'Bad boy' of art world, Jean-Paul Riopelle dies

Canadian artist Jean-Paul Riopelle has died at his home in Quebec.

Canada has lost one of its most recognized artists. Jean-Paul Riopelle died late Tuesday at his home near Quebec City.

Riopelle rose to fame in France after the Second World War. He grew to become one of Canada's best-known artists. And his reputation as a rebel helped propel him to the heights of the art world.

Many critics say Riopelle was the first Canadian artist to be highly regarded in Europe's tightly woven art world. He helped introduce abstract impressionism in Paris in the 1950s.

"He had this immense talent, this immense energy, he was aware of what was going on. He represents the 20th century," said Helene deBilly who wrote Riopelle's biography.

DeBilly says Riopelle's image had a lot to do with his popularity. The Montreal-born painter was known as a kind of bad boy in the art world.

"He was a rebel. He was somebody the church, the authorities, everybody despised! What he represented was something awful!"

Riopelle was outspoken in his opposition to the Roman Catholic Church. He was a signatory of the infamous Refus Global, in which Quebec artists formally rejected the religious and political establishment.

Francois-Marc Gagnon, head of Canadian Art Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, says Riopelle was always careful to build the right image.

He made the right friends among critics and other artists and writers, including Samuel Beckett. "The beginning is amazing, because you have other Canadian painters at the time, who are there, and don't have this flair, this success, or they associated with the wrong group," said Gagnon.

Riopelle lived half his life in Paris. But friends and family say he spent his final years where he was happiest: living quietly in his house on an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River.

The Quebec government announced Wednesday Riopelle will be buried in a state funeral on Monday.

Jean-Paul Riopelle was 78.