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Recently Acquired: Excellent Watercolour, Pen and Ink by Jean Paul Mousseau

November 5, 2010
Untitled 1947 watercolour pen and ink 10"x9.5"

Untitled 1947 watercolour pen and ink 10"x9.5"

A recent acquisition brings to light the opportunities available for collectors looking for reasonably priced and important works of Montreal post war abstraction. Jean Paul Mousseau is perhaps most well known through his public commissions for the Montreal Metro and Quebec Hydro. But Before his large scale work from the 60s, 70s and 80s, Mousseau was a key player in the modernist revolution ushered in by the Montreal Automatistes. ‘Untitled’, 1947 is as good of an example as can be found of works inspired by Mousseau’s crucial commitment to this radical group of Montreal Painters.

THE ARTIST: Born in Montreal in 1927, Jean Paul Mousseau’s work first drew attention in the 1940s through his association with Paul Emile Borduas and the Montreal abstractionists known as les Automatistes. Mousseau was the youngest member of the group whose primary objective was to free art from the perceived constraints of a close-minded establishment. In 1948 Mousseau and 15 others signed the Refus Global or Global Refusal, a collection of essays proposing a new and visionary approach to art and culture.  In the 1950s Mousseau’s sympathies for the Automatistes diminished and he began exhibiting with another Montreal group, the Plasticiens. In the 1960s Mousseau’s experimental nature led him away from painting to explore ceramic, set design, painted fabric and the integration of art and architecture. His interest in the latter earned him a series of commissions for the Montreal Metro and throughout the 1970s and 80s he served as art director for the city’s underground stations where many of his works may be seen today.

THE PAINTING: When Mousseau painted ‘Untitled’ 1947 he was at the height of his powers as an abstract painter. Since his first showing with the Automatistes in 1946, he adopted a surrealist approach in which spontaneous strokes acted as a ‘frame’ for subsequent drawing and coloration. This technique, known as automatism, inspired a series of remarkable small-scale pen and ink works on paper. In spite of his contemporaries, Mousseau resisted the urge to edit out essential aspects of traditional painting; thus, as in ‘Untitled’ 1947, characteristic aspects such as a sense of a horizon line dividing a foreground/background serve as idiosyncratic features. Though rare and limited in number, works like ‘Untitled” 1947 have come to define Mousseau’s contribution to abstract painting in Canada. It’s daring blend of historic and modern, intuitive sense of balance and design and currently underrepresented value, make Untitled 1947 a model prospect for the savvy collector.

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