Articles dans la catégorie Artists
Masson was forty-three years old at the outbreak of the Second World War. His work is closely linked to the development of surrealism which it will not be possible to relate here and for which it is recommended to consult specialist works and the major works about the artist.
At the end of 1941, Masson was in Marseilles where, with Breton and his friends, he took part in the creation of a ‘Marseilles card game’, before sailing for New York with his family. In New York, he lived in New Preston near to Calder and Tanguy. This was an intense period of creation and Masson showed in a considerable number of exhibitions before returning to France in October 1945. At the end of that year, he showed in Paris at the Galerie Louise Leiris and the Galerie Simon.
In addition to painting, Masson made frequent illustrations for the works of poets and writers and designed stage sets and costumes. In 1946 he worked on a performance of Hamlet, which was being given at the Théâtre Marigny by the Renaud-Barrault company, and also on Jean-Paul Sartre’s Morts sans sépulture. Paul Rosenberg made a first donation of his work to the Musée national d’Art moderne in Paris. During this period he became interested in the phenomenon of light — the subject of Port de La Rochelle — and painted imaginary subjects. A major exhibition was held at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. In 1947 he had exhibitions in New York, London, Paris and The Hague. He made lithographs with Picasso at Mourlot’s workshop. Publication of André Masson et son univers by Michel Leiris and Georges Limbour. On 15 October, Masson moved into the Villa l’Harmas, at Le Tholonet near Aix-en-Provence, where he worked until 1948 on subjects related to the countryside surrounding Aix.
Masson was interested by impressionism and wrote an article for the review Verve, titled Monet le Fondateur in which he attempted a new analysis based on the relation between Turner, Monet, Renoir… and Cézanne, as well as studying Chinese painting and calligraphy. In 1948 an exhibition of recent works was held at the Galerie Louise Leiris. In 1949 he made his first etchings in colour, with 33 illustrations for André Malraux’s Les conquérants. He travelled in the mountains and painted landscapes and dead birds. An exhibition, which included erotic drawings, was held at the Galerie de la Place Vendôme, under the title Terre érotique, with a text by Bataille. It was rapidly closed down by the authorities. La Monnaie commissioned Masson to design the Malraux medal. In 1950 he painted female nudes and waterfalls, executed pastels and wrote Plaisir de peindre (Nice, La Diane française). A retrospective was held at the Kunsthalle in Basel with Giacometti. In 1951 he visited Venice, returning again in 1954 and 1955. The city remained a source of inspiration for him for several years, with in particular an album of coloured lithographs with a lithographic text, Voyage à Venise, printed at Aix-en-Provence by his friend Léo Marschutz. Other albums resulted from this collaboration: Carnet de croquis, Sur le vif and Toro, for which Michel Leiris wrote a preface. During the Aix period, Masson designed stage sets and costumes for Iphigénie en Tauride (Gluck) for the Aix Festival and executed a painting on the subject of bathers which included nudes in a landscape (1953), as well as beginning work on the subjects of Migrations and Féminaires (1955). In 1955 he appeared in Jean Grémillon’s film La maison aux images. He wrote an article L’effusionniste for the N.R.F. He used sand in his painting combined with mixed techniques.
From 1956 onwards Masson began to show in an increasing number of both one-man and group exhibitions (ref. catalogue Rétrospective Masson, Paris, 1977). He made Féminaire, an album of prints in colour. He wrote a number of articles, including Le peintre et ses fantasmes for the Revue philosophique and his book Métamorphose de l’artiste was published by P. Cailler in Geneva. He worked on the series Dévoration, Féminaire de la rue Saint-Denis, La femme multipliée, continued over the next few years and on Les migrations, ‘gestural’ sand paintings made in bright colours. Masson made frequent use of tempera until 1962. Exhibition Œuvres récentes et anciennes at the Galerie Louise Leiris in Paris.
In 1957 Jean Grémillon directed a film in Aix on the artist André Masson et les quatre éléments. Georges Charbonnier broadcasted a programme on R.T.F., Dialogues avec André Masson; this series of interviews was published in 1958 by Julliard. In 1958 the Albertina in Vienna held the first retrospective of Masson’s prints. A room was given over to his work at the Venice Biennial, with a text by Eugène Ionesco. He gave a talk at the Collège de philosophie de Paris titled Des nouveaux rapports entre peintre et regardant (Mercure de France, 1958, vol. 334, pp. 193-207). He showed Couple dans la nuit at the Salon de Mai. He continued the Migrations. His work became increasingly abstract with more attention given to space and the gestural sign.
Between 1959 and 1961 the calligraphic signs derived from automatic techniques disappear and are replaced by a less stylised form of expression. In 1959 Masson painted Errance, one of several paintings made by spraying paint onto the canvas with an airbrush.
Around this period Masson stopped using sprinkled sand, dripping, spraying, pressing and collages made from untreated elements (this period recalls the early sand paintings of 1927-1928). His main subjects were jubilation and ecstasy and included mythological figures, centaurs, oracles and nymphs. Until 1961, Figures mythiques, Lieux emblématiques and Annales de la nature occupied an important place in his work.
In 1960 a major retrospective of drawings (1922 to 1960) was held at the Galerie Louise Leiris. Masson was invited to Vienna for a meeting between Artists of the East-Artists of the West. He met Tobey who was staying in Paris. In 1961 he executed the coloured lithographic illustrations for Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard; 22 lithographic drawings Sur le thème du désir, with texts by Jean-Paul Sartre and André Masson; Une saison en Enfer by Rimbaud, with prints in colour. He made a series of paintings on the theme of Prison and, in March, gave a talk at the Pavillon de Marsan Propos sur le surréalisme.
