Marcel Barbeau

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Marcel Barbeau
Marcel-Barbeau atelier 2001.jpg
Marcel Barbeau at his atelier in Estrie, Sutton, Quebec in 2001
Born(1925-02-18)February 18, 1925
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
DiedJanuary 2, 2016(2016-01-02) (aged 90)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Known forArtist

Marcel Barbeau, OC OQ (February 18, 1925 – January 2, 2016) was a Canadian artist.[1]

Marcel Barbeau is firstly an abstract expressionist and an action painting artist (1946-1957 and 1971-1980), whose paintings and sculptures become the material continuation of instinctual movement, which he superposes until formal achievement is reached. He’s thus pioneer of new pictural approaches, such as all over image, the cropping of composition by means of cutting a larger work or the association of several gestural techniques: scraping, marks, spots, drippings... His kinetic works (1959-1966) as well suggest the expression of movement, until it becomes incantatory hallucination. While adopting a minimalist approach in his quest for purity (19601963 and 1968-1971), he rejects its theoretical and formal constraints, to which he never totally submits. Let it be in his paintings, drawings or sculptures, his most simple compositions or most stripped forms – from the abstract figures that inhabits them – suggest movement, time passing by, a future to come. In that regard, his art constantly stands on the fringe of the aesthetic movements to which he relates to, imposing to the latter his own questionings, his own singular approach.

All of his work translates, in its own mutations, a will to simultaneously grasp the present and forecast the future, reflecting the thought typical of his era. As a witness of his time, he broadens his art with new visions inspired from science and new technologies. His interest in psychoanalysis leads him to make use of the unconscious in his Automatist gestural works (1946-1957). From his observations using electronic optical instruments, he wanted to express the infinitesimal and the infinitely big in his Taschist paintings (1954-1956). In New York (1965-1968), he refines his kinetic studies by meeting with researchers working at Bell Laboratory.

As a painter and sculptor, Barbeau has addressed most of the fields in visual arts. As a multidisciplinary artist, he tried to change the plastic language by transgressing disciplinary boundaries. His collages became paintings (1959-1963 and 1986-2005), art prints (1969) and sculptures (1984-1988). His drawings of poems, made of words and letters, have sometimes borrowed their medium and relief from painting (1957). His sculptures remind of drawings thrown in space (1971-1977) or look like small shelters, almost architectural (1985-1992). His performances, real stagings of the act of creation, materialized through paintings, drawings and, under his directive with the complicity of photographers or film directors, through photographs, films and videos, giving some permanence to otherwise ephemeral artistic gestures (1972-1980).

Curiosity leads Barbeau to study the main contemporary artistic trends originating from other disciplinary fields. His interest for those art forms encourage him to draw on their problematics, structures or writing processes in order to find some convergences, connivances, anchor points or to confirm aesthetic intuitions. He thus uses poetry, music, dance and architecture to renew his art, but not as subjects nor models. For example, his phonic calligraphies (1957-1960) inspired from his friend Claude Gauvreau’s poetry, his drawings inspired from Grupen by Stockhausen (1957-1960) or his interdisciplinary events from the seventies and the eighties. He even created works that fall under these disciplines: his phonic chants from the mid-eighties, which appear in the portrait film by Manon Barbeau entitled Barbeau, Libre comme l’art; his dances-action paintings from the seventies; the choreography he created for the opening dance part of his exhibit at Domaine Cataraqui (1999).

Despite its diversity and its profusion, his work reveals a profound unity in its writing, which materializes in his preference for diagonal axes, for compositions showing fragile equilibrium and in his spatiotemporal approach to the visual world. Barbeau thus expresses his fascination for movement as a bearer of desire and of time measure. He also stands out for the symbolic dimension and irony that translate from the title of his purest abstractions. As a "baroque" artist, his work falls within a fusional approach to artistic creation, while revealing his search for formal perfection and plastic equilibrium. Economy of means and aesthetic perfection being of great concern for him, Barbeau still needs to express emotions in an elated way and refers to the unconscious, even in his paintings, let them be optical, geometrical, minimalist or serial. Thus, his work reveals itself as a permanent and utopian quest in reaching the synthesis of opposites.[2]

Honors & Grants[edit]

