Untitled (1959) is a significant piece in Fernand Toupin’s body of work, due to the pivotal historical context in which it was made and to its undeniable formal qualities, which herald a lasting metamorphosis in his work.
At the end of 1959, Jean-Paul Jérôme, Louis Belzile, and Fernand Toupin—now considered the trio comprising the premiers Plasticiens*—began their respective phases of formal transformations, marking the end of a shared artistic adventure. At the time, Toupin, seeking an expressiveness, even a certain lyricism, more closely aligned with his formal concerns, showed a keen interest in the texturing of surfaces. To this effect, masses began to expand and move within the pictorial area, now partitioned by diagonals and acute angles that generated movement and dynamic energy, thus participating in the desired growth. The works Untitled (1958), Solitude (1959), and Cabriole (1959, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec) all show strong similarities with Untitled (1959), starting with their small dimensions, sandy surface treatment, softened contours, and linear networks that connect figure and ground.
Art historian Marie Carani discusses this period in terms of a “decidedly lyrical textural materialism that would be [Toupin’s] in the 1960s and was already recognized in his work at the time of his joint exhibition with Belzile at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, in October 1958 and, two months later, in the Abstract Art exhibition [at the Montreal School of Fine Arts].” Although Toupin devoted most of his career to “materialistic” works “that relied on granulations and impasto,” late in life he returned to “a geometry of form and exploded areas,” writes Denise Leclerc.
*Rodolphe de Repentigny, alias Jauran, co-signatory of the Manifeste des Plasticiens, died in an accident in June 1959.