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Alfred Pellan earned critical acclaim in the 1930s and helped pave the way for modern art in Quebec. In the 1950s and 1960s, he gained renown and shaped the urban landscape through the murals he created on public and private buildings. Later in his career, Pellan embraced his desire to experiment with different media and techniques. The recipient of many prestigious awards and honours, he exhibited widely in Canada and abroad, and his work continues to be shown internationally. Several monographs, documentaries, and articles are devoted to the artist and his oeuvre. 


Installation view of Alfred Pellan : Le rêveur éveillé, 2014, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Quebec City, photograph by Idra Labrie.
A bronze sculpture based on Alfred Pellan’s Mini-bestiaire, displayed in Le Jardin Pellan at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Quebec City, 2013, photograph by Jean Gagnon.


Key exhibitions (including posthumous exhibitions)


a) Selected group and solo exhibitions



March–April, 40th Spring Exhibition, Art Association of Montreal

(Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal). Pellan exhibits Coin du vieux Québec (A Corner of Old Quebec), 1922, which is bought by the National Gallery of Canada not long after the exhibition.


June 3–15, 7th Salon annuel de l’École des beaux-arts de Québec, Manège militaire, Quebec City. Pellan sends seventy works from Paris.


April 12–28, Forces nouvelles, Galerie Billiet-Pierre Vorms, Paris.

April, first solo exhibition at the Académie Ranson, Paris.

June 4–30, Première grande exposition du Salon d’art mural de Paris, Paris. Pellan receives first prize for Instruments de musique – A (Musical Instruments – A), 1933.


April, Œuvres récentes : peintures et dessins d’Alfred Pellan, Galerie Joseph-Barra, Paris. Solo exhibition.


June 12–July 7, Exposition Pellan, Musée de la province de Québec (Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec), Quebec City. Travelled to the Art Association of Montreal (Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal). First solo exhibition in Quebec.


April 26–May 3, 1941, Première exposition des Indépendants, Galerie municipale, Palais Montcalm, Quebec City. Organized by Marie-Alain Couturier and inaugurated by Robert Lapalme.


April 6–25, Exhibition of Paintings by Alfred Pellan, Bignou Gallery, New York City. Solo exhibition.


November 25–December 15, Pintura Canadense Contemporanea, Museu Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro. First exhibition of Canadian Art in Latin America; eight of Pellan’s works are included, and he creates the catalogue cover.


Modern Art in Advertising, Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition assembles artists from forty countries; Pellan represents Canada.


February 1948, Prisme d’Yeux, Art Association of Montreal (Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal). First exhibition of the group.


July 4–30, Salon du Musée d’art de London, London, Ontario. Although it’s a group exhibition, Pellan receives one room for himself, presenting forty-four of his works. Travelling exhibition.


April 25–June 1, Archambault and Pellan, Art Gallery of Toronto (Art Gallery of Ontario).

June 14–October 19: 26th Biennale, Venice. Pellan is one of the few artists to represent Canada; he exhibits five works.


January 29–April 29, Pellan, Coqliban, Paris. Solo exhibition, organized by Maurice Hajje.


February 8–March 3, Pellan, Musée national d’art modern, Paris. First retrospective exhibition, organized by Jean Cassou.


November 6–30, Pellan, Hall d’Honneur, City Hall, Montreal. Retrospective exhibition censored by Antoine Tremblay.


November 16–30, Pellan: Recent Paintings, Laing Galleries, Toronto. Solo exhibition.

Alfred Pellan, Grise-ailes (Grey-Wings), 1958, oil and ink on paper, 29.8 x 22.9 cm, private collection.

April, Galerie Denyse Delrue, Montreal. Solo exhibition; Pellan presents his Garden series for the first time.


Travelling group exhibition: November 7–December 7, 1958, as Moderne Canadese Schilderkunst at the Utrecht Centraal Museum; February 7–March 1, 1959, as Contemporary Art in Canada at the Rath Museum, Geneva; March 14–April 12, 1959, as Zeitgenössische Kunst in Kanada at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne.


April 25–May 7, Hommage à Pellan, Galerie Denyse Delrue, Montreal. Solo exhibition.

