Jean-Paul Riopelle R.C.A.

Sans Titre, 1957

oil on canvas
7x5.5 in.

Catalogue Raisonné no. 1957.156H

The Estate of Joan Mitchell
Chiem and Reid Gallery, New York

Catalogue Raisonné de Jean Paul Riopelle, vol. II, 1959-1959, updated 2012

Jeffery Spalding wrote, “In Riopelle… the quality of the material substance of paint carries more weight than the image that it is contorted to represent.”1 It is the material quality of the paint itself, he tells us, that attracts us to Riopelle’s varied and considerable body of work. And in this material quality of paint, two considerations are paramount. Colour and gloss. We know that Riopelle used varying levels of gloss (or sheen) in single works, to cause the reflected light to play and dance across them, giving them a vibrancy and sparkling life as the light plays on impasto and moves from shiny blue to flat white. From 1952 until 1978, it is thought that Riopelle used Lefebvre-Foinet oil paints almost exclusively. Close to 80 spent tubes from the Lefebvre-Foinet shop were retrieved from Riopelle’s Paris studio after his death. Riopelle was also reported to have bought the entire stock of the store on one occasion, and further, to have been unable to work when a particular pigment was out of stock. “Foinet,” said Riopelle, sold colours that were “unique.”2 While it unlikely that one supplier could make enough paint to keep Riopelle supplied during his Paris years, the Foinet story, of unique colour and the artist’s desire to use it, resonates with the myth of the driven, obsessed artist. What is fact is that this venerated paint manufacturer also supplied Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, Fernand Léger, and Joan Mitchell.


Jean Paul Riopelle was born in 1923 in Montreal, Quebec. Interested in both art and drafting from an early age, Riopelle’s artistic endeavours were originally based in Academic-style still-life and landscape works He attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts briefly before moving on to study at the École du Meuble in…