1962 Canada Council Grant (Paris)

1964 Zack Award, Canadian Painting Biennial, Canadian Royal Academy

1965 Quebec Ministry of Cultural Affairs Grant (New York)

1969 Canada Council short term Grant (Los Angeles)

1971 Canada Council Grant (Paris)

1973 Lynch-Staunton Fellowship, Canada Council(sculpture) (Paris)

1986 Sculpture Prize, Mc Donald Restaurant's Canada Art, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1988 Mention, International Art Competition, New York

1988 Mention Horizon International Art Competition (New York)

1989 Guest of honor at the Quebec Painting Council fundraising evening, Montreal Museum of Fine arts.

Quebec Ministry of Cultural Affairs Grant

1989 Quebec Ministry of Cultural Affairs Grant for promotion, (Catalogue, exhibition at the Kaspar (Toronto)

1990 Guest of honor at Symposium de la jeune peinture de Baie Saint-Paul.

1991Quebec Ministry of Cultural Affairs Grant for promotion, (shipping expenses for the exhibition at the Galerie Donguy (Paris).

1993 Réception at the Canadian Royal Academy of Arts

1994 (C.A.L.Q.) short term Grant to produce works to represent Quebec at the Quebec (Paris)

1994 Gold Medal: painting, second Jeux de la Francophonie (Paris)

1995Canada Order as an Officer.

1998 Publication of a stamp by Canada Post as a part of the collection on the Automatists painters signatory of the manifesto Refus global (Total refusal).

1999 Condorcet Honorary Prize to the Signatories of the manifesto (Total refusal), Montreal. Mouvement laïque du Québec

2001 Fifth prize in painting at the Art Biennale Internationale Del Arte Contemporaneo (International Biennale of Contemporary Art), Fortezza da Basso, Florence, Italy.

2002 Invited to join Académie Européenne des Arts et des Lettres, France.

Official disclosure of a memorial late on his former studio and residence in Montreal located at 1637 Amherst Street

2002 Reception at the European Academy of Arts and Letters, France

2013 Governor General's Awards, visual art, Canada,

2013 Louis-Philippe-Hébert Award, Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, May 2013, Québec,

2013 Paul-Émile-Borduas Award, prix du Québec, octobre 2013, Québec,

2015 Ordre national of Québec, June 2015, Québec

Public Collections[edit]

Acadian Art Museum, University of Moncton, New Brunswick

Agence de coopération culturelle et technique de la Francophonie, Paris, France

Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario

Archives of the art criticism, Rennes, France

Archives de l’UQAM - Fonds Marcel Barbeau (University of Quebec Archives), Montreal, QC

Archives nationale du Québec- Archives de l’audio visuel (Quebec National Archives, audio-visual Archives), Quebec City, QC

Art Gallery of Algoma, Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, ON

Art Gallery of Northumberland, Cobourg, ON

Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON

Art Gallery of Peterborough, Peterborough, ON

Artothèque de Montréal (Montreal Art Loan Collection), Montreal, QC

Art Bank, Canada Art Council, Ottawa, ON

Bibliothèque Jacques Doucet (Jacques Doucet Library, Bibliothèque nationale (National Library), Paris, France

Bibliothèque de Montreal (Montreal Public Library), Montreal, QC

Bibliothèque nationale (National Library), Paris, France

Bibliothèque nationale du Québec (Quebec National Library), Montreal, QC

British Museum, London, U.K.

Canada Art Council, Ottawa, ON

Carleton University, Ottawa, ON

Centre d’expositons de Baie-Saint-Paul (Baie-Saint-Paul Exhibition Center), Baie-Saint-Paul, QC

Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginie, United States

Churchill College, University of Cambridge, U.K.

Cobourg Museum, Cobourg, ON

Collection de prêt de la banque d’oeuvres d’art du Québec (Quebec Art Bank Loan Collection), QC

Confederation Centre of the Arts, Art Gallery and Museum, Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Dalhousie Art Gallery, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS

