PELLAN, Alfred : 1906 - 1988

In 1923, while Pellan was still a student at Quebec School of Fine Arts (1920-1925) the National Gallery of Canada purchased his painting entitled ″Un coin du vieux Québec″, Pellan was born in Quebec City in 1906 and was only 16 at the time.

During his five years as a student, he won first place in the more advanced courses and earned medals in painting, drawing, sculpting and sketching.

In 1926 he became the first painter to earn a grant from the Government of Quebec. He then left for Paris and returned 14 years later driven out by the war. While in Paris, Pellan met with most of the tenors from l'École de Paris. Over there, the colours of his still lives and his figure studies became more intense, his rhythms more linear and flowing, and his images more abstract.

In 1935, the year of his first solo exhibition in Paris, he won first prize at the ″Salon de l'art mural″. The following year, the ″Musée du Jeu de Paume″ acquired one of his still life paintings. In 1939 Pellan showed at the Jeanne Bûcher Gallery (who already exhibited work by Braque, Kandinsky, Giacometti, Picasso…) and exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art of Washington in the company of Dufy, Derain, Fautrier and Picasso.

In 1940, while the Second World was raging, Alfred Pellan moved to Montreal and presented his work at the Quebec Museum and at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. However, since the cubic and surrealist art of Pellan was considered too avant-garde, sales were scarce. In order to survive, he taught at Montreal School of Fine Arts from 1943 to 1952. The objections he set out with respect to the narrow theoretical and academic views of Charles Maillard, director of the school, forced the latter to quit in 1945; thereafter the school had a more liberal approach.

In the mid 1940’s Pellan started illustrating poetry books and designed theater costumes and sceneries. His style matured and he was more and more attracted to surrealism. His images became more erotic and his paintings, always gripping with colour, became larger, more complex and textured. His refusal to join any art school of thought urged him to establish ″Pisme d'Yeux″ in 1948; a group of artists whose manifesto claimed an art free of any restrictive ideology.

In 1949, he married Maddalena Polisenc . In 1952, Pellan received a grant from the Canadian Royal Society and moved to Paris, where he lived until 1955 when he became the first Canadian to present a solo exhibition of 181 paintings at the ″Musée national d'art moderne″. Upon his return to Canada several exhibitions and orders for murals made him well known throughout the country. Several monographs and movies were dedicated to him (for example G. Lefebvre, Pellan, 1986). He was also awarded several prizes and distinctions such as the Paul-Émile-Borduas award in 1984. Moreover, he was made Officer of the National Order of Quebec.

He died in 1988 at his home in Auteuil in Laval where he had been living since 1950.