Claude Tousignant

(1932 – )

“What I wish to do is make painting objective, to bring it back to its source – where only painting remains, emptied of all extraneous matter – to the point at which painting is pure sensation.” ~ Claude Tousignant, 1959

Claude Tousignant Artwork

Claude Tousignant

Claude Tousignant, Temoin-couleur pour monochrome vert, 1981
acrylic on canvas, 43 in x 43 in,
Signed, titled and dated verso.

Claude Tousignant

Claude Tousignant believes that a painting “happens” in space and he is indebted to his predecessors Piet Mondrian and the constructivists for this artistic assertion. Tousignant attended the School of Art and Design at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1948-51), where he studied with Jacques de Tounnancour and Gordon Webber. Webber, a painter, architect and former pupil of Moholy Nagy, introduced Tousignant to works by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Adolf Gottlieb at the museum’s Contemporary Art in France, Britain and the USA exhibition (1950). In 1952 Tousignant travelled to Paris, where he was disappointed with the Paris School, finding, on his return six months later, that the thriving Montreal artistic community was much more in keeping with his own sensibilities.

Tousignant takes an experimental approach to developing his abstract paintings. There is the vision for the work itself and a plan that is tested and finalized. After the basic structure for the work is built, it may be altered or rejected. The goal is to achieve the desired vision through relationships of form and colour. His large, hard-edge Cilux car paint works were exhibited at Galerie L’Actuelle in 1956. Paranoid (1956), a canvas horizontally split into two halves of shiny yellow and red paint, was included in the exhibition.

In 1962 Tousignant saw the work of Barnett Newman at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and remarked on his ability “to say as much as possible with as few elements as possible.” Later, Tousignant produced circular paintings with concentric rings of contrasting colours, which he successively entitled targets, chromatic transformers, gongs and chromatic accelerators. Chromatic Accelerator (1967) is among them.

In recent years, Tousignant has primarily concentrated on monochromatic canvases, seeing paintings as “beings” rather than representations that derive their meaning from outside themselves. The artist lives and works in Montreal.

Credits: Excerpts directly rom National Gallery of Canada website,

Selected Solo Exhibitions:

