Paul-Emile Borduas 8.47 or Flowered Quivers

Paul-Émile Borduas – A New Vision of automatism Art Movement

You can interpret art in any way you want. That is the greatness of art. Over time there have emerged artists who bring a new vision to old content. While there have also been those whose content itself has been brand new. Paul-Émile Borduas belongs to the second category. In 1938, an introduction to surrealism art turned his artistic career around. But soon, he developed his own version of surrealism, which he produced ‘automatically’. In doing so, he introduced the automatism art movement with warriors.

Fig. 1. Surreal warriors give new meaning to automatism art in Joust in the Apache Rainbow, 1949


The word automatism originates from psychology. In psychology, it means an unconscious movement of the body. Unlike something done consciously, this nature of action directly communicates with the mind. As such, it had been used by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud to understand a person’s mental state.

French poet and writer André Robert Breton translated this theory from psychology to literature. In 1924 he initiated the surrealist movement in which he defined surrealism specifically in the lines of automatism. He termed surrealism as purely a psychic automatism. This means writing automatically without being controlled by social, moral, logical, or artistic concerns. Following this, Breton produced many automatic writings, which were rapid, immediate, and unrestrained.

automatist paintings

Likewise, Paul-Émile Borduas produced automatist works which were immediate. The artist did not have any preconceived idea when he started out such works. When they got completed, he gave each painting a suitable title. An example of this is Joust in the Apache Rainbow (fig. 1). He kept this work with him all throughout his life. The painting shows how a painter can create something entirely new even though he relies on pre-established norms.

Borduas is not interested only in the juxtaposition of objects. He also evokes a specific meaning through the work. Borduas spontaneously applies paint in the middle foreground through which he suggests a joust. A joust occurred when knights fought each other on horsebacks. Through this, Borduas refers to the Apaches. The Apaches were the first Native tribe of North America to ride on horseback while going to fight. The semicircular arrangement of feathers in the middle of the canvas refers to the Apaches. Borduas is the only surrealist painter who presented feathers in many of his works. Surrealists otherwise preferred biomorphic curvy shaped objects, for instance, Joan Miró’s The Hare (fig. 2).

Fig. 2. Landscape (The Hare), 1927 displays a traditional aspect of automatism art

Borduas presented the feathers as motifs symbolizing reconciliation. Due to this philosophical essence, his works introduced brand new content within the pre-established contours of the automatism art movement.

Please follow and like us:

2 thoughts on “Paul-Émile Borduas – A New Vision of automatism Art Movement”

  1. Hi are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own. Do you need any html coding expertise to make your own blog?
    Any help would be really appreciated!

    1. Hey there,

      Yes, I use WordPress.
      If you are not adept at html coding (like me!) even then creating your own WordPress website is no problem. Read about hosting platforms and themes from Google and you will have a clearer idea of your way forward.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: