Biography of Pierre GAUVREAU





Born in Montreal in 1922, Pierre Gauvreau enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-arts in 1937 Gauvreau became a member of the Contemporary Art Society (formed in 1939) which included Paul-Émile Borduas, John Lyman and others. Gauvreau later served overseas with the Canadian Army and when he returned home to Montreal he took a further two years’s study at the École des beaux-arts.

Like many of the artists who were associated with Paul-Émile Borduas and he signed the Refus global in 1948.

Literature was highly censored by both Church and State, and Gauvreau has recalled being barred from finishing high school because he owned copies of Charles Baudelaire’s Les fleurs du mal and Arthur Rimbaud’s poetry. This interest in avant-garde literature influenced his visual thinking, and although he did not entirely embrace the current Surrealist theories, the legacy of the gestural freedoms associated with automatism appealed to him.

Later Gauvreau struck out on his own after becoming dissatisfied with painting in general and he stopped exhibiting his work. He turned his attentions to radio, film-making, theatre, and he became a CBC-TV producer. About 1961 he started exhibiting his work again when his gouaches were on view. 

Interviewed in 1979, Gauvreau declared, “I paint without preconceived ideas, and I am ready for anything which manifests itself on my canvas. I don’t manipulate movement or form or colour to conform with questions of taste…spontaneous perceptions cannot be filtered through rational censorship”.



His graceful non-figurative forms blossom and flower in space with an almost tensile strength and delicacy. There is no violence, no confusion, in Gauvreau’s work.



Each single brush-stroke, every glowing dash of color is both reasoned and refined, Many of his paintings appear to grow, or expand outward and upward from one central motif.



He exhibited with Borduas, Barbeau, Fauteux, Leduc, Mousseau and Riopelle in 1946 and in 1947 this group became known as the Automatists.



In 1938 he was awarded an “hors concours” by Paul-Émile Borduas at a student exhibition held at the College St. Marie.


Source: Anne Newlands, Canadian art from its beginnings to 2000, Firefly book, 2000, p. 119 and Colin S. Macdonald, A dictionary of Canadian artists. Volume 2, Canadian paperbacks, 3rd edition, 1977

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