Françoise Sullivan was born in Montréal on June 10, 1925, the first and only daughter in a family that already had four boys over the age of ten. She came from a middle-class family; when she was young, her father, a lawyer, was Deputy Minister of the federal Post Office Department.
She wanted to be an artist from the age of ten. Her parents encouraged her artistic aspirations and registered her for courses in drawing, dance, piano and painting. She also studied diction and dramatic recitation.
In 1940, she entered the School of Fine Arts to take courses in the plastic arts. At that time, the philosophy of education was based on fear and passivity and not on creativity and personal development.
The fall of 1941 saw the birth of the Automatiste movement. Françoise Sullivan's first paintings were marked by Fauvism and Cubism. In 1943, she received the Maurice-Cullen Prize at the year-end exhibit of the School of Fine Arts.
Her meeting with the painter Paul-Émile Borduas led to the formation of the Automatiste group, whose philosophy was based on each person reaching their potential.
After completing her studies at the School of Fine Arts in 1944, Sullivan went to New York and took courses in modern dance from 1945 to 1946. In 1948, she explained her vision of dance and of its place in history in a lecture entitled, "La danse et l'espoir." This lecture was later published in the Refus global manifesto. In 1948, Sullivan and her dance partner, Jeanne Renaud, put on a performance at Ross House; today, that performance is considered to be the founding event of modern dance in Quebec.
In 1949, she married the painter Paterson Ewen. Four boys were born of this union. Limited by her family responsibilities but not wanting to abandon dancing, she looked for new means of expression. While continuing to choreograph, she turned to sculpture, which allowed her to express herself completely without eclipsing her husband.
In 1959, she learned the fundamentals of metal welding from the sculptor Armand Vaillancourt. In 1960, she returned to the school and began to work in plexiglass. In 1976, she began collaborating with the sculptor, David Moore. At the beginning of the '80s, Sullivan returned to painting. In 1987, she received the Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas for the entire body of her work.
In 2000, the Université du Québec à Montréal awarded her an honorary doctorate to recognize her exceptional range, the wealth and diversity of her creative work, her contribution in opening Quebec to artistic values, her qualities as a humanist and her personal commitment. In October 2001, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, named Françoise Sullivan a member of the Order of Canada.
Source : collectionscanada.gc.ca, Library and Archives of Canada