Yellow, Blue & Red IV 1999

Yves Gaucher, Yellow, Blue & Red IV, 1999

Yves Gaucher, Yellow, Blue & Red IV (Jaune, bleu & rouge IV), 1999 
3 elements, acrylic on canvas, each element: 122.5 x 122.5 cm 
© Estate of Yves Gaucher / SODRAC (2015) 

Gaucher’s last painting is a magisterial work, composed of three abutted and ascending monochrome panels of the primary colours, laconically entitled Yellow, Blue & Red. Once again something new seems to be taking place. True, Yellow, Blue & Red operates on lateral tensions and colour balances, but resolution is not so much an issue, as it is simply and generously given. Each monochrome panel succeeds in singing with its unique chromatic voice and at the same time stays in full harmony with its fellows.


Art Canada Institute, installation of Yves Gaucher, Yellow, Blue & Red IV, 1999
Yves Gaucher, Yellow, Blue & Red IV, 1999, 3 elements, acrylic on canvas, 122.5 x 122.5 cm, installation at Arsenal Toronto, 2012. Photo: Arsenal Gallery.

Gaucher called it his last painting, but that may not be literally true. The three panels were probably executed in 1993 and were shown in his 1995 exhibition Yves Gaucher: Recent Work, at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery in Montreal, where they were hung in a straight line and slightly spaced. The panels then presumably went into storage to come out again for the exhibition Peinture/Peinture in Montreal in 1998. Here Gaucher installed the painting, now titled Yellow, Blue & Red III, with its three panels abutted but arranged in a pyramid format, the central blue panel raised some 24 centimetres.


When the work was exhibited again in 1999 in Récurrences, at the Musée du Québec (now the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec), it appeared to be a new painting because Gaucher positioned the three panels in a staggered upward slope from left to right and dated it 1999. But Gaucher eventually, in his usual mischievous way, confessed that he had indeed used the existing panels but had rethought the painting and hung the panels in a new configuration. This version was the last painting in the 2003 posthumous exhibition at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.


By this time the work had been signed and identified on the back: “Gaucher 98, Jaune, bleu et rouge IV.” The numbers III and IV suggest that the painting could be, or had been, installed in as many configurations. The story behind Gaucher’s decision to reuse and reconfigure the three monochrome panels was that a shoulder problem had inhibited him from continuing to paint on a large scale. During the last two years of his life Gaucher produced a rich body of works on paper using collage and lamination, and the primary colours of Yellow, Blue & Red.

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