  • 2017: Tousignant: A Selection, Christopher Cutts Gallery, Toronto.
  • 2016: Galerie Art Mûr, Montreal
  • 2014: La vierge au lit Winchester Galleries, Victoria
  • 2012: Galerie Art Mûr, Montreal
  • 2009: Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Galerie Art Mûr, Montreal
  • 2006: Galerie Art Mûr, Montreal.
  • 2005: Galerie Art Mûr, Montreal. Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal.
  • 2004: Claude Tousignant- Paintings: 1953-2003. Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Poèmes aérosolaires, Winchester Galleries, Victoria.
  • 2002: Galerie René Blouin, Montreal
  • 2000: Introspective Winchester Galleries, Victoria. Paul Kuhn Fine Art, Calgary
  • 1999: Espaces-Tensions 1955-1998, Galerie de Bellefeuille, Montreal.
  • 1998: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa- Installation of seven works from the permanent collection.
  • 1995: Christopher Cutts Gallery, Toronto. Galerie Christiane Chassay, Montreal.
  • 1995: Galerie des Arts contemporains, Montreal. Musée du Québec, Québec, Monochromes 1978-1993 (15-year retrospective; travelling exhibition: Centre Saidye Bronfman, Montréal, 1995; Windsor Art Gallery, 1996)
  • 1991: Drabinksy Gallery, Toronto.
  • 1990: Heffel Gallery, Vancouver. Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver.
  • 1989: Galerie Waddington & Gorce, Montreal
  • 1987: 49th Parallel, New York.
  • 1985: Polychromes, Galerie Graff, Montreal
  • 1982: Sculptures Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Galerie Graff, Montreal.
  • 1981:Les esquisses des diptyques 1978-1980, Musee d’Art Contemporain, Montreal, travelling exhibition.
  • 1980: Claude Tousigngant: Diptyques 1978-1980, Musee d’Art Contemporain, Montreal.
  • 1979: Galerie Graff, Montreal
  • 1977: Windsor Art Gallery, Windsor. Deux sculptures National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
  • 1976: Waddington Galleries, Montreal. Forest City Gallery, London, Ontario.
  • 1975: Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg.
  • 1973-1974: National Gallery of Canada, retrospective (itinerary: National Gallery of Canada; Winnipeg Art Gallery; Musée d’art contemporain, Montreal; Vancouver Art Gallery; Centre culturel canadien, Paris; Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton; Memorial University, St. John’s; Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax; Confederation Art Gallery and Museum, Charlottetown; Edmonton Art Gallery; University of Sherbrooke; Owens Art Gallery, Sackville; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto)
  • 1973: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (circulating exhibition). Galerie B, Montreal, Galerie Joliet, Joliet, Quebec.
  • 1972 Galerie Moos, Toronto.
  • 1970: Galerie Joliet, Joliet, Quebec.
  • 1969: Galerie Sherbrooke, Montreal.
  • 1968: Galerie du Siecle, Montreal, Gallery Moos, Toronto
  • 1966: Galerie du Siècle, Montreal, East Hampton Gallery, New York.
  • 1965: East Hampton Gallery, New York.
  • 1964: Galerie du Siècle, Montreal.
  • 1963: Dorothy Cameron Gallery, Toronto.
  • 1962: Gallerie Denyse Delrue, Montreal.
  • 1961: The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (with Guido Molinari)
  • 1957: L’Actuelle, Montreal.
  • 1956 L’Actuelle, Montreal.
  • 1955: L’Échourie, Montreal.

Selected Group Exhibitions:

