Canadian grand master, the contemporary painter Léon Bellefleur was born in Montreal, Quebec on February 8, 1910 (deceased February 22, 2007). He graduated from the École normale Jacques Cartier in Montreal in 1929 and taught for 25 years at the elementary school of the Commission des Écoles catholiques de Montréal while attending classes at the Montreal School of Fine Arts from 1929 to 1938.
The first exhibition of his works took place in 1946. He signed the manifesto Prisme d’Yeux in 1948 directed by Alfred Pellan. In 1951, he received the first prize in modern painting at the Salon du Printemps at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and in 1953 he joined the automatism movement. In 1977, he was the first recipient of the Borduas Prize. In 1985, he received the Louis-Philippe Hébert Prize from the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste and an honorary doctorate from Concordia University in 1987. In 1989, he became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Léon Bellefleur’s works can be found in several public and private collections in Canada, Brazil, England and Denmark.
[…] Not only does teaching not prevent him from painting, but he spends a lot of time rubbing shoulders with other artists, notably Alfred Pellan; he is interested in emerging trends and forges an artistic opinion. In addition, his daily contact with children – he is a primary school teacher – stimulates his creativity and will mark, in a subtle and irremediable way, his plastic language. Around 1947, he published “Advocacy for the Child” in the journal Atelier d’art graphiques. Quebec poetry also occupies an important place in the world of Bellefleur: those of Émile Nelligan, his friend Roland Giguère, Gaston Miron, Gilles Hénault, and Paul-Marie Lapointe, to name a few. He finds in poetry a sublimation of life, feelings, passions. All his being, and consequently all his work, will be nourished by these literary, poetic and intellectual meetings. Poetry acts on his creation, but this influence does not translate into plastic language as such. Rather, it acts on the artistic inspiration flowing from its inner world. After leaving school in 1954, Léon Bellefleur leaves for Paris. There he makes decisive encounters, including that of André Breton with whom he shares a passion for esotericism. After numerous stays, he returns indefinitely to Quebec in the late sixties.
Then begins a period of research rich in discoveries, during which the artist develops a new approach. If the landscape is not a theme directly associated with Bellefleur’s work, it nonetheless remains a source of inspiration throughout his artistic journey. His productions of the seventies is particularly interesting in this regard. Léon Bellefleur achieves plastic serenity and artistic maturity, as evidenced by the quality of the works produced. Bellefleur achieves a balance that allows him to give more space to his poetic universe. The artist ends the decade of the seventies with a series of paintings entitled Les volets du temps. The title evokes the passage of the seasons, that of the passage of life in the dance of the cycles of nature, but also its own passage. He is approaching seventy years; for him, time operates on matter, it is the revelation of experience, the reward of lucid minds and the consciousness of the world.
Source : Robert Bernier, Un siècle de peinture au Québec Nature et paysage, Les Éditions de l’Homme, 1999, Léon Bellefleur, pages 252-253.
For Bellefleur, surrealism is first and foremost a door that gives access to a universe where realities merge into a new vision of the world. He became interested in surrealism in the early 1940s. Painting was then a real passion, but his family obligations prevented him from devoting himself entirely to it, which he will hasten to do as soon as the hour of retirement from teaching arrives in 1955. If Bellefleur was able to contain his passion for painting until then, it is because his daily contact with children nourished his art in a way as fundamental as his readings and his contacts with other creators. He found in the children, when he was a primary school teacher, an essential dimension to his pictorial approach: spontaneity.
This passionate and curious artist drew his inspiration from several sources. Besides surrealism and children, literature, music and poetry deeply marked his painting, although their influence was indirect. For Bellefleur, it is the implication that matters. His working method is the best example. He always starts a painting with no preconceived idea, in the automatist manner.
Then he observes, lets himself be impregnated with the first forms and intervenes again, guided by what they suggest to him. His approach gives rise to a revelation, that of the subconscious, as if one tore the veil of an imaginary, mysterious and secret world to glimpse a transitory universe between physical and psychic reality.
Léon Bellefleur’s work has known several sequences over the years. His most sought after works today belong to the 1950s. It is nevertheless surprising that the paintings of the 1960s and, even more, that of the 1970s receive so little attention, when one thinks that he had then full mastery of his language. After having tried various experiments between spaces constructed with rigor and other fluids, the artist reaches a balance: the colors and the textures spread out with accuracy in a striking plastic plenitude. During the 1980s, the artist led his expression to a more aerial dimension where the motif prevailed. The paintings of the last twenty years remain the least appreciated of his production. A certain repetition may be at the origin of this lack of interest, but the future will be able to reveal these works to us differently, by revealing a dimension which would have remained hidden until then.
Source : Robert Bernier, La peinture au Québec depuis les années 1960, Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2002, Bellefleur Léon Bellefleur (1910), pages 21-22.