An iconic painting from Marcella Maltais’s post-Automatiste period of the late 1950s, Untitled is an uncommonly large work for this artist, and, as such, a highly coveted piece among her overall body of work. A twisted composition comprised of pictorial layers applied by palette knife in slabs and ribbons, juxtaposed or superimposed, this spectacular oil painting demonstrates the artist’s masterful technique and inspired vision. Rich impastos are stacked and braided in a towering spine, contrasting with an uncontrollable left-to-right tectonic motion. The central mass—buttressed by an immaculate white—is infused with black, indigo, and cobalt tones that split and plunge into a current of pure cadmium red.
Marcelle Maltais studied painting under Jean Paul Lemieux and Jean Dallaire in 1949 at the École des beaux-arts de Québec. In 1955, she presented her first solo exhibition at the Palais Montcalm in Quebec City, and won the first prize in painting at Quebec’s “Exposition Provincial.” She was honoured with an exhibition at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal in 1957, before briefly relocating to Paris the following year. In 1959, Maltais was awarded the first prize at the Salon de la jeune peinture (Young Painters’ Salon) in Montreal. (A. L.)