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Public reaction to le Refus global is swift and harsh

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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Critical reaction to Paul-Emile Borduas and le Refus global is vehement and unrelenting. Borduas is caught off guard and unprepared for the backlash. He is forced to resign his teaching job at l'Ecole du Meuble.
Unable to sell his paintings, and denied art exhibitions, his health and marriage suffer.
On top of it all, the Automatists drift apart, quickly going their separate ways.

Depressed and discouraged, Borduas decides to leave Quebec for an extended period in a self-imposed exile in 1953. He spends time in New York and then from 1955 until his death in 1960 at the age of 54, he lives in Paris.
. In 1941, at the age of 36, Paul-Emile Borduas attempted his first abstract paintings. Later he wrote, "Children, always of great interest to me, opened up the way of surrealism, of automatic writing."
. Borduas's splashy, abstract style was considered too radical for the times but today he is recognized as one of the greatest Canadian painters of the postwar era.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: May 4, 1988
Guest(s): Bruno Cormier
Reporter: Gerri Barrer
Duration: 1:42

Last updated: April 4, 2012

Page consulted on May 12, 2014

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