Executed in the style of Abstract Expressionism, Relief d’hiver (1963) is characterized by its restricted palette, which is typical of certain acrylics and mixed media on paper works from this period. Here, two complementary colours—green and bluish purple—act as counterpoints to the black and white, and as precursors to the punchy combinations that would dominate over the next decade. Generous, energetic strokes zigzag across a pictorial space composed of triangular and polygonal forms. The same treatment can be observed in both Agonie and Perpétuel isolement, two 1964 works featuring broad brushstrokes of diluted paint, at times outlined by drips that repeatedly and unapologetically mix and overlap on the canvas.
Hurtubise was born in Montreal in 1939. Between 1956 and 1960, he studied drawing, sculpture, and etching at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal; there, he met artists Albert Dumouchel and Alfred Pellan, whose teachings are palpable in his work. After receiving the Max Beckmann Scholarship in 1960, Hurtubise left for New York, where he discovered new sources of inspiration, notably in the works of Malevich, Pollock, and de Kooning, whose mix of formalism and gesture would become ubiquitous in his paintings and engravings. In addition to American Abstract Expressionism, Hurtubise was interested in the aesthetics of Montreal’s Plasticiens in the mid-1960s. In 1967, he represented Canada alongside Jack Bush at the 9th São Paulo Biennale in Brazil. In the early 1970s, he had his first touring exhibition with catalogue, shown at the Musée du Québec (1972) and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (1973). He was the recipient of the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award in 1992 and the Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas in 2000.