MARCELLE FERRON, R.C.A.
Estate of the artist
Marcelle Ferron (1924-2001) was a member of the Automatistes, and one of seven women who signed Paul-Émile Borduas’ Refus Global in 1948. Borduas had become her mentor after Ferron left the École des beaux-arts in Québec City, disagreeing with the institution’s attitude to modern art. She moved to Montréal and became a supporter of the automatiste movement, its art and politics, in the 1940s. Colour and light are two distinguishing features of Ferron’s painting; and it was natural that she would be drawn to the art of stained glass during her career.
Like many Québécois artists of the period, Ferron spent many productive years in Paris (1953-1966). She became an artist of note, exhibiting in Paris and throughout Europe. Almost immediately upon arrival in Paris, her technique changed considerably. In contrast to the somber palette she had used previously, Ferron began using vivid colours and white, applying the paint in thick multi-directional swaths. One reason for this sudden change was her acquisition of colour pigments from a generous patron, which she ground herself using poppy oil (a light-coloured medium well-suited to whites). It was important to Ferron that the brilliancy of the whites be maintained; if any white area of a work in her possession became dirty or yellowed with time, she would simply apply a fresh coat of paint.
This untitled work is a good example of her technique from the beginning of the 1960s. Ferron would begin by first establishing the composition by applying the paint with large palette knives using broad, free strokes. The artist allowed layers of paint to build up, or blend together, after which she would refine the formal elements of the piece with brushes or smaller knives to create a satisfying aesthetic result. Movement is created by the interplay of colours and light: white areas surround and penetrate the bands of colour, permeating the painting with light. Ferron considered that her most accomplished paintings were those she had made in Europe.