Biography of Jauran (Rodolphe DE REPENTIGNY)

Jauran, self-portrait, 1955



Jauran, whose real name was Rodolphe de Repentigny, was something of a polymath in his interests. After studying mathematics at the Université de Montréal, he lived in Paris from 1949 to 1952, studying philosophy at the Sorbonne and generally throwing himself into the culture of the city. He was thus able to report on European abstraction, not only on Lyrical Abstraction then gathering force but also on the postwar attempts to give renewed legitimacy to geometric abstraction. When Repentigny returned to Montreal, he continued to display a significant interest in these developments, especially in the group Espace, founded in 1951, defender of geometric abstraction and whose motto was “plastique d’abord” (plastic values first).

The Espace group published its ideas in the Parisian review Art d’aujourd’hui, stressing the importance of integrating art into the fabric of urban life through architecture, expressing social and utopian ideas that, while only implicit in their manifesto, made headway among the Plasticiens, as well as with other artists like Jean-Paul Mousseau in his Post-Automatiste years.

Although the Manifeste des Plasticiens was signed by all four artists, its principal author was no doubt Rodolphe de Repentigny, who, as well as being Jauran the painter, was a photographer and an art critic and a theoretician. From his position as art critic (as Repentigny) for the Montreal newspaper La Presse from 1952 to 1959, as well as in his other writings (under the name François Bourgogne) in the weekly L’Autorité and in the magazine Vie des arts, Repentigny developed an analytically structured body of criticism of considerable importance to modern Quebec culture. His critical methodology was rooted in a careful observation and description of the formal and material qualities of the individual  work of  art, in ways that have parallels to formalist criticism in New York at the same time. However, the work that Repentigny principally championed, which was defined largely by his own work and that of his Plasticien colleagues, had little of the aesthetic heft of New York painting.



His paintings were Cubist, a little bit Analytic Cubist with vestiges of chiaroscuro space, and a little bit Synthetic Cubist because of their collage of flattened interlocked forms. Thus he set the model for all the Plasticiens for whom the grid remained a predominant compositional determinant.



As the artist Jauran and as a critic, Repentigny preferred sombre and darkened colours, without brilliance or vividness, that related to one another in terms of values rather than hue, that were without any “disturbance injurious to real harmony” and that did not engage in the “glamour” of colour.


Source : Roald Nasgaard, “Abstract painting in Canada”, Douglas & McIntyre, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 2007 

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