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Paul-Émile Borduas Life & Work by François-Marc Gagnon

Critical acclaim for Borduas’s considerable body of work has ensured that his significant role in the history of Canadian art is widely recognized. Internationally, Borduas’s reputation was firmly established immediately after his death with a major exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, originally planned as a mid-career retrospective. The trajectory of Borduas’s influence through his writings, first and foremost the Refus global manifesto, mirrors that of his recognition as a painter. 


The second exhibition of the Automatistes, 1947, at 75 Sherbrooke Street West. Left to right: Marcel Barbeau, Pierre Gauvreau, Madeleine Arbour, Paul-Émile Borduas, and Claude Gauvreau 

Selected Exhibitions

Borduas’s selected exhibition history is divided into two sections: exhibitions organized during his lifetime, and those since 1960. 

Selected Exhibitions during Borduas’s Lifetime

1941

Participates in Première exposition des Indépendants, Quebec City and Montreal. 

1942

Participates in L’exposition des maîtres de la peinture moderne, Séminaire de Joliette. Organized by Father Wilfrid Corbeil. 

Oeuvres surréalistes de Paul-Émile Borduas, Ermitage, Montreal. Exhibition of forty-five gouaches. 

1943

Exhibition Borduas, Dominion Gallery, Montreal.

1946

Participates in the first exhibition of the Automatistes, 1257 Amherst Street, Montreal. 

Oeuvres de Paul-Émile Borduas, gallery of Henry Morgan & Company, Montreal.

1947

Participates in the second exhibition of the Automatistes, 75 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal. 

1948
& 49

Exhibits at the studio of the brothers Guy and Jacques Viau.

1949

Participates in Quatre peintres du Québec, Musée de la province de Québec, Quebec City.  

1950

Participates in Exposition des Rebelles, 2035 Mansfield Street, Montreal. 

Exhibits watercolours at his studio in Saint-Hilaire, and again in 1951.  

1954

Paul-Émile Borduas, Passedoit Gallery, New York. Exhibits watercolours here in 1955. 

En route, Galerie Agnès Lefort, Montreal. 

1955

3rd Bienal de São Paulo. Represents Canada (with Jean-Paul Riopelle), at the Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo. 

1955
1957
& 59

Biennial of Canadian Painting, organized by the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Travelled to various Canadian cities. (The NGC organized seven biennials, beginning in 1955.)

1957

Paul-Émile Borduas: Paintings, 1953–1956, Martha Jackson Gallery, New York.

1959

Participates in Spontanéité et réflexion, Galerie Arnaud, Paris.

An Intimate Showing of Recent Paintings by Paul Borduas, Martha Jackson Gallery, New York.  

Exhibition Paul-Émile Borduas, Galerie Saint-Germain, Paris.


Jean-Paul Riopelle and Fernand Leduc at the exhibition Automatisme at the Galerie de Luxembourg, Paris, 1947

Selected Exhibitions since 1960

1960

Borduas 1905–1960, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Catalogue.

1962

Paul-Émile Borduas, 1905–1960, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Travelled to National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Art Gallery of Toronto. Catalogue.

La peinture canadienne moderne: 25 années de peinture au Canada-français, 5th Festival of Two Worlds, Palazzo Collicola, Spoleto, Italy. Catalogue.

1968

Canada: Art d’aujourd’hui, Musée cantonal des beaux-arts, Lausanne. Travelled to Musée national d’art moderne, Paris; Galleria nazionale di arte moderna, Rome; Palais des beaux-arts, Brussels. Catalogue.

1971

Borduas et les automatistes: Montréal, 1942–1955, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris. Travelled to Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Catalogue.

1977

Borduas and America / Borduas et l’Amérique, Vancouver Art Gallery. Catalogue.

1979

Frontiers of Our Dreams: Quebec Painting in the 1940s and 1950s, Winnipeg Art Gallery. Catalogue.

1982
& 83

Paul-Émile Borduas et la peinture abstraite: Oeuvres picturales de 1943 à 1960, Palais des beaux-arts, Brussels. Travelled to Musée Saint-Georges, Liège, Belgium. Catalogue.

1988

Paul-Émile Borduas, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Catalogue.

1992

The Crisis of Abstraction in Canada: The 1950s / La crise de l’abstraction au Canada: Les années 1950, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Travelled to Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Quebec City; MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina; Glenbow Museum, Calgary; Art Gallery of Hamilton. Catalogue.

1997

Saint-Hilaire et les Automatistes, Musée d’art de Mont-Saint-Hilaire. Catalogue.

1998

Refus global and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Fifty Years, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. 

1999

La Collection Borduas du Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Quebec City. 

2004

La magie des signes: Oeuvres sur papier de la Collection Borduas du Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Orangerie du Domaine de Madame Élisabeth, Versailles. Organized by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Catalogue.


The catalogue of the 1962 Borduas exhibit organized by the National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and the Art Gallery of Toronto
Paul-Émile Borduas: A Critical Biography (2013), by François-Marc Gagnon

Writings by Borduas

Paul-Émile Borduas: Écrits/Writings, 1942–58. Edited by François-Marc Gagnon. Translated by François-Marc Gagnon and Dennis Young. Halifax: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, 1978.

