Commanding, liberated, and forceful, Untitled (1956), by Marcelle Ferron, was produced during a decisive and historic period in Quebec’s visual arts scene: the Automatistes group was at its zenith, and Ferron, along with Paul Émile Borduas, Jean Paul Riopelle, Marcel Barbeau, and Françoise Sullivan, was among its key members. This painting embodies the essence of the pictorial concerns that came to characterize Ferron’s work: gesture, rhythm, and light.
Painted during Ferron’s time in Paris, Untitled (1956) is an innovative piece that perfectly embodies the style of the Automatiste movement and other paintings from the same period. It also acts as a harbinger of the artist’s subsequent works, which would reflect an entire decade of production. Here, the organic nature of the palette-knife strokes is preserved—the masses of paint are serrated and irregular on one side—while generous layers of luminous impasto fill the entire the pictorial space. Ferron stands out for the power of her gesture and the balance of her compositions—not to mention her palette, dominated here by cool tones boosted by a few bursts of vivid colour. Untitled captivates the eye with its aerial movement inspired by aquatic flora and vegetation, like shimmering waves or rustling leaves.
In October 1953, Marcelle Ferron left Montreal for Paris with her three daughters. During her first years abroad, “Ferron took multiple trips, travelling to the Balkans, Greece, Italy, and the Netherlands where she discovered new qualities of light." Her stay in France, until 1966, played a decisive role in the development of her career. A batch of pigments donated to her by a patron during the last half of the 1950s is at the origin of a transition in her pictorial aesthetic. In 1956, Ferron presented her first European solo exhibition at Galerie Apollo, in Brussels. She also took part in the 23rd exhibition by an art association called Les Surindépendants at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris and, shortly after, in a private exhibition at the Galerie du Haut-Pavé, also in Paris. About this period, curator Réal Lussier writes, “Her increasingly luminous compositions were created essentially from a restrained selection of colours that allowed the whites to practically vibrate.”