Biography of Marcel BARBEAU

Marcel Barbeau, 1965



From 1942 to 1947, Marcel Barbeau studied at the École du meuble in Montreal with Paul-Émile Borduas, where he adopted a spontaneous approach to abstraction, then being explored by the artists associated with Borduas and the Automatistes. He signed the Refus global in 1948, thereby joining the group’s cry for a new social and artistic order following the war. In 1959, Barbeau abandoned the gestural techniques and “accidental” dream-inspired imagery promoted by the Automatistes. As he pursued the nature of space in painting, his work became more structured and geometric. In 1962, his encounter in Paris with the work of Victor Vasarely, a pioneer in the Op Art of the 1960s, opened a door for Barbeau’s own exploration of powerful optical effect. “ I am an intuitive painter”, he said in 1966. “ I don’t have a particular theme that I pursue. I sense a certain approach or attitude to follow, rather than having a clear, defined strategy”.

He travelled in Italy and worked in Paris.



Barbeau adopted a spontaneous approach to abstraction than his work became more geometric.



The artistic trajectory of Marcel Barbeau has been similarly dynamic – in a process of constant change and productivity in a variety of media over the span of his long and prolific career.



Barbeau exhibited with the Automatistes in montreal in 1946.



He became a member of the Contemporary Art Society and won a Canada Council fellowship in 1962. He won the Zach purchase prize at the Royal Canadian Academy exhibition in 1963.


Source: Anne Newlands, Canadian art from its beginnings to 2000, Firefly, Canada, 2000; R.H Hubbard and J.R Ostiguy, Three hundred years of Canadian Art, Ottawa, the National Gallery of Canada, 1967

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