Exhibition showcases 35 of the most accomplished prints by Albert Dumouchel

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Exhibition showcases 35 of the most accomplished prints by Albert Dumouchel
View of the exhibition Revelations: Prints by Albert Dumouchel in the Collection of the MMFA. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley.

MONTREAL.- Considered to be the father of Quebec printmaking, Albert Dumouchel (1916-1971) explored this art for three decades, all the while pushing the limits of techniques and materials. A little more than fifty years after his death, the exhibition Revelations: Prints by Albert Dumouchel in the Collection of the MMFA offers an opportunity to admire the astonishing diversity of the output of this artist and teacher, who inspired an entire generation of printmakers in Quebec, an important part of his legacy.

Composed of works from the MMFA’s collection, this exhibition showcases 35 of the most accomplished prints by Dumouchel, 10 of which were recently donated to the Museum. These works trace the trajectory of the artist’s practice, from his initial experiments with printmaking in the early 1940s right up to his striking work with woodcut in the 1960s. They attest to the originality and the extensive range of his work as well as to his attentiveness to the profound social changes taking place in Quebec during his career. Complementing the exhibition, a video showing Dumouchel’s intaglio printing technique and two of the matrices (or metal plates) created by him will give visitors a deeper appreciation of the technical skills entailed in his work.

“The exhibition highlights fundamental aspects of Dumouchel’s work in the graphic arts: his technical mastery of the craft as well as his repeatedly renewed imagery. This is reflected in the variety of techniques and continual investigation of different printing methods, always for expressive purposes. It also reveals the undeniable quality, the genuine originality and the impressive production scale of one of the most influential Quebec printmakers of his time,” says Peggy Davis, Professor of Art History at UQAM and guest curator of the exhibition.

“The prints on display reveal the extraordinary path from a self-educated artist to one who was widely appreciated and who spearheaded modern printmaking in Quebec. The astonishing range of imagery comprising his output from the early 1940s to the 1960s is a testament to the artist’s proclivity to respond to his current and continually shifting cultural milieu. Interestingly, his oeuvre thus offers a brief pictorial narrative of history from La Grande Noirceur to the Quiet Revolution,” adds Anne Grace, Curator of Modern Art at the MMFA and curator of the exhibition.

The extraordinary range of Dumouchel’s prints

The exhibition opens with prints – namely, Pietà, 1942, and The Cathedral beyond the Rooftops, 1943 – made by the artist when he was employed as a fabric designer at the textile factory Montreal Cotton, situated in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec. From the very beginning of his career, Dumouchel enjoyed experimenting with different printing techniques, such as etching, drypoint on plastic, woodcut, and lithography, and he went on to develop his own Surrealist vocabulary. The evocative titles of historical, mythological and biblical inspiration of many prints reasserted a kinship with classical culture and an artistic heritage, as well as heralded an impending resurgence of narrative subjects. His formal explorations of

etching and embossing in prints constituted a truly material poetry (The Fall of Icarus, 1963). While the influence of artists such as Jean Dubuffet and Paul Klee is evident in the largely abstract compositions of Dumouchel’s prints from the 1950s and early 1960s (The Banners in the Night, 1958), the exhibited works from this period reveal an artist creating a distinctive style of his own and possessing an impressive command of a variety of printmaking techniques.

The protean nature of Dumouchel’s work is particularly striking in his revisiting of figurative subjects in the 1960s: works depicting folkloric scenes of Quebec society alternate with the sharp focus and edgy images akin to Pop art. One gallery showcases five works depicting erotic subjects – including Candy Bar Making Love (1967) and At Dolores, (1968) – which provoked strong reactions when they were presented in Montreal in 1974. The public will also discover Dumouchel’s final prints, which display an intimate, contemplative poetry and an economy of means. This refinement was carried into his Japanese-inspired landscapes (Horrible Snow Cat, 1969, and The Lone Horseman, 1970) that seem to probe the geographies of the soul as much as those of Quebec.

Albert Dumouchel

In 1940, Dumouchel began working at Montreal Cotton, in Salaberry-de- Valleyfield, Quebec, where he met James Lowe, a printmaker from London, England, who introduced him to various printmaking techniques. In the years that followed, Dumouchel became friendly with the group of young painters gravitating around Alfred Pellan, and in 1948 he signed the Prisme d’yeux manifesto along with them. His painting practice soon received recognition, and his works were exhibited widely throughout Canada. However, it was through his printmaking and his role as an instructor at Montreal’s École des arts graphiques (1940 to 1960) and the École des beaux-arts de Montréal (1956 to 1969) that he would truly make his mark. Between 1947 and 1951, he produced two issues of Les Ateliers d’arts graphiques, with the aim of promoting graphic arts in Quebec. Beginning in the 1950s, his works were presented in major

exhibitions and presentations in Canada and abroad, including at the 30th Venice Biennale, in 1960. Today, his works are found in a number of private and public collections, including that of the MMFA.

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