Alfred Pellan, painter (born 16 May 1906 in Québec City, Québec; died 31 October 1988 in Laval). In 1923, while Pellan was still a student at Québec's École des beaux-arts (1920-25), the National Gallery of Canada purchased his painting Corner of Old Quebec. Pellan also won the government of Québec's first fine-arts scholarship in 1926, enabling him to study in Paris where he remained until 1940.
There the colour in Pellan's still lifes and figure studies became more intense, his linear rhythms more fluid, his images more abstract. His most outstanding achievement during his Paris sojourn was winning first prize at the 1935 exposition of mural art. When he returned to Canada because of Second World War he settled in Montréal. Work he brought from Paris received acclaim during exhibitions in 1940 at Québec and Montréal, but Pellan's cubist and surrealist art was considered too avant-garde and he sold little. To survive, he taught at Montréal's École des beaux-arts 1943-52. His objections to the restrictive, academic philosophy of its director, Charles Maillard, resulted in Maillard's resignation in 1945 and a more liberal atmosphere there.
In the mid-1940s Pellan began illustrating poetry books and designed costumes and sets for the theatre. During this period he developed his mature style. He was increasingly drawn to surrealism; his imagery became more erotic and his always strikingly coloured paintings larger, more complex and textured. His refusal to be affiliated with any particular school of art led to the formation in 1948 of Prisme d'yeux, a group of artists whose manifesto called for an art free of restrictive ideology.
In 1952 Pellan received an RSC grant and moved to Paris, living there until 1955, when he became the first Canadian to have a solo exhibition at the Musée national d'art moderne. On his return to Canada, numerous exhibitions and mural commissions established his reputation nationally. He is the subject of several monographs and films (eg, G. Lefebvre, Pellan, 1986) and the recipient of many awards and honours including the Prix Émile-Borduas (1984). As well, he was an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec (1985).