  • 2016:Winchester Galleries, Victoria, Abstracta Delecta: The Quebec Painters Fondation Guido Molinari, L’Actuelle, galerie d’art non-figuratif
  • 2015-2016: Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, L’oeil et l’esprit (curated by Geneviève Cadieux)
  • 2014: The Varley Art Gallery of Markham, Ontario, and Quebec City, Musée national des beaux-art du Québec, The Plasticiens and Beyond: Montreal 1955-1970
  • 2010:Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, and the Varley Art Gallery of Markham, Ontario, The Automatiste Revolution: Montreal 1941-1960
  • 2009:Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal, Off the Wall (curated by Pierre Dorion)
  • 2001:Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts, Tallahassee, Pleasures of Sight and States of Being
  • 2000: Roger Smith Gallery, New York, Heavy Metal
  • 1999: Galerie de Bellefeuille, Montreal, Claude Tousignant—Charged Spaces, retrospective.
  • 1998: Galerie René Blouin, Montreal (and a number of other galleries and exhibition spaces), Peinture, peinture
  • 1995:The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Recent Acquisitions
  • 1994: Christopher Cutts Gallery, Toronto, Monochromes
  • 1992-1993: Musée du Québec, Quebec City, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, etc., La crise de l’abstraction au Canada . Les années 1950
  • 1992:Musée du Québec, Quebec City, La sculpture au Québec 1946-1961 : naissance et persistance Galerie de l’UQAM, Montreal, L’anarchie resplendissante de la peinture : Montréal 1942-1992
  • 1990: The Power Plant, Toronto, Abstract Practices
  • 1987: Musee d’art contemporain, Montreal, Elementae Naturae Galerie Waddignton & Gorce, Montreal, Maitres québécois
  • 1986: 20 Ans de Graff, Musee d’Art Contemporain, Montreal.
  • 1985: Les Vingt Ans du Musee a travers sa collection, Musee d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, Montreal.
  • 1984: Reflections, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
  • 1982: Situation de la peinture et de la critique d’art a Montreal en 1962, Musee d’art se Saint- Laurent, Saint-Laurent.
  • 1980: Quebec 80 a la Rochelle, Musee du Nouveau Monde, La Rochelle, France.
  • 1979: The Winnipeg Art Gallery, Frontiers of Our Dreams, Quebec Painting in the 1940s and the 1950s
  • 1978: Tendances Actuelles au Quebec, Musee d’Art Contemporain, Montreal.
  • 1976: Trois Generations d’Art Quebecois, 1940-1950-1960, Musee d’Art Contemporain, Montreal.
  • 1974: Recent Canadian Painting, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.
  • 1972: Twelve by Twelve, Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, Sackville.
  • 1971: John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 49th Parallels. New Canadian Art Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 3-D — Into the 70’s, travelling exhibition
  • 1970: Panorama de la Sculpture au Quebec 1945-1970, Musee d’Art Contemporain, Montreal (also shown at the Musee Rodin, Paris). Grand Formats, Musee d’Art Contemporain, Montreal.
  • 1969: Form-Colour, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (circulating exhibition).
  • 1968: Edinburgh International Festival of the Arts, Edinburgh, Canada 101 Musée national d’art moderne, Paris; Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome; Musée cantonal des beaux-arts, Lausanne; Palais des beaux-arts, Bruxelles, Canada : Art d’aujourd’hui Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Seven Montreal Artists, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canadian Artists ’68, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 7th Biennial of Canadian Painting, 1968
  • 1967: Expo ’67, Montreal, Canadian Painting, Dunkelman Gallery, Toronto, Artists from Montreal, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Trois cents ans de peinture canadienne ,Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Perspective ’67, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Nine Canadians, Museé d’art contemporain, Montreal, Panorama de la peinture au Québec, 1940-1966 Galerie du Siècle, Montreal, Espace dynamique
  • 1966: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Constructions de Montréal, travelling exhibition, Hilton Hotel, New York, Phoenix Museum, Arizona
  • 1965: Op from Montreal, University of Vermont, Burlington. The Responsive Eye, Museum of modern Art, New York (circulating exhibition). Canada at Sao Paulo, VIIIth Biennial, Sao Paulo. The Decieved Eye, Fort Worth Art Center, Texas. Retina Painting, University of Texas, Austin and Houston. Optical Painting, Fordham University, Iowa and Southern Illinois University. Optical Art, Fordham university, New York. Purity and Vision, Southampton Collage, New York. Color Motion, Brookhaven National Laboratories, Upton, New York. Perceptions in Op Art, University of Southern Florida, Florida. Op Art, University of Toronto, Toronto. Artistes de Montreal, Musee d’Art Contemporain, Montreal. Constructions From Montreal, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (circulating exhibition).
  • 1964: Color Dynamism: Now and Then East Hampton Gallery, New York.
  • 1963: 5th Biennial Exhibition of Canadian Painting, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
  • 1962: Salon de la Jeune Peinture, Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Montreal, Montreal. La Peinture Candadienne Moderne, Palazzo Collicola, Spoletto.
  • 1960: The Non-Figurative Artists Association of Montreal, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
  • 1959: Art Abstrait, Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Montreal, Montreal.
  • 1957: The Non-Figurative Artists Association of Montreal, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal.
  • 1956: Winchester Galleries, Victoria, Abstracta Delecta: The Quebec Painters Fondation Guido Molinari, L’Actuelle, galerie d’art non-figuratif


  • 2010: Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts
  • 1989: Prix Borduas
  • 1976: Named an Officer of the Order of Canada.
  • 1973: Prize of the Canadian Institute in Rome.
  • 1967: First Prize, painting section, at Perspective ’67, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.
  • 1962: First Prize: Salon de la Jeune Peinture, Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Montreal, Montreal.

Video – Artist profile – Claude Tousignant at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in 2009 exhibition

Contact us to buy, sell or appraise artwork by Claude Tousignant.