Paul-Émile Borduas: Écrits I. Edited by André-G. Bourassa, Jean Fisette, and Gilles Lapointe. Montreal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1987. 

Paul-Émile Borduas: Écrits II. Edited by André-G. Bourassa and Gilles Lapointe. 2 vols. Montreal: Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1997.


Critical Interpretations

Bélisle, Josée, and Sam Abramovitch. La magie des signes: Oeuvres sur papier de la Collection Borduas du Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Montreal: Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 2004. Exhibition catalogue.

Bélisle, Josée, and Marcel Saint-Pierre. Paul-Émile Borduas. Montreal: Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal / Les 400 coups, 1998. Exhibition catalogue.

Brodzky, Anne Trueblood, ed. The Presence of Paul-Émile Borduas. Special issue, artscanada 35, nos. 224–25 (December 1978–January 1979).

Desjardins, Pierre W. et al. Paul-Émile Borduas: Esquisses et oeuvres sur papier, 1920–1940. Montreal: Ministère des Affaires culturelle du Québec / Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, 1977. 

Élie, Robert. Borduas. Montreal: Art Global, 1983. First published 1943 by L’arbre.

Ellenwood, Ray. “Surrealism Borduized.” In The Presence of Paul-Émile Borduas. Edited by Anne Trueblood Brodzky. Special issue, artscanada 35, nos. 224–25 (December 1978–January 1979): 14–18.

. Egregore: A History of the Montreal Automatist Movement. Toronto: Exile Editions, 1992. 

Gagnon, François-Marc. Paul-Émile Borduas. Canadian Artists Series, edited by Dennis Reid, vol. 3. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1976.  

, ed. Paul-Émile Borduas: Écrits/Writings, 1942–1958. Translated by François-Marc Gagnon and Dennis Young. Halifax: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, 1978.

. Paul-Émile Borduas (1905–1960): Biographie critique et analyse de l’oeuvre. Montreal: Fides, 1978. 

. Paul-Émile Borduas. Montreal: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1988. Exhibition catalogue.

. Chronique du mouvement automatiste québécois, 1941–1954. Montreal: Lanctôt éditeur, 1998. (Awarded the Raymond Klibansky Prize, 1999.)

. Paul-Émile Borduas: A Critical Biography. Translated by Peter Feldstein. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013.

Gagnon, François-Marc, Peter Malkin, and Luke Rombout. Borduas and America / Borduas et l’Amérique. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 1977. Exhibition catalogue.

Gauvreau, Pierre. “Borduas et le déracinement des peintres canadiens.” Le journal musical canadien, November 1954, 6.

Lapointe, Gilles. L’envol des signes: Borduas et ses lettres. Montreal: Fides / CETUQ (Centre d’études québécoises), 1996.

Nasgaard, Roald, and Ray Ellenwood. The Automatiste Revolution: Montreal, 1941–1960. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre; Markham, ON: Varley Art Gallery, 2009. Exhibition catalogue.

Ostiguy, Jean-René. Les esthétiques modernes au Québec de 1916 à 1946. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1982. Exhibition catalogue.

Payant, René. “The Tenacity of the Sign: Borduas in New York.” In The Presence of Paul-Émile Borduas. Edited by Anne Trueblood Brodzky. Special issue, artscanada, no. 224–25 (December 1978–January 1979): 31–38. 

Robert, Guy. Borduas. Montreal: Presses de l’Université du Québec à Montréal, 1972.

. Borduas ou le dilemme culturel québécois. Montreal: Stanké, 1977.

Saint-Martin, Fernande. Structures de l’espace pictural. Montreal: HMH, 1968.

Teyssèdre, Bernard. “Borduas: Sous le vent de l’île.” Bulletin of the National Gallery of Canada 6, no. 2 (1968): 22–31, 33.

Warren, Jean-Philippe. L’art vivant: Autour de Paul-Émile Borduas. Montreal: Boréal, 2011.


Interviews and Recordings

Borduas, Paul-Émile. “Autour d’un homme: Paul-Émile Borduas.” Judith Jasmin in conversation with Borduas in his studio, Paris, May 1957. CBC Archives, http://archives.radio-canada.ca/arts_culture/arts_visuels/clips/836/.

Godbout, Jacques. Paul-Émile Borduas (1905–1960). Montreal: National Film Board, 1962. 21 min. http://www.onf.ca/film/paul-emile_borduas_1905-1960.

Gravel, Gérald. “Refus global: Un texte cinglant.” Gérald Gravel reads an extract from the Refus global manifesto. Broadcast on January 18, 1979. CBC Archives, http://archives.radio-canada.ca/arts_culture/arts_visuels/clips/837/.

The Paul-Émile Borduas catalogue raisonné, on the Concordia University website, contains many reproductions of his paintings, the literature written about them, and a list of exhibitions where they were shown. borduascatalog.org.