Artwork by Jean Albert McEwen,  Abstract Composition

Jean McEwen
Abstract Composition

watercolour
signed and dated 1956 lower right
13.75 x 10 ins ( 34.9 x 25.4 cms ) ( image )

Provenance:
Private Collection, Toronto
Literature:
Roald Nasgaard, “Abstract Painting in Canada”, Vancouver/Toronto, 2007, page 174-177
Roald Nasgaard and Ray Ellenwood, “The Automatiste Revolution”, Markham, 2009, pages 82-85
A member of the Non-Figurative Artists' Association of Montreal, McEwen is known for his strategic layered application of paint and experimentation with the transparency and sensuality of material. Painting in Montreal, the artist was influenced by the Automatiste painters, especially Paul-Émile Borduas, with non-figurative all-over abstraction. Working with watercolour, the artist uses similar layering techniques in “Abstract Composition” as he employed in his large oil paintings. Building up colour, varying between hues of green, yellow, grey and red, McEwen creates veils of translucent colour of varying opacity. Hints of base pigments are revealed through applied sheets of contrasting colours creating the illusion of depth on the flat surface of the paper. Here, the artist is able to create a trompe l'oeil perception of depth with watery washes of colour in a similar manner as his application of layered and built up oil paint. The work holds testament to McEwen's devotion to testing the limitations of the medium, focusing on the reduction of painting to the importance of the material over figurative subject matter.

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Jean Albert McEwen
(1923 - 1999) RCA

Jean McEwen was born in Montreal in 1923. While growing up he was intrigued by painting and the qualities of colour, but did not pursue any formal art training. Instead he studied Pharmacy at the University of Montreal in 1951. After seeing the film “The Moon and Sixpence” based on the Somerset Maughan novel about the life and work of Paul Gauguin, he was influenced to pursue painting while completing his Pharmacy degree.

A painting that he submitted to the 66th Annual Spring Salon at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art was accepted, after which a friendship with Paul-Emile Borduas began. Borduas encouraged him to travel to Paris. He spent three years in Paris where he formed associations with Jean-Paul Riopelle and American artist Sam Francis.

His long and successful career includes a teaching position at Concordia University, Montreal as well as numerous solo exhibitions. His work is a part of public and private collections including the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.