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Automatists art movement suffers backlash

On Aug. 9, 1948, a handsome young group of artists and intellectuals gathered at a Montreal bookstore to launch an anti-religious and anti-establishment manifesto. Le Refus global (Total Refusal) was signed by 16 artists including such giants as Jean-Paul Riopelle and Paul-Emile Borduas. It would become one of the most important and controversial artistic and social documents in modern Quebec society.

Along with Paul-Emile Borduas, the artists who co-signed le Refus global also come under attack. Some are denied work. In this clip artists Marcelle Ferron and Marcel Barbeau tell Stereo Morning host Terry Campbell how they have never sold a painting to the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal or the National Gallery of Canada. Ferron says it's a result of signing the manifesto. "They still punish us," she says, "for us it's the past, a past that we don't deny."

Jean Paul Mousseau, who was only 20 when he signed the manifesto, remembers the police frequently harassing them.
The Automatists soon go their separate ways, enjoying varying degrees of success. Painter Jean-Paul Riopelle moves to Paris and becomes one of the most important modern painters. Marcelle Ferron, on the other hand, has her children taken away. Her signature on the manifesto is seen as evidence of her being an unfit mother.
. Manon Barbeau, the daughter of one of le Refus global's signatories Marcel Barbeau, describes how she was abandoned by her parents when she was three years old. Her film Les Enfants de Refus global points out that many of the artists' quest for personal freedom included freedom from responsibility of family life.
Medium: Radio
Program: Stereo Morning
Broadcast Date: Jan. 26, 1982
Guest(s): Marcel Barbeau, Marcelle Ferron
Host: Terry Campbell
Duration: 8:37

Last updated: January 13, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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