October 13–November 6, Alfred Pellan, travelling solo exhibition jointly organized by the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, and the Art Gallery of Toronto (Art Gallery of Ontario).

November 1–18, Alfred Pellan, Robertson Galleries, Ottawa. Solo exhibition.


April 13–25, Alfred Pellan, Roberts Gallery, Toronto. Solo exhibition.


October 2–22, Présence de Pellan, Libre Gallery, Montreal. Solo exhibition.


December 17, 1963–January 5, 1964, York Wilson, Alfred Pellan, Jean Paul Lemieux, Jean McEwen, Joe Plaskett, Galliera Museum, Paris. Organized by Quebec and the Canadian Embassy; Pellan is represented with twenty-four works.


February 7–March 1, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener. Solo exhibition.

November 10–21, Roberts Gallery, Toronto. Solo exhibition.


100 Years of Theatre in Canada, Rothmans Gallery, Stratford, Ontario. First exhibition of Pellan’s costume sketches and theatre decoration for La nuit des rois (Twelfth Night).


April 4–28, Alfred Pellan, Winnipeg Art Gallery. Retrospective exhibition.


April 29–June 1, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Solo exhibition; the film Voir Pellan (Office national du film) is shown at the inauguration.


February 24–March 6, Pellan: Creations for the Theatre: Costumes and Decors of “Twelfth Night,” “The Three Princes,” Roberts Gallery, Toronto. Solo exhibition.

March 25–May 15, Costumes d’Alfred Pellan pour La nuit des rois de Shakespeare, Centre culturel canadien, Paris. Solo exhibition.


September 12–24, École des arts visuel, Université de Laval, Quebec City. Solo exhibition of Pellan’s theatre costumes, decorations, and gouaches.

October 20–November 26, Pellan, Musée du Québec (Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec), Quebec City; Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Organized by Germain Lefebvre and André Marchand. First major retrospective in Canada; Pellan exhibits his mini-bestiaires for the first time.

October 28–November 26, Galerie de Montréal. Solo exhibition of forty-three gouaches.


May, Souliers d’artistes, Galerie de la Société des artistes professionnels du Québec, Montreal. Pellan creates twenty-seven Surrealist-inspired shoes for the show.


June 30–September 1, Trois générations d’art québécois : 1940-1950-1960, Musée d’art contemporain, Montreal.


March 5–24, Hommage à Pellan, Signal Gallery, Montreal. Organized by the Société des artistes professionnels du Québec; the magazine of the Society (Propos d’art) dedicates a full issue to Pellan and Prisme d’Yeux.


December 7, 1977–January 3, 1978, Alfred Pellan, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Solo exhibition.


September 16–October 29, 1978, Other Realities: The Legacy of Surrealism in Canadian Art, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston. Travelling exhibition organized by Natalie Luckyj, also shown at the Canada House, Trafalgar Square, London, U.K., and at the Centre Culturel Canadien, Paris.


April 28–June 8, Dessin et Surréalisme au Québec, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.


February 15–March 13, Nova Scotia Collects: Pellan and Brandtner; Works on Paper, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax.


November 21, 1980–January 18, 1981, Les dessins d’Alfred Pellan, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Travelling exhibition.


May 19–July 31, Pellan/Shakespeare : le peintre devenu scénographe, Maison Hamel-Bruneau, Quebec City, in collaboration with the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde.

May 19–August 14, L’art au Québec depuis Pellan : une histoire des prix Borduas, Musée du Québec (Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec), Quebec City.


b) Selected exhibitions after the artist’s death in 1988

Cover of Alfred Pellan (Musée du Québec and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 1993).



June 17–September 26, Alfred Pellan : une retrospective, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Travelled to Musée du Québec (Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec), Quebec City.


November 13, 2005–January 29, 2006, Les enfants et Alfred Pellan, Salle Alfred Pellan, Maison des arts de Laval.


Alfred Pellan : la modernité, Musée d’art contemporain des Laurentides, Saint-Jérôme, and Galerie d’art Michel Bigué, Saint-Sauveur, Quebec.


December 8, 2006–March 25, 2007, Alfred Pellan : les estampes, Pavillon Michal and Renata Hornstein, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal.


Alfred Pellan au Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Quebec City.


