01/29/2014 11:52 EST | Updated 03/31/2014 05:59 EDT

Fernand Leduc, Quebec abstract painter, dies at 97

Quebec painter Fernand Leduc died in Montreal on Tuesday at the age of 97 after a bout with cancer.

The abstract painter was a signatory of the controversial 1948 anti-establishment and anti-religion manifesto Refus global, or Total Refusal, along with artistic contemporaries such as Paul-Émile Borduas and Jean-Paul Riopelle.

Leduc’s contributions to the province were invaluable, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois said Tuesday.

“Fernand Leduc figures among those who contributed to bringing Quebec into modernity,” she said after learning of the painter’s death.

Born in Montreal on July 4, 1916 and a graduate of the now-defunct Montreal School of Fine Arts, Leduc befriended Borduas and Riopelle early in his career.

The three, along with at least a dozen other artists, became members of the Automatistes: a group of abstract artists inspired by French surrealism and the poetry of André Breton.

Leduc left Montreal for Paris for several years. There, he met Jean Bazaine — an artist whom Leduc later said had a major influence on his own work.

The Quebec painter returned home in 1956 and took over as president of the Non-Figurative Artists' Association of Montreal. He later taught at Laval University in Quebec City and University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).

Leduc received the Governor General’s award for visual arts and media arts in 2007.

An exhibition dedicated to work by Quebec painters Jean Paul Lemieux, Alfred Pellan, Fernand Leduc and Jean-Paul Riopelle opens on Feb. 20 at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.