Provocative, rebellious, brilliant – these are just a few of the superlatives that describe the creative spirit of Pierre Gauvreau and his considerable contribution to Quebec culture. The youngest child of the equally famous poet Claude Gauvreau, the painter constantly reinvented himself throughout his career, becoming in turn an author, a screenwriter, a television director, and a film producer. While a student at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal in 1941, Gauvreau was discovered by Paul‑Émile Borduas, who was then serving as a jury member for a group exhibition at the Théâtre Gésu. Amazed by the “singular qualities” of Gauvreau’s painting, the jury awarded the young artist with the first prize. In 1943, Gauvreau was invited to exhibit with the Société d’art contemporain, after which he and other artists from this circle of avant-garde painters founded the Automatistes, who would go on to publish the Refus global manifesto in 1948. In the mid-1950s, Gauvreau began to distance himself from the group’s influences to explore a freer, more gestural kind of imagery. He stopped painting in the early 1960s to focus on his work in the emerging medium of television, but returned to it in 1977.
Parfait aux raisins was created in 1962, at the threshold of the long hiatus that marked a transition in Gauvreau’s career. The spectacular composition is established through a series of fierce yet precise gestures. Glowing, almost-blonde ochres play off sumptuous tones of aubergine, sienna, and burnt umber, while jet-black silhouettes seem to drink from a bay of cloudy cerulean blue. The mystery of this painting unfolds between resistance and abandonment, power and breathlessness, in an exploration of the entire range of painting.
Parfait aux raisins is considered one of Pierre Gauvreau’s most accomplished works.