June 13–September 15, 2013, Alfred Pellan : le grand atelier, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Quebec City.


February 20, 2014–April 3, 2022, Alfred Pellan : Le rêveur éveillé, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Quebec City. Inauguration of a gallery devoted to Alfred Pellan (on display until 2022).


May 2019, Le Printemps Pellan à Toronto, Thompson Landry Gallery, Toronto. Exhibition of fifty signed silkscreen prints from the collection of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Quebec City.


Selected critical writings on the artist’s work

Bedard, Jean. “La sauvagerie apprivoisée de Pellan.” Culture vivante, no. 26 (September 1972): 2–11.


Cover of “Le merveilleux monde de Monsieur Pellan,” Vie des arts 38, no. 151 (1993).
Cover of Cinquante dessins d’Alfred Pellan (Montreal: Lucien Parizeau, 1945).

Bénichou, Anne. “Le merveilleux monde de Monsieur Pellan.” Vie des arts 38, no. 151 (1993): 12–15.


Buchanan, Donald W. Alfred Pellan. The Gallery of Canadian Art 4. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1962.


Cinquante dessins d’Alfred Pellan. Montreal: Lucien Parizeau, 1945.


Clément, Nicole. Alfred Pellan et “Le soir des rois” : analyse de l’œuvre scénique. Master’s thesis. Université du Québec à Montréal, 1992.


Dubois, Sophie. “Prisme d’Yeux en regard de Refus global: essai de réception comparée.” In Espaces critiques : écrire sur la littérature et les autres arts au Québec (1920-1960), edited by Karine Cellard and Vincent Lambert, 225–37. Quebec City: Presses de l’Université Laval, 2018.


Gagnon, François-Marc. “Alfred Pellan et André Breton sur la plage.” Vie des arts 38, no. 151 (1993): 16–19.


———. “Pellan, Borduas, and the Automatic men and Ideas in Québec.” artscanada, no. 174–75, December 1972–January 1973, 48–53.


Gagnon, François-Marc, and Paul Gladu. “Paris 1926–1940.” Vie des arts 31, no. 126 (1987): 26–28.


Gagnon, Maurice. Pellan. Collection Art Vivant. Montreal: L’Arbre, 1943.


Giroux, Rejeanne. Analyse thématique du “temps” dans l’œuvre de Pellan. Master’s thesis. Université de Montréal, 1982.


Grandbois, Michèle, “Alfred Pellan: 12 juin 1940, soirée de vernissage au Musée de la Province, ou la révolution Pellan.” In Québec : une ville et ses artistes. Quebec City: Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, 2008.


Greenberg, Reesa. “Pellan Surrealism: Pellan’s Picassoid Preference.” In Portugal, Québec, Amérique Latine : un surréalisme périphérique?, edited by Luis De Moura Sobral, 71–81. Montreal: Université de Montréal, 1984.


———. “Pellan, Surrealism and Eroticism.” Arts Canada, no. 240–41, March–April 1981, 42–45.


———. “Surrealism and Pellan: L’amour fou.” The Journal of Canadian Art History 1, no. 2 (Fall 1974): 1–11.


———. “Surrealist Traits in the Heads of Alfred Pellan,” The Journal of Canadian Art History 3, no. 1–2 (1976): 55–72.


Lamarche, Jacques, Alfred Pellan. Montreal: Lidec, 1997.


Lefebvre, Germain. “Le peintre Alfred Pellan : un chantre de la modernité.” Cap-aux-Diamants 4, no. 4 (Winter 1989): 11–14.


Cover of Pellan : sa vie, son art, son temps (Quebec City: Marcel Broquet, 1986).

———. Pellan : sa vie, son art, son temps. Quebec City: Marcel Broquet, 1986.


———. “Saison Pellan.” Vie des arts, no. 68 (Fall 1972): 48–53.


Lieblein, Leanore, and Patrick Neilson. “Alfred Pellan, Twelfth Night and the Modernist Shakespeare.” Shakespeare Yearbook 11 (2000): 389–422.


Ostiguy, Jean-René. “Les cadavres exquis des disciples de Pellan.” Vie des arts, no. 47 (Summer 1967): 22–25.


