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Jean McEwen (1923 1999) was a Canadian painter who was known for his abstract, colourful paintings. De ma main à la couleur (Hand to Colour) is a series of 16 watercolour paintings accompanied by handwritten poetry by McEwen.
The book will include an essay by art historian and writer Laurier Lacroix, and an additional text by McEwen’s widowed wife Indra McEwen. It is also published to coincide with 50 limited edition box sets that are stamped and authenticated by McEwen’s estate. The watercolour series is a collection of love letters addressed to colour, produced near the end of McEwen’s life.
Poetry was another form of artistic expression for McEwen, with renowned poets Baudelaire and Valéry among his revered idols. The works included in De ma main à la couleur act as precursors to his oil painting series Poèmes barbares (Barbaric Poems), painted during the last year of his life and now represented in the collections of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the National Gallery of Canada. The watercolours of De ma main à la couleur were donated to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts by Indra McEwen, and were exhibited in 2005.
McEwen’s watercolours and poetry are not as well known and represented in public collections as his oil paintings but they were constant in his art practice throughout his life. De ma main à la couleur aims to fulfill McEwen’s desire to have these luminous, colourful works reach a wider public audience.
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Jean McEwen was born on December 14, 1923 in Montreal, Quebec. At an early age he was fascinated by painting and the qualities of colour, however, he was not formally trained in art. McEwen attended the School of Pharmacy at the University of Montreal. After encouragement by fellow Quebec artist Paul-Emile Borduas, he abandoned this career ambition and spent three years in Paris where he formed associations with Canadian artist Jean-Paul Riopelle and American artist Sam Francis. These alliances enabled McEwen to solidify his style and beliefs as a modernist by exhibiting in Montreal, Toronto, and New York. McEwen's work can be found in many public and private collections, including the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Indra Kagis McEwen is a postdoctoral fellow at the Canadian Centre for Architecture and lecturer at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal.
Laurier Lacroix is associate professor in the art history department of the University of Quebec in Montreal. His work focuses on the historiography of art history, history of collections, the art in Quebec before 1930 with forays into contemporary art. It works regularly as a curator.
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