery of Canada.

The Museum of Quebec (Quebec City), with 54 Leduc works, has the largest public collection.

His awards and honors include the Prix Louis-Philippe-Hébert* in 1978 (12), the Prix Paul-Émile Borduas* in 1988 and the Governor General's Award* in Visual and Media Arts in 2007 (13).


(1)"Also during this period [1956 - 1958] Leduc did many types of art work including tapestry designs which were executed by Mme. Marlette Rousseau-Vermette, Gaby Pinsonneault and other craftswomen." Sources: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald and The Gazette, Montreal, May 31, 1958 "'Tapestries' By Fernand Leduc".

(2) All artists, teachers, influences and associates mentioned in this biography and its footnotes, except those with bracketed birth and death dates after their names, have their own pages in AskART.

(3) Exact dates of residence vary by source and within sources they overlap.  All agree (within a few months) that he lived in Paris from 1947 to 1953 and from 1959 to 1968.  The biography provided by Winchester Galleries Victoria, B.C., Canada, the location of his most recent exhibition in December 2009, implies he lived, or at least worked, in Chartres, France from 1970 to 1984; in Casano, Italy, "at the frontier of Tuscany and Liguria", from 1978 to 2005; and in France, in general, from 1971 to 2006.

(4) Source: Abstract Painting in Canada (2008) by Roald Nasgaard (see AskART book references).

(5) Source: Egregore: A History of the Montréal Automatist Movement, by Ray Ellenwood (see AskART book references).

(6) Sources: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; Winchester Galleries Victoria, B.C. Canada

(7) 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).

(8) A small but historic show -  in April 1946, Leduc joined Paul-Emile Borduas, Pierre Gauvreau, Jean-Paul Mousseau, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Marcel Barbeau 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, by Dennis Reid (see AskART book references).

(9) Renamed the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1966.

(10) The Centre International d'Art Contemporain de Montréal (CIAC) was created in 1983 with a mandate to disseminate contemporary art from Quebec, Canada and abroad.  It is a non-profit organization with no permanent space. Since 1998, the CIAC has been pursuing its commitment to contemporary art through the Biennale de Montreal (the next is May 1 to 31, 2011). Source:

(11) The primary source for exhibition details are the catalogues on file (and online) in the archives of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

(12) In 1971, the St-Jean-Baptiste Society of Montréal honored the memory of sculptor Louis-Philippe Hébert (see AskART), by creating the Prix Louis-Philippe Hébert (medal), given to an artist of outstanding ability and stature in Québec arts. It is not awarded on a regular basis, the last artist awarded was Jocelyne Alloucherie in 1998. Sources: The St-Jean-Baptiste Society of Montréal (phone call) and the Canadian Encyclopedia.

(13) The Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts are Canada's foremost distinctions for excellence in these artistic disciplines. They were created in 1999 by the Governor General of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts. The Canada Council funds and administers the awards. Up to 8 prizes are awarded annually to visual and media artists for distinguished career achievement in visual arts, architecture, independent film and video, or audio and new media. The awards include the Saidye Bronfman Award for excellence in the fine crafts. One prize is also awarded annually for outstanding contribution to the visual and / or media arts in a volunteer or professional capacity. Each prize is valued at $25,000. Source: Canada Council for the Arts.

* 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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