Alfred Pellan

Alfred Pellan was born May 16th 1906, in Quebec City, and died October 31st 1988 in Laval, Quebec. In 1923, while Pellan was a student at the Quebec School of Fine arts (1920-25), the National Gallery of Canada purchased his painting Corner of Old Quebec. In 1926, Pellan won the government of Quebec's first fine-arts scholarship, enabling him to study in Paris where he remained until 1940. There the color in Pellans’ still lives and figure studies became more intense, his linear rhythms more fluid, and his images more abstract. His most outstanding achievement during his stay in Paris was winning the first prize at the 1935 exposition of mural art. When he returned to Canada because of WWII he settled in Montreal. Work he brought in from Paris received acclaims during exhibitions in 1940 in Quebec and in Montreal, but Pellan's cubist and surrealist art was considered too avant-garde and he sold little. To survive, he taught at Montreal's School of fine arts from 1943 to 1952.

In the mid-1940s Pellan also began illustrating poetry books and designed costumes and sets for the theatre. During this period he developed his mature style. He was increasingly drawn to surrealism; his imagery became more erotic and his always strikingly colored paintings became larger, more complex and textured. His refusal to be affiliated with any particular school of art led to the creation in 1948 of Prisme d'yeux, a group of artists whose manifesto called for an art free of restrictive ideology.

In 1952 Pellan received an RSC grant and moved to Paris once again until 1955, when he became the first Canadian to have a solo exhibition at the National Museum of Modern art. Upon his return to Canada, numerous exhibitions and mural commissions established his reputation nationally. He is the subject of several monographs and films (e.g., G. Lefebvre, Pellan, 1986), the recipient of many awards and honors including the Prix Émile-Borduas (1984), and an Officer of the Ordre National du Québec (1985).

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