Douglas Hospital, Mc Gill University Health Centre, Montreal. QC

École des Hautes études commerciales, University of Montreal, QC

Fairleigh-Dickenson University, Madison, New Jersey, USA

Foundation of the Montreal Children's Hospital, Montreal, QC

Foundation of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, QC

Galerie UQAM (UQAM Gallery), University of Quebec in Montreal, QC

Gatineau Municipality, Gatineau, QC

Greater Victoria Art Gallery, Victoria, BC

Glenbow Museum and Art Gallery, Calgary, AB

Hart House, University of Toronto, ON

Hôtel des Postes, Musée Laurier (Laurier Museum), Victoriaville, QC

Institut canadien (Canadian Institute), Bibliothèque Gabrielle Roy, QC

Istituto Culturale e l'Arte (Culture and Art institute), Catania, Sicily, Italy

Joliette Municipality, Joliette, QC

Kenderdyne Art Gallery, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK

Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener, ON

Newfoundland and Labrador Museum, Saint John, NL

Lamton Gallery, Sarnia, ON

Laurentian University Museum and Art Centre, Laurentian University, Sudbury, ON

La foundation de la Vieille vigne, Dinan, France

La Vielle pulperie (Saguenay-Lac St-Jean Museum), Chicoutimi, QC

Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal

Lethebrige Art Gallery, University of Lethebridge, AB

London Art Gallery and Museum, London, ON

Loughborough University Art Gallery, Loughborough, U.K.

McGill University, Montreal, QC

McIntosh Art Gallery, Western University, London ON

Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, SK

McLaren Art Centre, Barrie, ON

McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, ON

Ministry of External Affairs of Canada, Ottawa, ON

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, QC

Montreal Municipality, Borough Lachine, (Lachine Museum and Lachine Marina) Montreal, QC

Montreal Municipality, Borough Montréal East, Montreal, QC

Montreal Municipality, Borough St-Laurent (City Hall) Montreal, QC

Musée d’art de Joliette (Joliette Museum of Art), Joliette, QC

Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal (Montreal Contemporary Art Museum), Montreal, QC

Musée d’art du Mont-Saint-Hilaire (Mont-Saint-Hilaire Museum of Art), Mont-Saint-Hilaire, QC

Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Strasbourg (Moderne and Contemporary Museum of Strasbourg), Strasbourg, France

Musée d’art de Sherbrooke (Art Museum of Sherbrooke), Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (Lyon Museum of Fine Arts), Lyon, France

Musée des beaux-arts de Sherbrooke (Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts), Sherbrooke, QC

Musée du Bas Saint-Laurent (Bas St-Laurent Museum), Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Musée de la Civilisation (Civilisation Museum), Quebec, QC

Musée de Lachine, (Lachine Museum), Lachine, QC

Musée de la Côte Nord (Quebec North Shore Museum), Sept-îles, QC

Musée Louis-Émond (Louis-Émond Museum), Péribonka, QC

Musée en plein air de Lachine (Lachine sculpture Parc), Lachine, QC

Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (Quebec National Museum of Fine Arts), Quebec, QC[3]

Musée régional de Charlevoix (Charlevoix Regional Museum), La Malbaie, QC

Musée régional de Rimouski (Rimouski Regional Museum, Rimouski), QC

Musée d’art contemporain de Barcelona (Museum of contemporary art of Barcelona), Barcelona, Spain

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON

National Gallery, Washington D.C., United States

National Library of Canada, Ottawa, ON

New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, NB

Newfoundland and Labrador Museum, Saint John, NL

Nova Scotia Art Gallery and Museum, Halifax, NS

Nickle Art Museum, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB

Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa, ON

Owen Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB

Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery, Oshawa, ON

Rodman's Hall Art Centre Collection, Saint-Catherine, ON

Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, United States

Simon Fraser Museum, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland

Stratford Art Gallery, Stratford, ON

The Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, AB

The Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC

The Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, MB

Toronto City Corporation (Hôtel de ville), Toronto, ON

University of Moncton, Moncton, New Brunswick

Université de Montreal (University of Montreal) Montreal, QC

Université de Sherbrooke (University of Sherbrooke), Sherbrooke, QC

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, United States

Université du Québec à Montréal, (University of Quebec at Montreal) Montréal, QC

Canada: Archives Services (Fonds Marcel Barbeau) et UQAM Gallery, QC

University of Saskatchewan, Regina, SK

Windsor Art Gallery, Windsor, ON


  1. ^ "Marcel Barbeau s'éteint à l'âge de 90 ans" (in French). Le Devoir. 2 January 2016. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  2. ^ Ninon Gauthier, PhD, historienne de l'art, Marcel Barbeau : Then and now, 2013.
  3. ^ "Marcel Barbeau". Retrieved 18 January 2020.

External links[edit]