Quebec Studies

André Breton and the Montreal Automatistes

Quebec Studies (1983), 1, (1), 257–267.


Andre Breton and the Montreal Automatistes Edwin J . Hamblet World War I1 brought Quebec into direct contact with Andre Breton and the main currents of Surrealism. The Q u 6 becois painter Alfred Pellan returned to Montreal in 1940 after having spent the previous fourteen years in France where he had known Breton and had become intimately acquainted with contemporary art movements in Paris. Pellan introduced Surrealism to his students at the h o l e des Beaux Arts and to other leading members of the Montreal art community including Paul-Emile Borduas, a painter and professor since 1937 at the Ecole du Meuble. Although Borduas had probably read issues of Le Minotaure and Breton’s Chiteau e‘toile‘ and was familiar with some of the Surrealist manifestos, it was Pellan who sparked his interest in Surrealism and influenced the direction that his painting would take. Borduas also came under the influence of AlainMarie Couturier, the French Dominican teacher and critic and exponent of modern art, as well as that of other French exiles who had taken refuge in Montreal. In the spring of 1942 Borduas exhibited a series of fortyfive Surrealist gouaches at the Theitre de 1’Ermitage and later organized an exhibition of young artists known as the Sagittakes at the Galerie Dominion in May 1943. Twenty-three of these painters were under twenty-five, and eleven were Borduas’ ‘own students. Fernand Leduc, an enthusiastic member of the group wrote to Andre Breton in New York to inquire about the review VVV and received the following reply dated September 17, 1943: Rien ne me serait plus agrkable que d’enregistrer votre adhksion et celle de vos amis au mouvement surrkaliste et je vous saurais grC de la formuler dans une lettre susceptible d’etre reproduite dans la revue.’

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Author details

Hamblet, Edwin