Marcelle Ferron, OQ, artist (born 29 January 1924 in Louiseville, QC; died 18 November 2001 in Montréal). Sister of writers Jacques Ferron and Madeleine Ferron, Marcelle Ferron was an active participant in Les Automatistes, led by Paul-Émile Borduas, and pursued an innovative artistic career including noteworthy work in stained glass. She was made a Knight of the National Order of Québec in 1985 and was promoted to Grand Officer in 2000.

Education and Early Work

After studying at the École du Meuble in Montréal and the École des beaux-arts in Québec City, Ferron became part of Les Automatistes, signing that association's polemical manifesto, Refus Global, in 1948. She is the only female artist who signed the legendary document. Her nonfigurative paintings were hung in all the major Automatiste exhibitions. She lived in Paris from 1953 to 1966 and continued to show in avant-garde exhibitions, including the 1961 Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil, where she won the Silver Medal.

The paintings of this dynamic artist became progressively more forceful. Vibrant colours and larger, fluid forms dominated the canvas. Like fellow automatistes Boudruas and Jean-Paul Riopelle, Ferron applied paint to the canvas thickly, with great intensity and straight from the tube, often using a palette knife rather than a brush. In “Lascive” (1959), for instance, bright white bars of paint push vertically into the foreground, streaking and blurring into horizontal bars of purple and blue. “Les barrens” (1961), on the other hand, has jagged, congested conflagrations of red, blue, purple and black against a spacious, open white ground.

Stained Glass

After 1964, her interest in light was effectively translated into a new medium — stained glass — examples of which can be seen in the Champ-de-Mars and Vendôme metro stations in Montréal. Commissioned in 1966 by the city of Montréal under the mayoralty of Jean Drapeau and installed in 1968 with the help of master glassworker Aurèle Johnson, Ferron’s Champs-de-Mars window is widely regarded as her masterpiece. Extending across three walls of the station’s spacious mezzanine (it is 60 meters long and has a maximum height of nine meters), the piece principally consists of wide, swooping bands of red, blue and green, dappling the station with coloured light. Johnson restored the window in 1999.

Ferron was an associate professor at Laval University in Québec City and is represented in many Canadian and foreign collections, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Hirshorn Museum in Washington, DC. The Musée d'art Contemporain in Montréal held a retrospective of her work in 1970, which was also held in Paris at the Canadian Cultural Centre in 1972.

Awards

Silver Medal, Sao Paulo Biennial (1961)

Prix Louis-Philippe-Hebert, Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste (1976)

Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas, Government of Québec (1983)

Knight, National Order of Québec (1985).

Grand Officer, National Order of Québec (2000).