In 1962-1964 he made works on the theme of Massacres (a theme already addressed in 1932-33) which culminated in 1963-64 with extremely violent works. The years 1962-63 saw a new move in the direction of figuration. The series of prints Trophées érotiques was published early in 1962. Eros was an increasing presence in his prints from 1960 to 1975. In 1962 he had an exhibition of recent paintings at the Galerie Louise Leiris. Thème des Cérémonies and Figures tutélaires. In 1963 he moved from his apartment at number 65 rue Sainte-Anne, where he had lived since 1958, to the rue de Sévigné in the Marais, where he remained until the end of his life. He created the stage sets and costumes for the production of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck given at the Paris Opera with Pierre Boulez conducting. In 1965 he painted the ceiling of the Théâtre de l’Odéon and, from 1954 to 1959, participated in l’Ecole de Paris at the Galerie Charpentier.
1965 Rétrospective Musée national d’Art moderne, Paris. Catalogue, biography written by the artist, text by Jean Cassou.
1972 Masson, période asiatique 1950-1959. Galerie de Seine, Paris. Catalogue, text by Françoise Will-Levaillant. Chronology.
1975 André Masson, oeuvres de 1921 à 1975. Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence. Catalogue, Chronologie d’André Masson by Georges Duby.
1976 80th birthday retrospective. Museum of Modem Art, New York. Catalogue William Rubin, Carolyn Lanchner, shown in Paris in 1977.
1976 200 dessins. Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. Catalogue.
1977 Hommage à André Masson. Grand Palais Paris. (catalogue, William Rubin, complete biography and bibliography).
1982 André Masson. Exposition pour son 85e anniversaire. Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’Art moderne Paris. Catalogue.
Among the recent exhibitions:
1983 Masson. Rétrospective, travaux pour la scène. Théâtre du Rond-Point, Paris. Catalogue, text by Michel Leiris.
1983 Masson. Instants 67 œuvres 1948-1953. Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris. Catalogue.
1985 Galerie Jean-Jacques Dutko, Paris. Catalogue.
1986 Galerie Artcurial. Galerie Louise Leiris (catalogues).
1987 Masson. Automatismes. Chapelle de la Sorbonne, Paris. Catalogue, text by Daniel Abadie.
1989 Galerie Jacques Bailly, Paris. Catalogue.
1989-1990 Rétrospective: André Masson, l’insurgé du XXe siècle. Académie de France à Rome. Catalogue.
1990 André Masson, œuvres 1954-1974. Centre culturel d’Issoire. Catalogue.
1991 André Masson, œuvres maîtresses. Galerie Odermatt-Cazeau, Paris Catalogue.
Masson’s work is to be found in the collections of many museums in France and abroad.
- J.P. Clébert: Mythologie d’André Masson. 1971.
- André Masson: La mémoire du monde. Skira. Coll. Les sentiers de la création, 1974.
- Françoise Will-Levaillant: André Masson: Anthologie de ses écrits: Le rebelle du surréalisme. Hermann, 1976.
Cofounder of the Cobra group.
Appel settled in Paris in 1950 with Corneille. From 1957, he lived a part of the year in New York. His first visit to Paris dates from 1947 and was already made in the company of Corneille whom he had met at the School of Fine Arts in Amsterdam (1940-1943) and with whom he exhibited in 1947 in his home town. The two artists lived in an insalubrious studio near the leather market.
Colette Allendy showed Appel’s work in Paris for the first time in 1949, in addition to works by Constant and Corneille, who, in 1950, also showed in the group exhibition Tendances with Atlan, Doucet, Corneille, Constant and Tajiri, at the first Cobra exhibition in Paris, at La Librairie, at number 73 boulevard Saint-Michel (Cinq Peintres de Cobra, with a preface by Michel Ragon) and then at the Galerie Pierre in 1951. The public was shocked to discover this brutal and vehement painting, with its violent colours and excessive textures and gestures. While geometrical abstraction had conquered the art scene and figurative painting was being successful in Right Bank galleries, this expressionist exuberance employing a bestiary fed by folk art, that stopped short of neither caricature nor naïve characters, seemed to the spectator to be intentionally hostile. Michel Tapié was not mistaken. In his manifesto book on informal painting, Un art autre (1952), he included Appel with reproductions of two paintings: Femme oiseau and Chanteuse des rues. Appel was next to Dubuffet, Mathieu, Pollock, Fautrier, de Kooning, Ubac… all of whom were embarked on an artistic and expressive adventure that Tapié called Signifiance de l’informelle. Appel participated in Michel Tapié’s exhibition Peintures non abstraites in 1952, at the Studio Facchetti. When Appel began a painting, only the texture and colour were of importance to him. He then made an image appear from the matter: heads, always identifiable, or more abstract landscapes. This is what the artist said about his approach: «The first stage, red and yellow, is always beautiful… This is when I try to control the validity that a cruel dialectic opens up. Doubt is born from antagonism. A painting is not the result of systematic research but of an experience full of anxiety.» It is necessary for the painter to find a balance between instinct or urges and understanding, hence the rapid execution of the work. From 1954 Appel applied paint straight from the tube. An evolution makes it possible to date the works done before 1955: first drawings in 1948 incorporating abstract graphics and graffiti; coloured figures in 1950, Têtes in full impasto and Portraits imaginaires of 1955, after which date, Appel exercises a combination of perfect control and total freedom. The drawing is identified with the colour he uses to do the body. Nus blancs et noirs of 1957-1958 followed by Têtes volantes and Fantômes.
In 1954, Appel had a one-man exhibition at the Studio Facchetti, with a preface by Michel Tapié. The same year, he showed at the Martha Jackson Gallery, in New York. In 1960, he won the Guggenheim Prize.
