This photo was taken in February 1947 during the second Automatistes exhibition at the Gauvreau family home in Montreal.
The Automatistes were a group of Quebec avant-garde artists influenced by surrealism and the theory of automatism. The Automatistes in this photo include: Claude Gauvreau, Mrs. Julienne Gauvreau, Pierre Gauvreau, my brother, Marcel Barbeau (sitting at the front, the one with the glasses), Madeleine Arbour, Paul-Émile Borduas, Madeleine Lalonde, Bruno Cormier and Jean-Paul Mousseau.
My brother exhibited ten oil paintings at this exhibition and made his first sale, the Veillomonde painting. Paul-Émile Borduas, my brother’s mentor and professor at the École du meuble founded the group.
In 1948, Marcel signed the Refus global, an anti-establishment, antireligious manifesto that rejected the norms and values of Quebec society. Marcel was still living with us then and there were many discussions around the dinner table at our house. I didn’t understand that in the name of art, one had to destroy everything made by great artists such as Alfred Pellan and many others.
The studio was located in the alley behind our house and at any time of the day or night, artists would go through our house to get to the studio. Marcel believed that anyone who did not adhere to the statements in the manifesto was an unenlightened bourgeois! The manifesto shook public opinion at the time and is considered one of the causes of the Quiet Revolution.
The Automatistes broke up soon after the manifesto was published. Jean-Paul Riopelle went to Paris, as did Borduas, where he died. Fernand Leduc was already living in Paris. As for Marcel, he then lived in New York, California and Paris. His daughter, Manon, made a film called Les enfants de Refus global.
Marcel Barbeau is now eighty-two-years-old and lives in Paris. Despite his advancing years, he still paints from 5 a.m. to noon and has not lost his passion.
Pauline Barbeau is the sister of Marcel Barbeau, one of the artists featured in this photo. Credit: MAURICE PERRON/MNBAQ 99.354