Jean Albert McEwen


Jean McEwen (1923-1999) is one of the most original, distinctive, and collected Canadian abstract artists. 

While pursuing a degree in pharmaceuticals at the University of Montreal, McEwen began painting around 1946, a part-time endeavor that he would commit himself to after obtaining his degree. By 1951 he had his debut solo show at the influential Galerie Agnès Lefort - and from there, his career as a painter began. 

Predominantly self-taught, McEwen experimented with figurative subject matter before discovering the power of abstraction. His work was largely inspired by the spontaneity of the Automatistes and the Montreal art scene, which influenced his aesthetic. However, from today's vantage point, his work feels more like an anomaly when positioned amongst Automatiste works and arguably has more in common with his American contemporaries associated with the Color Field movement. 

This work is exemplary of McEwen’s signature layered paint application. Thick but translucent films of paint are compressed onto the canvas, a distinctive technique used throughout his oeuvre. 

The vertical planes present in this piece are another staple in McEwen’s body of work. The blunt break in-between the opaque surface offers a glimpse into McEwen's exploration of light and color, an outward expression that demands attention and further inquiry from the viewer. 

In 1987, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts held a retrospective of McEwen’s work followed by another in 2019, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death. 

For over a decade, McEwen's works have achieved more than six figures at auction, with collectors most enthusiastic about works from the 1960s. This is an exceptional example from this coveted era, realized in a striking and powerful palette of ochre, tar-black, fuchsia, and red.

Questions about this piece? Contact us or call +1.416.704.1720


Oil on canvas

Canada, 1961 

Signed and dated by artist (bottom right) 

39”H 39”W 

Detailed condition report and price by request

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