Refus global

Refus global was a manifesto published in 1948 and signed by 16 figures from Quebec’s artistic community. It challenged the traditional values of Quebec. The manifesto also fostered an opening-up of Quebec society to international thought. (See also Quiet Revolution.)

Refus global was a manifesto published in 1948 and signed by 16 figures from Quebec’s artistic community. It challenged the traditional values of Quebec. The manifesto also fostered an opening-up of Quebec society to international thought. (See also Quiet Revolution.)


Sea Gull
Paul-Émile Borduas, 1956, oil on canvas (courtesy NGC).
Clear Point of View
Oil on paperboard, 1944, by Pierre Gauvreau (courtesy National Gallery of Canada/Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada, Ottawa).
Trees in the Night
Oil on canvas, 1943, by Paul-Émile Borduas (courtesy National Gallery of Canada/Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada, Ottawa).

Refus global

Refus global was a manifesto, the principal essay of which was written by the painter Paul-Émile Borduas and signed by 15 members of the Automatistes Group. It included texts by Bruno Cormier (later a psychoanalyst), poet Claude Gauvreau, painter Fernand Leduc and Françoise Sullivan (then a dancer). The manifesto was illustrated by Marcel Barbeau, Paul-Émile Borduas, Marcelle Ferron-Hamelin, Pierre Gauvreau, Jean-Paul Mousseau, Jean Paul Riopelle et Maurice Perron, a photographer. Other signatories also included Thérèse Renaud, Madeleine Arbour, Françoise Riopelle, Muriel Guilbault et Louise Renaud. Refus global launched at the Librairie Tranquille in Montreal on 9 August 1948.

Refus global challenged the traditional values of Quebec. One of its iconic lines was: "To hell with the holy-water-sprinkler and the tuque!". The manifesto advocated a strong need for liberation, if not "resplendent anarchy." It also anticipated the coming of a "new collective hope."

That was enough to cause the authorities to have Borduas removed from his post at the École du meuble, where he had been teaching since 1937. The Quebec press echoed the sentiments of the government and largely censured the manifesto. From the date of Refus global's publication to January 1949, more than 100 hundred newspaper or magazine articles were published condemning the manifesto.

Read the text of the Refus global manifesto.


Further Reading

  • François-M. Gagnon and Dennis Young, Paul-Émile Borduas. Écrits/Writings 1942-1958 (1978).