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1948: Launching of Le Refus global

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.

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On Aug. 9, 1948, an attractive group of young artists and intellectuals gathered at a bookstore on Montreal's St. Catherine St. They had come to launch an anti-religious and anti-establishment manifesto called Le Refus global (Total Refusal). It was signed by 16 artists, including painter Pierre Gauvreau, and in this 1998 CBC Radio clip, he recalls how he helped print copies of the original document.

The controversial booklet contained a number of essays, two short plays, drawings as well as photographs by different contributors, but at its heart was the main text penned by painter and mentor Paul-Emile Borduas. In Le Refus global, Borduas called for a total rejection of all conventional thinking and advocated a freedom of ideas. It would become one of the most influential artistic and social documents in modern Quebec society.

• The group, who called themselves the Automatists, includes world-renowned artists such as painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, Fernand Leduc and dancer Françoise Sullivan as well as Madeleine Arbour, Marcel Barbeau, Bruno Cormier, Claude Gauvreau, Pierre Gauvreau, Muriel Guilbault, Marcelle Ferron, Thérèse Leduc, Jean-Paul Mousseau, Maurice Perron, Louise Renaud and Françoise Riopelle.

• All 400 copies of le Refus global quickly sold out.

• The Automatists were inspired by their mentor Borduas, and influenced by French poet André Breton's stream-of-consciousness (automatic) style. They extolled the creative force of the subconscious.

• Pierre Gauvreau, who was 26 when he signed le Refus global in 1948, said the main message of the manifesto is that "God does not exist."

Also on August 9:
1988: Wayne Gretzky is traded to the Los Angeles Kings along with two other players. Gretzky played 10 seasons with the Edmonton Oilers and helped the team win four Stanley Cups.
Medium: Radio
Program: IDEAS
Broadcast Date: Oct. 21, 1998
Guest(s): Pierre Gauvreau
Host: Lister Sinclair
Reporter: Alan Conter
Duration: 2:04

Last updated: July 22, 2014

Page consulted on July 22, 2014

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