In 1948, Léon Bellefleur signed the Prisme d’Yeux manifesto, adding his voice to a group of Quebec artists led by painter Alfred Pellan. Published several months before Refus Global, the manifesto makes the case for an independent art open to highly diverse aesthetics, with freedom of expression taking precedence over radical doctrines. Bellefleur’s work was shown two years later in a joint exhibition with painter Fritz Brandtner at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, in which around 30 paintings revealed “the inspiration of a personalized surrealist tendency that translates the turbulent depths of dreams and the nocturnal imagination into spontaneous pulsating forms.” Freed from his work as a teacher in 1954, Bellefleur moved to France to dedicate himself fully to his art. Formal recognition came in 1968, when the National Gallery of Canada organized a retrospective that subsequently toured three museums. In 1977, Léon Bellefleur was the first recipient of the Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas.
In 1987 and 1988, with renewed fervour and still in his creative prime, the septuagenarian began a series of ten paintings in the same format titled Des Rêves et du Hasard. The complete series was reproduced in the first monograph devoted to Bellefleur’s work and career, written by Guy Robert. For Des Rêves et du Hasard no. 3, Bellefleur mostly worked on a horizontal plane, with the canvas on the floor, which allowed him to maintain a clear overview throughout the execution of the work. True to the lively, highly rhythmic style of his major compositions, the splashes, spatula strokes, scrapings, and dissolves in this brightly coloured and generously textured oil painting are guided by the vision of an inner celebration in full swing. The splatter of erupting droplets, the arabesques, and curves are captured in full motion, as though billowing from within: an incredible fantasy seems to be surging forth in this magnificently vibrant painting. (A. L.)