In 1952 and 1953 he took part in the Salon de Mai, and then each year from 1957 to 1965. From 1964, he lived and worked at the Château de Molesmes near Auxerre. From 1977, he divided his time between Monaco and New York.
1982-1983 Appel-Alechinsky. Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Catalogue.
1988 Appel. Retrospective at the Paris Art Center.
Appel’s works are in many museum collections.
- Christian Dotremont: La Jeune Ecole de Paris, par Jean-Clarence Lambert. Musée de Poche, Paris, 1958.
- Ecrits sur Karel Appel, Galilée, Paris, 1983.
- Karel Appel. Propos en liberté. Interviews with F. de Towarnicki and André Verdet. Galilée, Paris, 1985.
- Karel Appel, Quarante ans de peinture, sculpture et dessin, Galilée. Paris, 1987.
- Michel Ragon: K. Appel. Peintures 1937-1957, Galilée, Paris, 1988.
- Jean Clarence Lambert, Marshall Mc Luhan: Karel Appel, œuvres sur papier, Cercle d’Art 1988.
- Michel Ragon: K. Appel, de Cobra à un art autre, Galilée, Paris, 1988.
One of the most personal representatives of postwar lyrical abstraction, Atlan, although he belonged to the previous generation and began with artists younger than himself, is a forerunner of art informel with Hartung, Schneider and Wols. Born into a Jewish Berber family, he arrived in Paris in 1930 to study philosophy in which he obtained a degree in 1933.
When the war came, Atlan was called up at Laval where he had been teaching philosophy at the lycée. From 1940 to 1941, he taught at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris, but anti-Semitic laws forced him to leave this post. With his wife Denise, he moved to number 16 rue de la Grande-Chaumière, a step which was to prove decisive. He discovered his vocation to paint in this neighbourhood of artists. At the same time, Atlan’s first poems were published. During the Occupation, which was a nightmare for the couple, he continued painting and writing. He joined the Resistance, but was arrested as a terrorist in 1942. At the La Santé prison, where he had been transferred, Atlan pretended to be mad and, in 1943, he succeeded in being interned at the Hôpital Sainte-Anne. Here he painted and wrote a collection of poems Sang profond, published in November 1944, a few months after the Liberation.
The first exhibition of Atlan’s paintings was held in December 1944, at the Arc-en-Ciel, a gallery-bookshop in the rue de Sèvres. His work met with a favourable reception from the public although there was surprise at the expressionist figurative style, with its thick paint in which figures and birds appeared. The following year, four non-figurative paintings, already suggestive of his future work, were shown at the Salon des Surindépendants.
In February 1946, a second exhibition of Atlan’s work was held at the Galerie Denise René. This was followed, in 1947, by an exhibition at the Galerie Maeght (with a catalogue text by Jacques Kober) of twenty-seven paintings for the publication of Kafka’s Description d’un combat, for which in 1946 Atlan had made lithographs at Mourlot’s workshop, shown in November 1947 at the Hôtel du Pont Royal in the rue Montalembert.
This was a period of success for Atlan during which he participated in a number of group exhibitions: Le noir est une couleur in December 1946, Sur quatre murs in 1947 at Maeght, and L’Imaginaire, organised by Mathieu with a catalogue text by Jean-José Marchand, at the Galerie du Luxembourg.
In 1947, Atlan participated in the second Salon des Réalités Nouvelles.
From 1947 to 1956, Atlan went through a period of insecurity. Wishing to regain his independence, he left the Galerie Maeght. Although he was now without a dealer in France he showed abroad. In October 1948, he exhibited at the Art Club in Vienna and, in December of that year, at the Salon Corner in Copenhagen (with texts by Michel Ragon).
In 1949, Atlan exhibited at the Galerie Egon Günther, in Mannheim in Germany and, later in the year, he showed his pastels and drawings at the Galleria Sandri in Venice.
That year he also sent in a first painting to the Salon de Mai where he was to show until the end of his life, receiving a tribute in 1960. In 1951 the first book about Atlan was published, L’Architecte et le Magicien by Michel Ragon. Despite his success his work, however, remained ambiguous. A divergence subsisted between the ‘abstracts’ and Atlan’s works. In a text written in 1946, Clara Malraux had already drawn attention to this division: «Atlan would like to stir us through pictorial means. But these pictorial means are placed at the service of an inner world which is hallucinatory, obsessive, strange and, nonetheless, communicable to the extent that it seems to awaken recollections in us. This generates a kind of ‘materiality’ which sets him apart from the world of those we refer to as ‘the abstracts’» (La Nef, Paris, March 1946).
His work testifies to intense creative activity. The support of a number of loyal collectors (Gertrude Stein and Jean Paulhan were among the first to buy his paintings) was however insufficient and this was a difficult period for Atlan and his wife.
He showed at the Biennale de Menton in 1951, 1953 and 1955.
In 1951, he took part in the Exposition internationale d’art expérimental in Liège and, from 1953, his work met with increasing success in Japan.
In 1953 he exhibited in Israel and the following year in Yugoslavia.
In 1955 and 1957, he participated in the Sao Paulo Biennial.
In order to make ends meet, he sold hosiery at suburban markets. This did not discourage him though from continuing to paint with enthusiasm. Few paintings however remain from this period as, to save money, Atlan often reused his canvases. The paintings which have survived are nonetheless of great quality. The heavy impasto of the early works gradua
lly gave way to a style that evoked first a floral world and then later an animal world. Painted with bitter violence, using a restricted palette of ochres, yellows, reds and black, anthropomorphical marks etch their black forms intwined in curves around bristling pikes. A magical, primitive world in which plant and mineral are closely related to a bestiary that emerges from the depths of the earth and its forests. The energy of Atlan’s line, combined with the rhythmic quality of his paintings gives them an incantatory strength. Throughout these years, his studio was always full of visitors, his warm personality attracting writers (Marcel Arland, Clara Malraux and Jean Duvignaud) and artists (Mathieu, Soulages…). At his famous Saturday evening gatherings, the lively conversation lasted late into the night.
