Joseph Drapell

Drapell first established his reputation with a series of large, primarily red, abstract canvases, which attracted little attention in Canada until one appeared on the cover of Art International (1978) and another was purchased by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (1979).

Nuclear Club
Joseph Drapell, 1987, acrylic on canvas (courtesy the artist and Gallery One/from the collection of Georgia Piassas).

Joseph Drapell

  Joseph Drapell, artist (b at Humpolec, Czech 13 Mar 1940), one of the most important abstract painters in the generation after PAINTERS ELEVEN. He immigrated to Halifax in 1966 and studied at the Cranbrook Academy (Bloomfield Hills, Mich, 1968-70), where he met visiting artist Jack BUSH and American critic Clement GREENBERG. He moved to Toronto and, inspired by Georgian Bay and influenced by Morris Louis, developed his own technique of applying paint with a broad spreading device attached to a movable support (1972-74). The resultant "Great Spirit" pictures rank among the most successful of all Canadian efforts to find spiritual values in the land.

Drapell first established his reputation with a series of large, primarily red, abstract canvases, which attracted little attention in Canada until one appeared on the cover of Art International (1978) and another was purchased by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (1979).

In the 1980s Drapell further developed his personal methods, using striated spreading devices, bevelled stretchers, reflective paint and acrylic gels to stimulate the creative process. He gained continued inspiration from his "spiritual home" on Georgian Bay in the "Island Pictures," finding meaning in the ethereal, freely flowing forms of sun and water. Drapell was guest artist at the Triangle Artists' Workshop (NY State, 1984) and the EMMA LAKE ARTISTS' WORKSHOP (SK, 1988).

In the 1990s Drapell was widely exhibited in the United States and Europe, where he was recognized by American critic Kenworth Moffett and Parisian gallery owner Gérald Piltzer as a leading figure among the "new new painters," a grouping of abstract artists in Canada and the northeastern United States whose work is characterized by high-keyed, glossy colour and built-up surfaces.


Further Reading

  • Ken Carpenter, "Joseph Drapell Paints a Picture," Art Post, 7:2 (Winter-Spring, 1990), 12-17; Kenworth Moffett, New New Painting (1992); Karen Wilkin, Joseph Drapell, Ten Years, 1973-1983 1984.