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 Jean Albert McEwen  (1923 - 1999)

About: Jean Albert McEwen
 

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Lived/Active: Quebec / Canada/France      Known for: abstract paintings, prints, murals and teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Jean Albert McEwen was a painter, printmaker, muralist, poet and educator who was born, lived (except for 3 years in Paris) and died in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
 
His mediums were oil, acrylic, watercolour, encaustic, pencil, ink and stained glass. As an abstract expressionist, colour field and lyrical abstractionist his subjects were spatial relationships, colour, texture and shape. His most typical mature work is recognized by a picture plane that is divided into rectangular or square spaces filled with mixtures of opaque and translucent paint. The effect is a surface of lush colour and texture that draw the viewer's attention into the work. Quote: "There are two ways to judge a painting ... One is based on criteria and theories of art. The second is based on the sensations we get before a picture. I paint the second way." - Jean McEwen (1956).
 
In 1950 he graduated as a pharmacist from the University of Montreal.  He is largely self-taught as an artist and began his serious painting career before graduation.  In fact, his works were exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1949 and 1950. In 1951 he moved to Paris where he lived and painted for 3 years, associating with Jean Paul Riopelle, Paul-Emile Borduas, Georges Mathieu and Sam Francis (see all in AskART).  At that time he also travelled in Brittany and visited Italy, Holland, Austria and Spain.  In 1963 he visited Greece. His teaching career included work as a lecturer at Concordia University (Montreal) from 1983 to 1995.

McEwen was a member of the Association of Non-Figurative Artists of Montreal (AANFM)* (1956) and its President from 1960 to 1961.  In 1964, he was elected an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and in 1969 a full member.
 
In addition to showing with the above organizations he also exhibited at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from 1949 to 1968; in the Biennials of the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa)(1959, 61, 63, 65, and 67); in "Paintings from Canadian Collections" at the Musée de Bordeaux (France)(1962); at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC) (1962); at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY)(1962); at the  Commonwealth Institute (London, England) (1962); in the “Canadian Painting, 1939 - 1963”  show at the Tate (London, England)(1963); in the “Fifteen Canadian Artists” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (NYC)(1963); at the Sao Paulo Biennial (1963); with Harold Town (see AskART) at the National Gallery of Canada (1966); at Montreal’s Expo 67; in "Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art" at the National Gallery of Canada (1967); at the Canada Culture Centre in Paris (1973 and 78); at the Museum of Quebec (Quebec City) (1985); and in “The Crisis of Abstraction in Canada: the 1950s”, a travelling exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Canada (1992). In 1958 he was one of the 10 Quebec painters who exhibited with the Painters Eleven (see AskART glossary) at the Park Gallery, Toronto. It was the only time P11 had a joint show with the avant-garde artists of French Canada. Some of the other artists included were Jean-Paul Riopelle, Paul Borduas and Alfred Pellan (see all in AskART).   
 
His first solo show was in 1954 at Galerie Agnes Lefort (Montreal). Venues for subsequent solo shows have included the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1960) and the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1973). The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts also had a major retrospective of his work entitled "Colour in Depth" in 1987. The most recent solo was "Jean McEwen: Last Works" at the University of Manitoba (Winnipeg) in 2004.
 
His work is in many private, corporate and public collections. The public collections include the Museum of Quebec (Quebec, City); the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; the  Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto); the  Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota); the Museum of Modern Art (NYC); the Albright Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo); the Museum of Contemporary Art (Montreal); Sir George Williams University (Montreal); Hart House, University of Toronto; the  Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba); the Edmonton Art Gallery (Alberta); Museum London (Ontario); the Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.); Queen's University (Kingston, Ontario); and the Confederation Art Centre (Charlottetown, P.E.I). The National Gallery of Canada has 29 McEwen works in its collection. An example of his stained glass work can be seen at the Henry F. Hall building, Concordia University, Montreal. His murals can be viewed at Toronto’s Pearson Airport and Place des Arts, Montreal.
 
Footnote:
 
* AKA: Association des Artists Non-Figuratifs de Montreal and the Non-Figurative Artists Association of Montreal (NFAAM). It was founded by Fernand Leduc (first President), Rodolphe de Repentigny (AKA: Jauran) and Pierre Gauvreau to promote non-figurative painters, sculptors and engravers. It began with 29 artists and at its height had about 50. As the members individually gained prominence, due in part to the success of the group, they drifted away and the organization ended in 1961.
 

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke

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