Exhibition review: Montreal printmaking artist’s life path

Death of the Cyclist – Photo by Jiawei HONG

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts displays 30 remarkable artworks from Albert Dumouchel, representing the evolution of his art style throughout his career

“Printing remains a simple, Austere Language– As I have often said, it’s like chamber music” – Albert Dumouchel.

Albert Dumouchel (1916-71) was a Montreal printmaking artist. He met London artist James Lowe in 1940, which inspired the start of his printmaking career.

An exhibition in honour of the late artist is located on the second floor of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, surrounded by white walls. The room is lit in a warm tone, dimmer than the lobby but matches the tone of the artist’s featured works. This exhibition displays 30 of his prints from the 1940s to the 1960s. His printmaking has been influenced by the development of art in many other countries.

In 1942, Dumouchel’s artwork “Pietà” marked the beginning of his journey. Unlike the traditional drypoint technique, in which an image is drawn on the plate with a sharp needle-like tool. Dumouchel decided to carve his images into a sheet of transparent plastic. “Pietà” demonstrated a picture of the Virgin Mary mourning the death of her son. 

Although the overall lines of this piece are rough, the painted appearance on Mary’s face expresses strong emotions. The sharp white shapes in the background form a strong contrast with the surrounding dark round shapes, enhancing the viewer’s visual senses. His spiritual expression laid the groundwork for the later transformation of his artistic style.

In the late 1940s, Dumouchel turned towards surrealism, expressing external reality through his own psychological and poetic imagination. In “The Banners in the Night,” 1958, he used etching to show the technical improvement. Each line in the work flows naturally, twisting together to create the changeable forms of the wind.

In 1965, with the ascent of the Pop Art movement in North America, Dumouchel returned to figurative form in 1965. One remarkable technique he used was lithography. This technique was used in his piece “La mort de la cycliste” (The Death of the Cyclist), presenting his art in a completely new way.

Dumouchel returned to carving, making woodcuts late in his career, like his piece called “L’Horrible chat des neiges” (The Horrible Snow Cat).The penetrating gaze of the cat is what makes the work memorable. Referring to his earlier works, he has a talent of using minimal backgrounds to enhance the expression of the main subject’s manner.

Throughout this artist’s experience in printmaking, much of his inspiration has come from other cultures. “When I think of this artist, or any other artist, I would just think of his expression of art,” says one of the visitors. “Anything could be the inspiration, like what you learned and what you experienced.”


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