Living Art. Individual and Collective Creativity: Becoming Paul-Émile Borduas


Paul-Émile Borduas had both successes and failures as he tried to express in artwork and words his vision of a generous, spontaneous, creative society. He was the catalyst for events that led to the writing of an important social and artistic manifesto, Refus global (Total Refusal, in translation with Exile Editions), published in 1948 by the movement known as Les automatistes.

Jean-Philippe Warren shows us the reversals and contradictions that make up this cultural figure, renowned for both his art and his thought. How his early hopes and doubts fermented in the crucible that is the mind of a young man. And how his attempts to find a new voice reflect the changes of a society trying to come to terms with a troubling and elusive modernity. Ultimately, Warren looks to understand the path that led Borduas to adopt a pictorial approach that was a clean break with the academicism of his time. He studies a man who broke early with the Catholic religion of his childhood, and who tried to replace it with a radically different ethic. At the same time, he suggests that Borduas came from an ambiance of Catholic intellectuals and artists who shared many of his progressive views and were also critical of the Church’s attitude to society and art. This is a remarkable portrait of one of our greatest artists and intellectuals, and shines a new light on a crucial turning point in the history of Quebec and Canada.

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