Les Barricades, 1953
Borduas Catalogue No. 2005-0961: noted as likely autumn, 1953
G. Blair Laing Ltd., Toronto;
Gallery Moos Ltd., Toronto, label to verso;
Private collection, Edmonton, c. 1973;
Galerie Dresdnere, Toronto, label to verso, c. 1988;
Masters Gallery Ltd, Calgary;
Dresdnere, Simon, Borduas and Other Rebels, catalogue, Toronto, 1988, cat no. 4;
Gagnon, F.M., Paul-Émile Borduas: A Critical Biography, p. 322,-323, ill. 18.1
Viau, René and Dorota Kozinska, Borduas, Galerie Valentin, Montreal, p. 21;
Edmonton Collects, Edmonton Art Gallery, 1973, label to verso;
Borduas and other Rebels, Galerie Dresdnere, 1988, catalogue no. 4;
Borduas, Galerie Valentin, Montreal, September 11 – 25, 2010;
Paul-Émile Borduas Retrospective, Masters Gallery Ltd., September 11 – 21, 2014;
In 1953, Paul Emile Borduas left Montreal to move to America. The years leading up to his move had brought huge change: with the release of Refus Global in 1948, Borduas had lost his teaching position at the École du Meuble. In the wake of the controversy, he found little support in the Montreal art community, and in 1951, his wife and children left him. With little left available to him in Quebec, he sold his house and worked towards his goal of entering the international art world. First he spent the summer of 1953 in Provincetown, Massacheusets and in the fall, he moved to New York City.
Les Barricades is noted in the Borduas Catalogue Raisonné as being likely completed in the autumn of 1953, when Borduas had first moved to New York. Despite the difficult reasons for leaving Canada, uprooting his life induced a period of positive creative change for the artist. He experienced a newfound invigoration for painting, and in New York was exposed to the exciting American art scene, notably the American Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline.
In his Greenwich Village studio, Borduas worked on paintings that moved towards dissolving the figure ground relationship: everything in the picture came to the front of the canvas. Critic Clement Greenberg referred to this style as an “all over picture”, in which there is not one focal point, and viewers are directed across the entire picture plane. In Les Barricades we see this exemplified in thick, rhythmic marks of paint laid down with spatula that fully occupy the composition. Borduas would go on to develop this style over the two years that he lived in New York before moving to Paris in 1955, continuously studying the object to ground relationships as his work evolved. The works from his New York period remain a hugely important period in the artist’s ouevre and represent a critical turning point in his overall practice.