Jean Paul Lemieux (1904–1990), painter, illustrator, critic, and teacher, is one of the most significant artists in the history of Canadian modernity. Born in Quebec City, Lemieux chose to pursue his artistic and teaching career in his native city, from where his art and thought radiated outward for more than half a century. Lemieux captured an inner world of solitude and memories that offered a highly personal, singular vision of Quebec.
As a critic Lemieux was one of the first to define “abstraction” as an expression of a society in decline. Such a perspective deepened the rivalry between the figurative painters of Quebec City and the abstractionists of Montreal. Yet despite this tension, Lemieux was an important advocate for the rights of all French Canadian artists, who often felt isolated from national dialogues.
“Lemieux’s painting conveyed his dark, tragic vision of the tormented historical era he was living through.”Michèle Grandbois
Jean Paul Lemieux: Life & Work describes the extraordinary vision of this master of figures. His unembellished paintings create a rich human contact that is astonishingly moving. Lemieux’s instantly recognizable work resonates with viewers for its universal representations of the human condition, space, and time. As a draftsman, painter, illustrator, and muralist, Lemieux forged a distinctive artistic personality that, beginning in 1956, brought him international recognition. His paintings, charged with the passing of time and the smallness of human beings relative to the vast landscapes of Canada, are as revered today as when they were made.
Dr. Michèle Grandbois was a curator at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (1987–2014). She has authored numerous monographs on Canadian artists, including Jean Dallaire, Clarence Gagnon, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, and Jean Paul Lemieux. In 1996 and 2011 she won the Award for Excellence in Research from the Canadian Museums Association. Her last curatorial project was the exhibition Morrice and Lyman in the Company of Matisse in 2014. She now devotes herself to writing.
Banner: Jean Paul Lemieux, Julie and the Universe (Julie et l’univers), 1965, oil on canvas, 104 x 142.5 cm, Pierre Lassonde Collection.
Portrait: Jean Paul Lemieux in winter, Quebec, c. 1955–63, photograph by Rosemary Gilliat Eaton.