Jean-Paul Riopelle, 78; Canadian Abstract Expressionist Painter

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Jean-Paul Riopelle, 78, an Abstract Expressionist painter and sculptor who was the first Canadian to have a painting sell for more than $1 million, died Tuesday at his home on Ile-aux-Grues on the St. Lawrence River east of Quebec City. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Born in Montreal, the only son of an architect, Riopelle began painting at age 8. He later studied engineering at Montreal Polytechnique but switched to the serious study of art in the early 1940s.

Riopelle served as a fighter pilot near the end of World War II, and after the war moved to France, where he built an international reputation in the 1950s and mingled with the intellectual celebrities of the era.

He was a member of the informal group of expatriate artists known as the Ecole de Paris or School of Paris, which included Marc Chagall, according to the Artcyclopedia Web site.

Riopelle's works were exhibited around the world. In 1989, one of his paintings sold for $1.4 million at a New York auction. It was the largest amount paid for a Canadian painting at the time and the first to exceed $1 million, according to media reports.

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