Jean-Paul Riopelle was born in Montréal in 1923. His artistic career began under the training of Henri Bisson who taught Riopelle in the neoclassical style at the École de Meuble. The abstract style which Riopelle is known for was first developed after beginning to study under Paul-Émile Borduas. Borduas`s surrealist style of painting differed greatly from that of Riopelle`s first teacher. After convincing Riopelle to join the Automatiste School, Borduas taught Riopelle a style of painting which involved a stream of consciousness, allowing the artist to paint without any preconception.
Under Borduas's guidance, Riopelle created and exhibited art with Les Automatistes. In 1948 Riopelle signed Refus Global, Borduas's manifesto which challenged the traditional Québécois values and encouraged a social revolt against traditional culture in Québec.
After leaving Les Automatistes, Riopelle travelled to Paris where he settled and developed his own abstract painting style. In Paris, Riopelle became briefly associated with Surrealist artists and was the only Canadian artist to exhibit with them. Riopelle felt his artistic style was more at home in the Lyrical Abstraction group of artists in Paris and chose to work and exhibit with them. During the 1950s, Riopelle began working in a 'mosaic' style which involved the use a spatula to spread thick planes of paint onto the canvas. Riopelle`s style continued to become more abstracted as he looked to completely free his paintings of identifiable form.
Riopelle returned to Canada in the 1970s after the death of his mother. He set up a studio in the Laurentians of Quebec. His famous Iceberg series was inspired by his return to Canada and his exploration of the northern territories of Canada, where he oberved expansive areas of snow and ice. For the later part of his career Riopelle divided his time between Quebec and France. In 1981 Riopelle received the Paul-Émile Borduas prize, making him the first signatory of Borduas`s Refus Global to be given the award. Riopelle continued to exhibit his work until 1996. He died in 2002.