Kittie Bruneau was born in Montreal on 12 October 1929 and she died at the age of 91 on 6 April 2021 i Calgary.
She studied drawing and sculpture at l’École des Beaux-Arts de Montréal from 1946 to 1949, but she left to study another year painting at the Montreal School of Arts under the supervision of Ghitta Caiserman-Roth.
In 1950 she travelled to Paris where she finally spent the next eight years. As a young woman, Kittie Bruneau was torn between the visual arts and dance.
She puts aside painting for a few years to improve her dance technique and she danced in the corps de ballet for the Ballets de Rouen and the Ballets de l’Étoile of Maurice Béjart. When she moved to Carrières-sur-Seine the urge to paint again brought her back to the visual arts. She attends the Académie Julian and got to know several artists and the many artistic trends of that period in Europe. She meets surrealism, and the influences of the surreal abstraction, the automatist theories and the art expressions evolving from expressionism, like the lyric abstracts or abstract expressionists, the CobrA movement, and later her work will also dive into the subconscious, totem symbolic imagery, primitivism, poetic alchemy and her American Indian roots. In fact she is not a part of any particular school or theory; she is pure instinct and we could say a well-schooled art brut.
Her return to Quebec in 1960 and her first exhibitions coincided with the death of Paul-Émile Borduas one of the leading figures of the automatists in Quebec.
In 1961, Kittie Bruneau moved to Bonaventure Island near Percé, Quebec where she lived and worked until 1972. On the island she will find her major twist to link figuration with abstract expressionism and that environment will live in her and her work forever. Unfortunately at that time, the Province of Quebec evicted all residents in order to depopulate the island.
Her island studio is preserved as part of the Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé National Park. Since then she has worked each summer in a studio on Pointe-Saint-Pierre, a few kilometers from Bonaventure.
Kittie Bruneau’s artistic path and the place she occupies in our collective memory are quite special and the birds she sees around her islands are one of the major retuning subjects, as those typical totem spirals, snakes and fish, but the artist’s perpetual quest for identity can be discerned in her work also, she is always concerned with the human condition and from the early 1980’s she is concerned about the injustices and violence inflicted on the native peoples in the world and is expressed through series of paintings, drawings and fine art prints with the ‘’masks’’ as central theme.
Her nomadic lifestyle takes her to far away countries in North Africa, South-East Asia and South America, where she feeds her imagination with colours and exoticism. Her works are a direct approach, using bright colours and a free gestural manner to portray figures and objects combined in compositions that have their roots in the world of exotic places, poetry and dreams. She paints with the canvases on the floor, walking over them as she works.
Kittie Bruneau earned a number of awards from the Quebec cultural affairs department and the Canada Council.
In 1964, Kittie Bruneau has been awarded by Canada Council ten large paintings of the Gaspé.
In 1965, she is granted studies in printmaking at Centre de recherches graphiques de Montréal run by Richard Lacroix by the Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec
In 1970 she creates a few sculptures in plexiglass with the funds of Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec.
In 1971 she obtains her diploma from l’école des Beaux-Art she didn’t finish in 1949 and gets her brevet d’enseignements (teaching certificate) specialized in the plastic arts.
In 1972, she participates six weeks at Arcosanti project in Arizona under the direction of Paolo Soleri.
In 1985, she undertakes studies in woodcut with Tōshi Yoshida in Tokyo and production of prints at l’Atelier du Scarabée, with Bonnie Baxter, in Val-David, Quebec.
Since 1956, she has contributed to more than 50 solo exhibitions and 35 group showings. She has also collaborated on a number of art books with other artists and writers, like Leonard Cohen, Claude Haeffely, Françoise Bujold, Michaël La Chance and many other poets to produce work that combines literature and the visual arts. Between 1982 and 1992, she painted seven murals in various places in Quebec.
Kittie Bruneau’s work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Canada Council Art Bank, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, and the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art.
Kittie Bruneau is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Sources: Wikipedia, Texts by Nicole Therrien (Quartier Libre) and personal additions by Yoannick Ysebaert, curator YLA.
Bibliography: 1999 – Nicole Thérien, Kittie Bruneau, Centre d’exposition du Vieux Palais, Les 400 Coups, 96 p. ISBN 2-89540-002-4
1967 – Jacques de Roussan, Kittie Bruneau, préf. Paul Mercier, Lidec, Coll. « Panorama », 36 p.