Marcelle Ferron

Canadian, 1924-2001

Untitled, 1961, Oil on canvas, 21 1/4 x 15 3/4 inches

After studying at the École du Meuble in Montréal and the École des beaux-arts in Québec City, Ferron became part of Les Automatistes, signing that association's polemical manifesto, Refus Global, in 1948. She is the only female artist who signed the legendary document. Her nonfigurative paintings were hung in all the major Automatiste exhibitions. The paintings of this dynamic artist became progressively more forceful. Vibrant colors and larger, fluid forms dominated the canvas. She applied paint to the canvas thickly, with great intensity and straight from the tube, often using a palette knife rather than a brush.

After 1964, her interest in light was effectively translated into a new medium stained glass. Commissioned in 1966 by the city of Ferron installed her “Champs-de-Mars” window which widely regarded as her masterpiece. Extending across three walls of the station’s spacious mezzanine (it is 60 meters long and has a maximum height of nine meters), the piece principally consists of wide, swooping bands of red, blue and green, dappling the station with colored light. Johnson restored the window in 1999.

Marcelle Ferron returned to painting around 1985. She had not lost her fire. As she so often said, she did not paint for collectors; she painted and created through passion and, it must be said, through need. In 1983, she was the first woman to receive the Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas, of which she was very proud. Although she never let the fact that she was a female artist stop her, Ferron had to work hard to establish herself and gain recognition in the male-dominated art world. Today, she is an inspiration to young women artists who are starting out in the craft.

Ferron was an associate professor at Laval University in Québec City and is represented in many Canadian and foreign collections, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Hirshorn Museum in Washington, DC. The Musée d'art Contemporain in Montréal held a retrospective of her work in 1970, which was also held in Paris at the Canadian Cultural Centre in 1972. Ferron has received other major honours. The Government of Quebec recognized her by decorating her with the Ordre national du Québec and, in 2000, she was named Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec. Several Internet sites list her former exhibits and the prizes that she won throughout her career. Among her achievements is the silver medal she won at the Sao Paolo Biennial in Brazil, in 1961 — the first time a Quebec woman has won this prize.