Marcelle Ferron was born in Louiseville, Québec in 1924; she died in Montréal in 2001. After she was expelled from the École des beaux-arts in Québec City, where she had studied with Jean-Paul Lemieux, she settled in Montréal and became friendly with the artists in the automatiste movement who were moving their painting in an abstract direction. A signer of the 1948 Refus global manifesto, along with Paul-Émile Borduas, Jean Paul Riopelle, Françoise Sullivan, Pierre Gauvreau, Fernand Leduc, Marcel Barbeau, and others, Marcelle Ferron established herself as one of Québec’s most important artists in the modern era.
Her first solo show was held in 1949 at the Librairie Tranquille on Sainte-Catherine Street in Montréal, one of the very few exhibition spaces at that time presenting avant-garde art. In 1953, she moved to Paris, making a home there for herself and her three daughters. During her 13-year-long stay in the French capital, she took part in many exhibitions, which gained a wider audience for her work. Living in France also brought about her introduction, through Michel Blum, to the art of glass-making. Despite the fact that she was living abroad, in 1957 the Canada Council awarded her a major grant. Later, in 1961, she won the São Paulo Biennale’s silver medal. However, her left-wing political convictions caused her a number of problems, chief among them her 1966 expulsion from France that resulted from her association with an anti-Franco activist. Returning to Québec, she taught at Université Laval and created the stained glass work for the Champ-de-Mars Métro station that is considered one of her masterpieces. She was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1972 and was awarded the Paul-Émile-Borduas Prize, the Québec government’s highest honour for achievement in the visual arts, in 1983.
Throughout her prolific career, Marcelle Ferron’s work was included in many major group exhibitions, among them the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ 64th Annual Spring Exhibition (1947), Rebelles, on Mansfield Street in Montréal (1950), the Third Biennial Exhibition of Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa (1959), Artistes de Montréal at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (1965), Borduas et les automatistes at the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais in Paris (1971) and The Crisis of Abstraction at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa (1992). The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal presented two retrospectives of her work: Marcelle Ferron de 1945 à 1970 in 1970, and Marcelle Ferron, une rétrospective 1945-1997 in 2000. Galerie Simon Blais mounted a 2008 exhibition devoted solely to Ferron’s art that was accompanied by a catalogue published in both French and English. Most recently, Marcelle Ferron’s works have been on view in the exhibition The Automatiste Revolution: Montreal 1941–1960, organized by Markham, Ontario’s Varley Art Gallery, where it was presented in 2009 before travelling to Buffalo, New York’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery in 2010.
ARBOUR, Rose-Marie, et al., Marcelle Ferron, Montréal and Laval, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal and Les 400 coups, 2000, 143 pp.
BEAUDET, Pascale, et al., Marcelle Ferron : Monographie, Montréal, Éditions Simon Blais, 2008, 151 pp.
NASGAARD, Roald, and Ray ELLENWOOD, The Automatiste Revolution: Montreal 1941–1960, Toronto and Vancouver, Varley Art Gallery of Markham and D&M Publishers, 2009, 160 pp.
ROBERGE, Gaston, Autour de Marcelle Ferron, Québec City, Le Loup de Gouttière, 1979, 104 pp.