CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

1948: Automatistes launch Refus global art movement

The Story

On Aug. 9, 1948, a 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 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 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.

Medium: Radio
Program: IDEAS
Broadcast Date: Oct. 21, 1998
Guest: Pierre Gauvreau
Host: Lister Sinclair
Reporter: Alan Conter
Duration: 2:04

Did You know?

• The group, who called themselves the Automatistes, 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 Refus global quickly sold out.

• The Automatistes 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 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.


Le Refus global: Revolution in the Arts more