“Talented people, [Borduas] used to say, are a dime a dozen, and technique – any bloody monkey can master that. But what you do with it, now that’s another story. As an artist you must learn who you are, what life means to you. And only then can you relate your findings to the rest of the universe.”
– Rita Letendre, quoting Paul-Emile Borduas
Taken from the 2017 Letendre retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Paul-Émile Borduas, Untitled (One Bird), 1942, gouache, charcoal underdrawing. Collection of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Why all this Borduas? Because he championed the secularization of the state in Quebec, challenging the authority of the dominant Catholic Church and the paternalistic government who essentially banned most forms of modern art. His Refus Global helped to usher the province into the 20th century. He also did it at the expense of his career and family, losing a prominent position at a school of fine arts in Montreal before dying in Paris at the age of 55 in 1960.