Sans titre (1955) is one of a group of small-format, Automatiste-era paintings in oil, executed in one sitting with a palette knife. This vibrant body of work, with its dominant reds, yellows, greens, and blacks, includes Guido Molinari’s earliest paintings, predating his tachist and hard-edge periods. In effect, Sans titre foregrounds the changes that would soon play out upon the artist’s canvases, changes that would eventually lead to his vertical stripe paintings of the 1960s. “The real shift began on paper, in 1955,” Roald Nasgaard observes. “If we trace the sequence from the small black-and-white drawings to his larger drawings of 1956, we can see how, while remaining intuitive and organic, even tachist, they become increasingly structured, resolving themselves in a coarse geometry with blurred outlines.”
Molinari was born in Montreal in 1933. He took night classes at the School of Art and Design at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, notably with Marian Scott. Later he pursued his drawing and painting independently, presenting his first solo exhibition at L’Échourie in 1954. The following year, he participated in the group exhibition Espace 55 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, as well as in Art Abstrait, four years later, also at the Museum. In addition to his many shows at the East Hampton Gallery during the 1960s, Molinari took part in the legendary 1965 exhibition The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York. Only shortly thereafter, he represented Canada at the thirty-fourth Venice Biennale in 1968, where he won the David E. Bright Foundation Prize. In 1969, he was appointed a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and in 1971 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 1973, he received the Victor-Martyn-Lynch-Staunton Award, and, three years later, the National Gallery of Canada gave him his first retrospective. Molinari was the youngest recipient of the Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas, in 1980. The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal honoured him with a final retrospective in 1995. Molinari held two teaching positions during his career: at the School of Art and Design, briefly (1964–65), and at Concordia University (1970–97). Molinari—painter, drawer, printmaker, sculptor, art theorist, and poet—died in 2004, in his hometown.