Pageot, Édith-Anne. “Le théâtre pellanien (1944–1946) : intermédialité et modernité.” L’Annuaire théâtrale, no. 45 (Spring 2009): 153–74.


Robert, Guy. Pellan : sa vie et son œuvre / His Life and His Art. Montreal: Éditions du Centre de Psychologie et de Pédagogie, 1963.


Sabbath, Lawrence. “Alfred Pellan: Lyric abstractionist.” Saturday Night 76, no. 5 (March 4, 1961): 12–13.


Saint-Martin, Fernande, “Réflexion sur l’énigme Pellan.” Vie des Arts, no. 126 (March 1987): 24–26.


St-Laurent, Danielle. La figure féminine dans la peinture d’Alfred Pellan (1930–1960). Master’s thesis. Université du Québec à Montréal, Montreal, 1987.


Venne, Danielle. Analyses sémiologiques de deux tableaux d’Alfred Pellan. Master’s thesis. Université du Québec à Montréal, Montreal, 1987.



Key interviews with the artist

“Alfred Pellan: Painter, Poet, Dreamer.” Star Weekly, August 6, 1960, 12–17.


Dorival, Bernard. “Alfred Pellan.” Le Jardin des Arts, no. 5 (March 1955): 313–18.


Folch, Jacques, and Alfred Pellan. “Pellan parle….” Liberté 9, no. 2 (March 1967): 64–69.


de la Tour Fondue, G. “Pellan.” In Interviews Canadiennes, 125–39. Montreal: Chantecler Ltée, 1952.


Jasmin, Claude. “Je suis un sorcier.” La Presse: Arts et Lettres, July 14, 1962, 1–3.


“La queue de la comète — Alfred Pellan: Témoin du surréalisme.” Vie des arts 20, no. 80 (Fall 1975): 18–21.


“L’art va dans toutes les directions.” In La prochaine décennie : les grands Montréalais et les enjeux de la vie urbaine, 78–80. Collection Temps Présent. Montreal: La presse, 1980.


Lévy, Bernard. “Développer le discernement : entretien avec Alfred Pellan.” Vie des arts 38, no. 151 (Summer 1993): 20–22.


Marchand, André. “Interview avec Pellan, August 1969.” Bulletin du Musée du Québec, no. 14 (March 1970), 1–5.


Séguin, Marcel. “Alfred Pellan.” L’École canadienne, no. 1 (September 1959): 5–9.


Trent, Bill. “Alfred Pellan ou la joie de vivre et de créer.” Le soleil: Perspectives 2, no. 42 (October 15, 1960): 27–30.


Villeneuve, Murielle, and Louise Foliau. “L’araignée tisse chez Pellan.” Toile d’Araignée. Collège Basile-Moreau, Ville Saint Laurent, 1964, n.p.


Wyllie, John. “Artist in perspective: Alfred Pellan.” Canadian Art 21, no. 5 (September–October 1964): 288–90.



Audio and video by and about the artist

Alfred Pellan, National Gallery of Canada: Office national du film, 1961.


Interview with Gilles Sainte-Marie, Reportage, Société Radio-Canada, January 23, 1961, 28 min 25 sec, no. 15083. Centre d’archives Gaston Miron (CAGM), Université de Montréal.


Interview with Judith Jasmin, Carrefour, Société Radio-Canada, March 5, 1960, 7 min, no. 1538804. Centre d’archives Gaston Miron (CAGM), Université de Montréal.


Francon, Georges, Alfred Pellan, Montréal: Société Radio-Canada, January 23, 1961, no. 8069-134, 28 min 25 sec, 16 mm.


Gladu, Paul, Pellan, Montréal: Claude Bonin, Les films Vision 4 Inc., 1986, 72 min, 16mm.


L’art aujourd’hui, interview with Gilles Daigneault, Société Radio-Canada, c.1984, Radio FM, audio-tape, 131P – 010: B3/1, FAP, UQAM.


Pellan, Montréal: Musée d’art contemporain, VHS, March 25, 1981, 40 min.


Portugais, Louis, Voir Pellan, 1969, 19 min 42 sec, 35mm, 131P–010/56, UQAM.