In 1955, Atlan was invited to participate in the annual Ecole de Paris exhibition at the Galerie Charpentier, for which he executed a poster. He again participated in the exhibition in 1956, 1957 and 1958.
A revival of interest in Atlan’s work now began, marked by his first one-man exhibition in Paris since 1947 held in November 1956 at the Galerie Bing. The critics were not unanimous in their appreciation and several disapproved of the new direction his work was taking: «Atlan has re-emerged after several years out of the limelight … His field of expression has widened, and the work has more force,» but this is followed by an admission of «the monotony of these paintings… and their inner monotony». (Léon Degand, Art d’Aujourd’hui, 1956). Roger V. Gindertaël, on the other hand, made no attempt to disguise his enthusiasm and wished to «simply insist on the impressive action of the imaginary structures that Atlan develops with such passion.» (Cimaise, November-December 1956).
We should mention his participation in the Nouvelle Ecole de Paris in Tokyo in 1955 and 1957; the exhibitions at the Galerie Ariel, in Paris, Situation de la peinture d’aujourd’hui in 1955, 1956 and 1957; the Galerie La Roue, in Paris, Eloge du petit format in 1955 and 1956; Galerie Arnaud L’Aventure de l’art abstrait in 1956 and Festival de l’art d’avant-garde in Marseilles; Expression et Non-Figuration Galerie Le Gendre, Paris, 1957; Cinquante ans de peinture abstraite, Galerie Creuze. Salon Comparaisons, 1958.
A number of one-man exhibitions were held in 1957: Galerie Dupont, Lille; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Musée d’Antibes (with a catalogue text by André Verdet). In 1958, he showed at the Galleria Naviglio in Milan and also had a travelling exhibition in Germany.
Atlan’s artistic mastery was impressive. His paintings have the strength of totemic emblems, with a rhythmic power that lends them grandeur. In 1958, he bought a house at Villiers-sur-Tholon, in the Yonne, where he spent most of his time.
In 1959, he exhibited at the Galerie Roux-Malaval in Lyons, the Kaplan Gallery in London (with a catalogue text by Georges Le Breton) and at the end of the year once again showed at the Galerie Bing which also gave him a retrospective in 1965 (catalogue text by Waldemar-George).
Atlan died in his Paris studio on 12 February 1960. His last paintings were shown in March of that year at the Contemporaries Gallery in New York, with a catalogue text by Clara Malraux. Hommage à Jean-Michel Atlan: Cimaise, April – June 1960.
Retrospective, Musée national d’Art moderne, Paris 1963. Catalogue.
Atlan, works in French public collections, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1980. Catalogue with texts by Atlan and a catalogue of prints and illustrated books. Biography.
Atlan, premières périodes 1940-1954, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes, 1986. Catalogue. Reprinted 1989.
Atlan. Galerie Enrico Navarra, Paris, 1989. Catalogue, poem by Michel Butor.
The Museums of Antibes, Grenoble, Lille, Lyons; Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée d’Art moderne Ville de Paris; Tate Gallery London, Cologne, New York Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Haifa, Stuttgart.
- André Verdet, Atlan, Musée de Poche, 1957.
- Michel Ragon and André Verdet, Jean Atlan, Coll. Les Grands Peintres, Kister, Geneva, 1960.
- Michel Ragon, Atlan, Musée de Poche, Georges Fall, 1962.
- Bernard Dorival, Atlan, essai de biographie artistique, P.Tisné, 1962. Reprinted.
- Michel Ragon, Atlan, mon ami, Galilée, Paris, 1989.
A painter, lithographer, sculptor, musician, writer and poet, Dubuffet also wrote the most significant texts about his work. One example of these is the comments on his processes in his Notes published as an appendix to Georges Limbour’s book Tableau bon levain… (, p. 91 to 97, Drouin, Paris, 1953) and in Mémoire sur le développement de mes travaux à partir de 1952, a text which figures in the catalogue to his retrospective exhibition at the Musée des Arts décoratifs (p. 131 to 199, 1960). Dubuffet never ceased to shake up the established order in art, substituting derision and the unexpected for traditional values. He created an enormous body of work which stands apart from other alienating currents. For a long time his works were considered as expressions of outrage directed at reason and culture. A corollary of his work was his militancy for an art of exception, that of the mentally ill, the simple of mind and children, to which he gave the name ‘Art brut’. Becoming in this context a collector, he organised between 1947 and 1951 several events in the basement of the Galerie Drouin (in 1949, during one of these presentations of Art brut, he wrote in L’Art brut préféré aux arts culturels, «real art is always where you do not expect it to be, where nobody is thinking of it or pronouncing its name. Art hates being recognised and greeted by its name… »). He founded a museum to house his collection at number 17 rue de l’Université, transferring the contents to number 137 rue de Sèvres in 1962. Since 1971 the Compagnie de l’Art brut has been located in Lausanne. In 1959, Alphonse Chave held an exhibition L’Art brut in his Galerie des Mages in Vence, presented by Dubuffet, and in 1967 the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris in turn organised an exhibition of the artist’s work.
Dubuffet always set himself the highest standards for his work. A man who appreciated debate, he kept up a continual controversy, which still rumbles on today. His immense output, varied, rich and experimental, remains the work of a unique inventor of forms, with a preference for irreverence and fantasy. In 1954, Alfred Barr wrote «it is possible that the most original painter to have come out of Paris since the war is not an abstract painter. A man of exceptional intelligence and maturity, Jean Dubuffet combines a childish style with daring innovations in his manner of painting and a grotesque sense of humour,» (Les Maîtres de l’Art moderne). Because of the extent of the writings which exist about Dubuffet and his work, beginning with his own texts, we will only mention the most important documents that refer to the period studied here, and it is suggested that the reader consult the bibliography in the catalogue of the Donation Dubuffet to the Musée des Arts décoratifs, published in 1967. In addition, considering the abundance of his work, we will only evoke the period that comes within the scope of this book. Born into a family of wine merchants, at the lycée one of his fellow pupils was Georges Limbour, who was to become his first critic, and another Armand Salacrou. In 1916, Dubuffet enrolled at the Beaux-Arts at Le Havre. In 1918, he left for Paris to study painting at the Académie Julian. Here he met Suzanne Valadon, Elie Lascaux and Max Jacob and painted in a traditional style that tended to the academic. In 1924, he gave up painting and left for Buenos Aires. On his return to France, he took over responsibility for the family wine business, before founding his own business at Bercy in 1930. In 1933, he decided to take up his brushes again and placed his business under management. He began to sculpt puppets. In 1937, he for a second time abandoned art until, in 1942, he finally decided to devote himself exclusively and lastingly to painting, selling his wine business in 1947. He married Emilie Carlu, known as ‘Lili’. From the start, his work presented a succession of ‘cycles’ that corresponded to chronological phases (which did not exclude however a return to certain subjects). To avoid confusion, we will follow this listing of periods that Dubuffet always commented in his theoretical writings.
1942 – April 1945, Personnages; Series Métro; Vues de Paris. Paysages; Jazz; Murs; Messages, close to children’s drawings.
Dubuffet rented a studio at 114 bis rue de Vaugirard. He became friends with Jean Paulhan who introduced him to René Drouin. In 1944, the latter organised Dubuffet’s first exhibition in his gallery in the Place Vendôme, with a catalogue introduction by the writer. The critics were unsettled by these works with their deformed shapes and bright colours. This mechanism of provocation was never to stop and the artist explained this process nearly twenty-five years later in his manifesto Asphyxiante Culture (JJ. Pauvert, Paris, 1968): «There is a single climate healthy for the creation of art: that of permanent revolution.» Although Picasso defended his works, Dubuffet himself referred to them during this period as ‘unmentionables’.
May 1945 – July 1946, Mirobolus Macadam et Cie; Hautes Pâtes.
In 1946, a new exhibition was held at the Galerie Drouin entitled Mirobolus Macadam et Cie, accompanied by a book by Michel Tapié with the same title and ‘Descriptive Indications’ by the artist, to which was added a manifesto, Prospectus aux amateurs de tout genre (Coll. Métamorphose XXI, Gallimard), in which he refuted the purpose of museums and art dealers and declared: «It is true that the manner of drawing in the paintings shown is entirely free of any conventional know-how of the sort that we are used to seeing in paintings done by professional painters and there is no need for any special studies or particular gifts to execute similar works.» To make these dark works, executed in thick impasto, he replaced oil paint by a mixture of ceruse and blanc de Meudon, liquid mastic, asphalt, tar, sand and gravel, shop display varnish and waste. His dirty colours were surprisingly similar to the different shades of walls or ground. Dubuffet, abandoning traditional instruments, drew his graffiti with scrapers, spoons or even his fingers. Grotesque grimacing characters stand out from this high relief.
Early in 1947, after arguing with everybody, he left for El Golea in the Sahara to which he returned twice in the following two years. He brought back with him a profusion of drawings and gouaches presented in the collection Rosés d’Allah et clown du désert.
In October 1947, his Portraits were shown at the Galerie Drouin, with a text in his own hand, Causette: les gens sont bien plus beaux qu’ils croient, vive leur vraie figure. The exhibition was a series of likenesses of his friends or of personalities: Ponge, Paulhan, Léautaud, Limbour, Michaux, Fautrier, Antonin Artaud, Michel Tapié, Charles Ratton. «… Those who have spoken, on the subject of my portraits, about an attempt at psychological penetration, have not understood anything at all; these portraits were anti-psychological, anti-individualistic, nourished by the idea that if you want to paint what is important you do not have to pay much attention, even in a portrait, to futile accidents… ! ! ! It seemed to me that by depersonalising my models, and approaching them from the very general perspective of the human figure, I helped to release, for the user of my painting, different mechanisms of imagination or interest which would greatly increase the power of the likeness.» (Files 10 and 11, Collège de Pataphysique. Documentation published by Noël Arnaud.) Faced by scandal, he was defended by Pierre Seghers, Paul Eluard and Marcel Arland… In 1946, Charles Estienne wrote about his painting.
Dubuffet was introduced to theUnited Statesby Clément Greenberg and, in 1951, his work was exhibited inNew Yorkat Pierre Matisse’s gallery. Pierre Matisse remained his dealer from 1945 to 1960.
From May 1949 to January 1950 he worked on Paysages grotesques, shown at the Galerie Drouin in 1949. At the end of the year he executed the illustrations for Métromanie and the lithographs for Anvouaiaje. From January 1950 to March 1951 he worked on Intermède; Corps de Dames. This led to a new scandal generated by the body of a sexually assaulted woman hurriedly incised in thick paste. «In the 40 or 50 paintings which I painted between April 1950 and February 1951 under the title ‘Corps de Dames’, the drawing should not be taken too literally. The always outrageously coarse and slovenly appearance, in which the figure of the nude woman is trapped, would, if taken at face value, imply abominably obese and deformed people. My intention was that the drawing should not give the figure any defined form… Equally the result of this same impulsion are the connections, apparently illogical, which we find in these nudes, of textures that evoke human skin (which sometimes even seem to assault our perception of decency, but this also seems to me effective) with other textures which have nothing to do with humans… In the same category may be included the apparent faults, that I seem inclined (too much so, no doubt) to leave in the paintings, for instance the involuntary stains, crass blunders, forms which are obviously false, anti-real, out-of-place colours, inappropriate, all things that must probably appear unbearable… But this is a feeling of unease that I am happy to keep up, as in fact it makes the painter’s hand very present in the painting, and prevents objectivity from getting the upper hand.» (op. cit.).
Among these women’s bodies appears the Géologue, which from March 1951 to October 1951 introduced a new cycle, painted in Paris. Sols et Terrains, Paysages mentaux, at the same time as Tables paysagées and Pierres philosophiques. Monochrome paintings in which the pictorial matter comprises plaster, glue, plastic paints and mastic. Dubuffet commented, «I like, for these landscapes, to interfere with the scale, so that it is not sure whether the painting represents a vast expanse of mountains or a tiny plot of land. (Some) are purely physical; they evoke places, soils, sub-soils sometimes, in a very real manner that avoids any mental rambling… But the matter then sometimes becomes more complicated… The numerous experimentations that I conducted for these paintings sometimes resulted in strange apparitions, where the false becomes confused with the real, and the landscape adopts an absurd appearance evoking, rather than a real place or real natural matter, a form of aborted or incomplete creation… The extremely concrete became confused in the painting with the completely absurd, many forms adopting an ambiguous character. …they can indeed strike the person looking at the painting, either as representing uneven ground, or as living people (living a singular life, halfway between existence and non existence, between the real and the imaginary, halfway between belonging to the places objectively represented in the painting and the artist’s mental world» (op. cit.). These works prefigure the Texturologies (1958) and Matériologies (1960).
From November 1951 to April 1952, Dubuffet made his first visit to New York. He continued Sols et Terrains and worked on Bowery Bums. An exhibition was held at the Galerie Pierre Matisse in early 1952.
On his return to France, he began a series of drawings in ink. Terres Radieuses are austere and similar in appearance to the preceding paintings. «I took pleasure in creating effects obtained through a subtle combination of the real and the absurd.» The series were shown at the Galerie La Hune at the end of 1953.
From October 1952 to March 1953 he worked on the series Lieux momentanés. These were lacquered paintings on canvas, without relief, in which he returned to using bright colours. From 1953 to 1957, he worked on the series Assemblages d’empreintes and, in 1955, he begun Tableaux d’assemblages, starting with Petits tableaux d’ailes de papillons, based on previous experiences.
In 1954, Dubuffet showed at the Galerie Rive Gauche Petites statues de la vie précaire, which continued some of the processes begun in assemblages d’empreintes, works prepared using natural elements and waste. During the summer, his wife took a cure in the Puy-de-Dôme. The couple moved to the country and Dubuffet began a series of Vaches in thick impasto, using bright colours and obtaining a grotesque appearance.
In 1954, a retrospective exhibition was held at the Cercle Volney in Paris. Early in 1955, there was an installation at Vence. From 1956 to 1960, Dubuffet worked with the surfaces he walked on, floors and ground. He transcribed an entire landscape of impoverished vegetation, rendered in a playful poetic style, with a base of mud and clinker in shades of browns, greys and blacks.
In 1957, the catalogue of the exhibition Tableaux d’assemblages at the Rive Droite Gallery was written by Georges Limbour, with a postscript. «I have always liked, it is a form of vice, to employ only the most common materials… I like to proclaim that my art is an enterprise of rehabilitation for disparaged values. » (op. cit.).
A further exhibition was held in 1960 at the Kunsthaus in Zurich. In the spring of that year he began the Lieux cursifs which have a very thick texture applied with a knife and in which the subjects (figures and houses) are cut into the matter with its tones of white, bistre and ochre. Between September and December 1957 he worked on Topographies; Portes; Tables; Sols nus; Texturologies. In 1958 he worked on paintings that assembled lithographs in a private studio at number 149 rue de Rennes.
The collages déclencheurs d’imagination are a turning point before the series Texturologies (1958-1959) which was shown in 1959 at the Galerie Daniel Cordier, rue Duras, under the title Célébration du sol, accompanied by a text, Texturologies Topographies, which had already appeared in Les Lettres nouvelles n° 8, Paris, 22 April 1958: «Note that my preference is not for picturesque ground, luxuriously furrowed or historiated… I want to make it clear that my paintings show ground seen from above, with a vertical perspective… That the strips of ground evoked have the dimensions of a napkin or rather of a bed… increases my turmoil, through the dizziness generated by the equivocal nature of the dimension.»
Early 1959, Empreintes texturologiques, obtained with black oil paint on paper, presented a tangle of crisscrossing lines. This was followed by the series Assemblages d’empreintes drawn in Indian ink on the theme of Barbes and exhibited at the Galerie Daniel Cordier under the title As-tu cueilli la fleur de barbe. Complex lines invade all his works. At the same time he also worked on the series Eléments botaniques and Petites Statues, in coloured papier mâché highlighted with ink which led to the cycle Matériologies (end 1959 to early 1961). Works made with painted creased tinfoil, stuck to Isorel panels, or papier mâché stuck to Isorel or placed on a wire mesh stretched over a frame. Vinyl pastes, polyester resins, tree barks, sand and mica dust were added to the surface and then painted over. In 1960, he moved into his new house in Vence, Le Vortex, and produced the series of drawings Aires et Sites.
