Artwork by Jean Albert McEwen,  Vert-noir-vert

Jean McEwen

oil on canvas
signed, titled, dated 1965 and inscribed “Le vert paradis des amours enfantines...” and “Est-il déjà plus loin que l'Inde et que la Chine? / Baudelaire” on the reverse
72 x 70 ins ( 182.9 x 177.8 cms )

Sold for $14,455.00
Sale date: November 20th 2018

Private Collection, Toronto
Between 1965 and 1969, McEwen experimented with hard-edge abstraction and acrylic paints, moving away from his practice of layered oil paints. Prevalent in the New York art scene, hard-edge abstraction was also picked up in Montreal with non-figurative painters as many of the artists either had gallery representation or cross-over with their American counterparts. With a decidedly more graphic style, McEwen employed this technique in “Vert-noir-vert”. A solid vertical strip of black occupies the centre of the canvas, flanked by a thin stripe of hot pink on each side. Bands of green with flecks of yellow pigment on the right and left sides suggest a sense of depth, in stark contrast to the central black panel. Often using a solid vertical rectangular strip to divide the composition, the contrast between the abstract background of colour interrupted by an uneven layer of black and the flattened dividing form explores the limitations of depth created by both form and colour. Devoted to exploring the power of colour, tones and texture and the sensation that colour can create, McEwen delivers works in keeping with period experimentation while maintaining his true core artistic purpose.

The inscription on the reverse of “Vert-noir-vert” references lines from a 1857 poem by Charles Baudelaire, the Latin title “Moesta et Errabunda” translating to “Grieving and Wandering”.

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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.