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Living Art
Living Art

Living Art

Individual and Collective Creativity: Becoming Paul-Émile Borduas


256 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Trade Paper

Trade Paper, $19.95 (US $19.95) (CA $24.95)

Publication Date: January 2018

ISBN 9781550967166

Rights: US, CA, AU, NZ, EUR & SAM

Exile Editions (Jan 2018)

Price: $19.95


Paul-Émile Borduas had both successes and failures as he tried to express in artwork and words his vision of a generous, spontaneous, creative society. He was the catalyst for events that led to the writing of an important social and artistic manifesto, Refus global (Total Refusal, in translation with Exile Editions) published in 1948 by the movement known as Les automatistes. Jean-Philippe Warren shows us the reversals and contradictions that make up this cultural figure, renowned for both his art and his thought. How his early hopes and doubts fermented in the crucible that is the mind of a young man. And how his attempts to find a new voice reflect the changes of a society trying to come to terms with a troubling and elusive modernity. Ultimately, Warren looks to understand the path that led Borduas to adopt a pictorial approach that was a clean break with the academicism of his time. He studies a man who broke early with the Catholic religion of his childhood, and who tried to replace it with a radically different ethic. At the same time, he suggests that Borduas came from an ambiance of Catholic intellectuals and artists who shared many of his progressive views and were also critical of the church's attitude to society and art. This is a remarkable portrait of one of our greatest artists and intellectuals, and shines a new light on a crucial turning point in the history of Québec and Canada.


"In this original essay, extremely well researched and illustrated by several of Borduas' paintings, J.-P. Warren uses multiple perspectives to bring us closer to the experience of Borduas' contemporaries, inviting the reader to deeply renew his understanding of the period." Daniel Poitras, Revue d'histoire de l'Amérique française, Volume 65, No 1, Summer 2011, p. 115–118. "Clear and instructive, but not without a lyrical and sensitive tone, Warren's prose is that of a scientist who commands and loves his subject." Louis Cornelier, "Borduas avant Borduas," Le Devoir, October 8, 2011.

"Clear and instructive, but not without a lyrical and sensitive tone, Warren's prose is that of a scientist who commands and loves his subject." —Le Devoir

Author Biography

Steven Urquhart is an Associate professor of French at the University of Lethbridge. His research focuses on Quebec literature and culture, and translation of texts into English. He has previously translated two novels and one collection of short stories from the original French into English. Jean-Philippe Warren (born in 1970) is a Canadian sociologist from Quebec. He holds degrees from Université Laval, the University of Montreal and the Ecole Normale Supérieure, in Paris. The history of social sciences, social movements, indigenous peoples, and the Catholic Church are all of particular interest to him. He has written studies on Quebec sociologist Fernand Dumont, painter Paul-Émile Borduas, and Honoré Beaugrand. He recently won Canada's Governor General Award.