In 1960 there was a retrospective of his drawings at the Galerie Berggruen, in Paris. In 1961 he painted the series Paris-Circus in which he returned to his subjects of 1943-1944; although this time he abandoned working class Paris, he represents a frenzied world where a thick crowd fills the maze of shopping streets. The series was shown at the Galerie Daniel Cordier in 1962. Series Baladins and Légendes. In 1962 he spent the summer at the house he had recently bought at Le Touquet. He began work on L’Hourloupe and was to work on this series until 1964. «It is the unreal that delights me now; I have an appetite for non truth, false life, the anti-world; my works are embarked on the path of the unreal. I feel that realism and unreality are the two poles between which art is divided, much more than the two foolish notions of abstract and figurative employed today by all simple minds (to obtain) effects that are really violent and effective» (op.cit.). In these imprecise compositions, agitated shapes move in a proliferation of cells with blues, reds, whites and blacks drawn by biro. This extravagant visionary world soon spreads to all the objects which surround us and, with Personnages en marche, gives a rough ride to our instinct for rationalism.
In June and July 1964 L’Hourloupe was shown at the Palazzo Grassi, in Venice (55 paintings, 52 gouaches and drawings), with catalogue texts by Renato Barilli and Paolo Marinotti.
Then in December 1964 and January 1965 he showed in Paris, at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher (18 paintings) and at the Galerie Claude Bernard (46 gouaches), Foire aux mirages with a personal catalogue preface by Hubert Damisch.
Lastly, in 1966 he showed at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Early in 1966, he began a long and important series of sculptures in expanded polystyrene painted in vinyl. In 1967 he built his Cabinet Idéologique.
In 1956, Daniel Cordier began showing Dubuffet’s works. He opened his gallery with a group exhibition of Dewasne, Dubuffet and Matta, with texts by the artists. From 1960, Cordier became Dubuffet’s dealer for Europe and the United States, an exclusivity which ceased in 1963 (Donation Daniel Cordier Le regard d’un donateur, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, exhibition 1989. Catalogue).
In 1957, Dubuffet exhibited with Michaux and Wols at the Studio Facchetti where he had already participated in group exhibitions, invited by Michel Tapié in 1951 for Signifiants de l’informel, and in 1952 for Peintures non abstraites and Un Art autre.
In 1958, there were one-man exhibitions at the Arthur Tooth and Sons Gallery, London, with a catalogue introduction by the artist, and at the Galleria del Naviglio in Milan. In 1958-59 and 1961, he showed with the Galerie Daniel Cordier at Frankfurt.
Dubuffet’s first retrospective was held in 1960-1961 at the Paris Musée des Arts décoratifs with 402 works shown. Catalogue with an introduction by Gaétan Picon and a text by Dubuffet, Apercevoir.
In 1961 a retrospective of his graphic work was held at the Silkeborg Museum (Denmark), with a catalogue raisonné prepared by Noël Arnaud. In 1962, a retrospective The Work of Jean Dubuffet (185 works) was presented in New York at the Museum of Modern Art, then in Chicago and Los Angeles. Catalogue by Peter Selz.
1963, retrospective Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nancy.
1964, exhibition of the series Phénomènes (324 lithographs from 1958 to 1962, and 14 paintings), at the Palazzo Grassi inVenice. Catalogue by L. Trucchi.
1966, retrospectives Tate Gallery, London; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Dallas, Catalogues.
1973, Jean Dubuffet, Grand Palais, Paris. Coucou Bazar-Petit journal. Dubuffet’s final works were shown at the Galerie Claude Bernard (1978) Théâtres de Mémoire, the Centre Georges Pompidou (1985), the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (1985), and the Galerie Jeanne Bucher (1987) with the series Non-Lieux. Catalogues.
1985, retrospective: Quarante années de peinture, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Catalogue by Jean-Louis Prat.
1988, Sols et Terrains 1956-1960, Galerie de France and Galerie Baudoin Lebon, Paris. Catalogue with an introduction by Daniel Cordier.
1990, Dubuffet. Des années 50 aux années 80, Gallery Urban, Paris. Catalogue (list of exhibitions and retrospectives.)
1967, Donation Dubuffet to the Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris. Catalogue. His works are preserved in many museums in France and other countries.
- Jean Dubuffet: Prospectus et tous écrits suivants. The artist’s writings from 1944 to 1967, presented by H. Damisch in 2 volumes, Gallimard, 1967.
- Catalogue intégral des travaux de Jean Dubuffet, prepared by Max Loreau. 21 volumes. J.J. Pauvert, Paris, 1964-1968; Weber, Paris 1968-1971.
- Jean Dubuffet: n° 22, texts collected by Jacques Berne, L’Herne, Paris, 1973.
- Michel Ragon: Jean Dubuffet, G. Fall, Musée de Poche, 1958.
- Gaétan Picon: Le travail de Jean Dubuffet, Skira, Geneva, 1973 and Weber, 1973.
Although it is true that Fautrier’s work presents two «possible attitudes to reality» as he himself says, he continues: «Even though they are apparently incompatible, they in the end converge and attain the same end by opposite approaches… The unreality of an absolute ‘informel’ contributes nothing. Pointless. No form of art can provide emotion if it does not include at least some reality. However minute this may be, however intangible, this allusion, this irreducible fragment is the key to the work. It makes it understandable; it clarifies the meaning, it opens up its profound basic reality to the sensitivity of intelligence. We only reinvent what is, recreating in shades of emotion the reality incorporated in matter, form, colour, products of the instant, changed into what can no longer be changed.” This statement sufficiently underlines the ambiguity of the artist who despised his early works. The painter of multiple experiences, he paradoxically became the precursor, with Wols and Dubuffet, of the movement which was later called ‘Art informel’, breaking with figurative expression during the Second World War. In a text written in December 1958, Fautrier explained his commitment: «As man gradually becomes more civilised and refined, he frets and his mind wanders in search of transient sensations which he barely grasps — he is no longer satisfied with straightforward emotions. It is perhaps within this condition of the modern mind that we should find the explanation of this informal rage… In art, only the quality of the artist’s sensitivity counts, and art is only the means of externalization, albeit a mad means, without rules or calculation. Painting is something that can only destroy itself, which must destroy itself in order to be reinvented.» (Parallèles sur l’informel, published in Blätter + Bilder n° 1, Wurzbourg. Vienna, March-April 1959).
