This painting from Edmund Alleyn’s Suite indienne (1962-1964) embodies the most representative elements of this prolific period, notably the “bold greens, oranges, and pinks [that convey] a near-blissful kind of happiness.”1 In 1962, while living in Paris, Alleyn fell deeply in love with the woman whom he would soon marry. Filled with burgeoning desire, he transformed his passion into luminous and richly coloured paintings—a sharp contrast from the beige, brown, and grey tones of his previous works. After living in France for nearly a decade, Alleyn wished to reconnect with his roots by drawing on his ancestral memory, which he freely populated with, as Jennifer Alleyn describres, “characters from a fictional tribe” of indigenous flora and fauna that frenetically twist and rise.
Like most paintings in this series, Au sujet de petite soeur features a central element surrounded by a lush and vibrant natural world. Floral elements, including a bunch of flowers on a stem and pollen grains carried by the wind, also belong to a more intimate domain. By coupling Indigenous iconography with the private realm of young love, Alleyn creates a series of fertile and joyful works with the gestural energy of Abstract Expressionism. The rich motifs, combined with the themes of beauty, eroticism, life, and death, are also reminiscent of Surrealism.
Other paintings created that year, such as La fiancée, Poussée, and Au creux de l’été, are equally adept at representing “both a marine and terrestrial universe (cherished themes in Indigenous mythology)” writes Mona Hakim, that give this work, and the entire Suite indienne, a sense of originality, vivacity, and energy that marks a clean departure from Alleyn’s previous works.
Signed, dated and titled verso
Galerie Simon Blais, Montréal
Private collection, Montréal
ALLEYN, Jennifer, Anne CHERIX et Mona HAKIM. Edmund Alleyn. Hommage aux Indiens d’Amérique, Montréal, Éditions Simon Blais, 2009.