The Automatist Years: 1947


Letter from Gilles Hénault to Borduas asking for an interview for the Quebecois newspaper Combat. Hénault introduces him to Breton’s Limites, non-frontières du surrealism (1937). Borduas was also most likely drafting Retour at this time.


Participates in the Contemporary Arts Society exhibition, held at Eaton’s Department Store, Toronto (Écrits I, p. 34-35; Gagnon, 1978, p. 479; 1988, p. 473). Borduas shows:

  • Sous l'eau, 1946
  • L'Oiseau déchiffrant un hiéroglyphe, 1943
  • Plaine engloutie, 1946
  • La Fustigée, 1941-1946

Leduc leaves Montreal for Paris (Teyssèdre, p. 270). An invitation from Breton to participate in L'exposition internationale du Surréalisme is realyed by Riopelle (Écrits I, p. 34; Gagnon 1978, p. 205-208).


Participates in Exposition de peinture canadienne at the Cercle universitaire, in Montreal (Écrits I, p. 35; Gagnon, 1978, p. 479; 1988, p. 470) in which he shows nine paintings including, possibly:

  • La Femme à la mandoline, 1941
  • Cavale infernale, 1943
  • Tête casquée, 1941
  • Poisson rouge, 1945
  • La Danseuse jaune et la bête, 1943
February 15 - March 1

Participates in Tableaux et sculpture, the 2nd automatist exhibition reuniting the works of Borduas, Barbeau, Fauteux, Gauvreau, Leduc and Mousseau, at 75 Sherbrooke Street West. Gagnon, 1978, p. 479; 1988, p. 470) Borduas shows:

  • Automatisme 1.47 or Sous le vent de l'île, 1947
  • 2.47 ou Le Danseur, 1947
  • 10.46 ou Climat mexicain, 1946
  • 5.47 ou Les Ailes de la falaise, 1947
  • 4.47 ou Chute verticale d'un beau jour, 1947
  • 3.47 ou La Vallée de Josaphat, 1947

Participates in an exhibition under the aegis of Combat at the Cercle universitaire, 515 Sherbrooke Street east, in Montreal. The automatists are invited to participate in the Cahier des Arts Graphiques which is published in May (Écrits I, p. 35).

February 21

Shipment to Paris of two crates filled with paintings from the members of the group. (Écrits I, p. 35).

March 7

Fernand Leduc arrives in Paris. Beginning of a long correspondence with Borduas. (Écrits I, p. 35).

March 20 - April 20

Participates in the 64th Salon du Printemps du Musée where he shows Parachutes végétaux, 1947, and Carquois fleuris, 1947, (Gagnon, 1978, p. 480; 1988, p. 470). As Borduas, along with John Lyman and Gordon Webber, were part of the "modern" jury which made the selections that year, his work was probably excluded from the competition, as is the custom in such circumstances. (Gagnon, 1978, p. 216).


Unsuccessful attempts to move to Paris (Écrits I, p. 35).

May 20

Presentation of the play Bien-être by Claude Gauvreau at the Congress Hall, in Montreal (Écrits I, p. 35).

May 31

Participation of Fernand Leduc and Jean-Paul Riopelle at a meeting of the surréalistes-révolutionnaires, in Paris (Écrits I, p. 35).

June 20 - July 13

Participates in the Automatisme exhibition, organized by Leduc and Riopelle at the Galerie du Luxembourg, Paris. Artists exhibiting: Barbeau, Borduas, Fauteux, Leduc, Mousseau and Riopelle (Écrits I, p. 35; Gagnon, 1978, p. 480). Borduas shows:

  • Autel aux idolâtres,1946
  • Abstraction no 16, 1942
  • Abstraction no 47 (ou Le Trou de la fée), 1942
  • Abstraction no 12 (ou Le Condor embouteillé, 1942
June 21

Riopelle countersigns Rupture inaugurale (Écrits I, p. 35).

July 7

Riopelle participates in the L'exposition internationale du surréalisme held at the Maeght Gallery, in Paris (Écrits I, p. 35).

July 17 - August 17

The Festival mondial de la jeunesse, under the auspices of the Fédération mondiale de la jeunesse démocratique, in Prague. Selection of works by Bonin, Barbeau, Desroches, Garneau, P. Gauvreau and Mousseau. Mousseau travels to Prague (Écrits I, p. 36).

August 6

Borduas makes a short trip to Ottawa (Écrits I, p. 36).

November 15 - 30

Pierre Gauvreau shows thirty three paintings in a solo exhibition at 75 Sherbrooke Street West (Écrits I, p. 36).


Borduas agrees to exhibit at the Galerie du Luxembourg in May. The project is delayed and then abandoned in November due to the permanent closure of the gallery. (Écrits I, p. 36).

November 18

Refuses the invitation to participate in the exhibition of the Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris to be organized by Father Couturier (Écrits I, p. 36).

November 22 - January 3

Debate in Combat between Pierre Gélinas and Gilles Hénault which echoes the debates between the Automatists; an extract from it will be quoted in the Refus Global (Écrits I, p. 36).

November 29 - December 14

Mousseau-Riopelle exhibition at 374 Sherbrooke Street West (Écrits I, p. 36).

December 11

Forum entitled Automatisme et peinture in the Mousseau-Riopelle exhibition space, moderated by Borduas and Riopelle ((Écrits I, p. 36).

December 24

Invitation to collaborate for the Néon magazine is relayed to Borduas through Fernand Leduc (Écrits I, p. 36).


Riopelle signs the Ruptures inaugurales manifesto along with 47 other Surrealists in Paris (Boily 1972, p. 319).