Simard, Jean “Interview with Alfred Pellan,” L’art et la vie, Radio-Collège, Société Radio-Canada, January 1957, Centre d’archive Gaston Miron (CAGM), Université de Montréal.




Centre d’archive Gaston Miron (CAGM), Université de Montréal.


Dossier de presse Alfred Pellan, Bibliothèque du Séminaire de Sherbrooke, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ).


Fonds Alfred Pellan, Service d’archives et gestion de documents, Université du Québec à Montréal.


Fonds d’archives de correspondance [Claude Péloquin (MSS228), Simone Aubrey Beaulieu (fonds P816), Paul Beaulieu (P853), Famille Roland (fonds P160), Guy Viau (P171), Jacques-Lamarche (fonds P38), Roland Giguère (MSS416), Pauline Julien (MSS419)], Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ).



Further readings

Antoncic, Debra Anne. “Oddballs and Eccentrics” (Les hirsutes et les excentriques): Visual Arts and Artists in the Popular Press in Post-War Canada. PhD thesis. Kingston: Department of Art, Queen’s University, 2011.


Borduas, Paul-Émile, Écrits I. Montreal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1975.


Bouchard, Claude, and Robert Lagassé. Nouvelle-France, Canada, Québec : histoire du Québec et du Canada. Montreal: Beauchemin, 1986.


Boyce, Margaret. Visual Art / Public Art and Urban Development: A Case Study of Montreal (1967-1992). PhD thesis. Montreal: McGill University, 2001.


Breton, André. Manifestes du surréalisme. Paris: Gallimard/Folio, 1985.


Conley, Katharine. Automatic Woman: The Representation of Woman and Surrealism. Lincoln/London: University of Nebraska Press, 1996.


Conrick, Maeve, Munroe Eagles, Jane Koustas, and Caitríona Ní Chasaide, eds. Landscapes and Landmarks of Canada: Real, Imagined, (Re)Viewed. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2017.


Couture, Francine, ed. Les arts visuels au Québec dans les années soixante : la reconnaissance de la modernité. Montreal: VLB Editeur, 1993.


Dompierre, Louise. John Lyman: 1886–1967. Kingston: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 1986.


Gagnon, François-Marc. Paul-Émile Borduas : bioqraphie critique et analyse de l’œuvre. Montreal: Fides, 1978.


Cover of Painting in Canada: A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press and Presses de l’Université Laval, 1966).
Cover of Canadian Painting in the Thirties (Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1975).

Harper, J. Russell. Painting in Canada: A History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977.


Hill, Charles. Canadian Painting in the Thirties. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1975.


Hubbard, R.H., L’évolution de l’art au Canada. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1964.


Ince, Judith Louise. The Politics of Freedom: The Montreal Avant-Garde in 1948. B.A. thesis. University of British Columbia, 1982.


Lamy, Suzanne. André Breton : hermétisme et poésie dans Arcane 17. Montreal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1977.


Leclerc, Denise. The Crisis of Abstraction in Canada: The 1950s. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1992.


L’enseignement des arts au Québec. Montreal: Université du Québec à Montréal, 1980.


Macdonald, Colin S. A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, vol. 5. Ottawa: Canadian Paperbacks, 1977.


Molinari, Danielle, ed. Forces nouvelles 1935–1939. Paris: Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris / Les presses artistiques, 1980.


Morris, Jerrold. The Nude in Canadian Painting. New Press: Toronto, 1972.


Peinture vivante du Québec. Quebec City: Musée de Québec, Ministère des Affaires culturelles, 1966.


Reid, Dennis. A Concise History of Canadian Painting. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973.


Ricci, Clarissa, ed. Starting from Venice: Studies on the Biennale. Milan: Et. Al., 2010.


Rioux, Marcel. La Question du Quebec. Paris: Editions Seghers, 1969.


Tippett, Maria. Making Culture: English-Canadian Institutions and the Arts before the Massey Commission. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990.


Trépanier, Esther. Peinture moderne et modernité au Québec 1919–1939. Montreal: Nota Bene, 1998.


Varley, Christopher. The Contemporary Arts Society: Montreal, 1939–1948. Edmonton: Edmonton Art Gallery, 1980.


Withrow, William. Contemporary Canadian Painting. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1972.


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