Biography of Jean MCEWEN

Jean McEwen, 1963



Born in Montreal in 1923, the self-taught artist Jean McEwen graduated in pharmacy from the Université de Montréal in 1947.  In 1951, he went to Paris, where he became enchanted with light-filled canvases of the Impressionists and encountered Jean-Paul Riopelle and abstract artist Sam Francis, whose harmonious use of colour appealed to his fascination with light in painting. McEwen was acclaimed as an “abstract impressionist”, and his painterly approach to colour and dynamics of space was as innovative as it was unique. He died in Montreal in 1999.



The poetic quality of McEwen’s work reflects his own lifelong commitment to writing. He assigned lyrical titles to his paintings, not as literal equivalents but for poetic evocation, obliquely summoning an emotional response.

In his book, Cul de lampe, McEwen wrote, “A painting is created from rhythm, form, space, light, shade and colour – but it is the feeling, the poetry of the painter that produces the harmony”.



McEwen layered colour, superimposing transparent and opaque paint, varying margins, edges and internal divisions to create dynamic, luminous compositions.


Source: Anne Newlands, Canadian art form its beginnings to 2000, Firefly book, 2000

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