Let us consider the different phases of this first period which was to be so important for those that were to follow. After the death of his father, when he was ten years old, he went to live with his mother in London and took her name. At sixteen, he entered the Royal Academy School where he was taught by Sickert, before moving to the Slade School, more open to modernism. Disappointed, he worked alone and visited the Tate Gallery. From this training, he acquired a faultless technique already considered by his English teachers as too brilliant and which was nevertheless unanimously recognised by both his admirers and detractors. This technical brilliance was to play an essential role in Fautrier’s itinerary. Called up in 1917, he returned to France and was discharged in 1921.
Fautrier painted in a style of marked realism, showing at the Salon d’Automne for the first time in 1922 with the Tyroliennes en habit du dimanche (Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris).
In 1923, his first fundamental meeting occurred with Jeanne Castel at the Galerie Fabre, in the rue de Miromesnil, at which Fautrier was showing his work. Her husband, Marcel Castel, had a garage in the rue du Général Beuret and the couple were keen art lovers. A few months later Fautrier showed ten paintings at the gallery and Jeanne Castel became his first collector.
In 1924, he had his first one-man exhibition at the Galerie Visconti, which was noticed by the critics, followed by a second exhibition at the Galerie Fabre. Jeanne Castel introduced him to Paul Guillaume, who for seven years provided him with financial support. The dealer Zborowsky also showed interest in Fautrier’s painting which he exhibited with the works of Modigliani, Kisling and Soutine (1926). The latter’s subjects were moreover close to those being painted by Fautrier at the time: skinned game, rabbit skins and wild boars whose hanging sacrificed flesh reflects an interiorised suffering and horror which he attempted to exorcise through a style of sombre expressionism dominated by browns and midnight blues. This work brought him fame and he moved into Gromaire’s former studio in the rue Delambre which he occupied until 1934.
In 1928, André Malraux, whom Fautrier had met at Jeanne Castel’s, suggested that he illustrate a text of his choice. He decided on Dante’s Inferno. After signing the contract with Gallimard in 1930, the plates were subsequently considered unpublishable because of their disconcerting novelty, and by 1945 the project had been abandoned. A series of lithographs were made, however, and shown in 1933 at the gallery of the N.R.F. In 1928, Fautrier had his third one-man exhibition, organised by Paul Guillaume at the Galerie Bernheim at Jeanne Castel’s request. Malraux published an important text in the February issue of the Nouvelle Revue française: «The subject becomes a pretext for a thick powerful style, purely pictorial, which explains the earlier paintings. We find a very rich temperament here, with tragic resonance… intense colour, accomplishing the essential through sacrifice (the embellishments and scrapings of 1927 have disappeared)… Each of these paintings seems violently spontaneous… showing a desire to preserve only the strongest or most acute sensations… » To follow this evolution, let us briefly mention these successive phases of realism which culminated in 1925. Studies of nudes in charcoal and then in pastel prefigure the période noire, at the same time as a series of mountain landscapes made around 1926-1927. In the series of the Glaciers, he pays tribute to Turner whom he had so admired in London. He manages to suggest blocks of ice by using white impasto, a treatment of texture which prefigures the sobriety and understated expression of his spangled material characterised later by Otages. The période noire, a term employed by Fautrier himself, begins with Sanglier écorché (Musée national d’Art moderne, Paris), exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in 1927, and covers an entire year. From 1928 we can see a lightening of his palette, with an increasing preference for ochres and greys, the paint becoming thinner and the still lives loosing their tragic dimension. The subject gives way to space. The artist had already experimented with techniques that he perfected during this first period. His new pictorial process finally emerged around 1940. Since 1929, he had preferred paper to canvas, which would then be laid down. He worked using flat tints after first preparing his paper with a blanc d’Espagne coating and glue, a strong preparation that was nevertheless transparent. He then drew his subject in inks using a brush. Powders or fluid materials such as watercolour or gouaches were spread onto the wet coating, on which he laid a first coat of paste following the outline of the drawing. Further coloured powders were spread, after which the artist superimposed additional unequal coats of paste with the use of a spatula. Coloured powders were then again spread, some settling on the still fresh paste. He then applied light glazes in subtle shades over these coats. The drawing was taken up again with a brush on the paste which had covered the initial drawing and around it where it had remained visible. He then used a cutter to draw furrows in the paste and complete the image.
The economic crisis of 1929-1930 struck the art market and affected young artists such as Fautrier.
In 1931, he showed for the last time at the Salon des Tuileries and the Salon d’Automne. In 1934, penniless, he stopped painting and left for Tignes where he became a skiing instructor and opened a nightclub, La Grande Ourse, at Val-d’Isère. In 1939, he visited Marseilles, Aix-en-Provence and Bordeaux. On his return to Paris in 1940, he stayed with Jeanne Castel, in the rue du Cirque, and resumed painting. The following year he found a studio at number 216 boulevard Raspail and met Paulhan, Char, Ganzo, Ponge and also Eluard whose works he was to illustrate.
In 1942, he showed at the Galerie Poyet and Madame Edwarda by Georges Bataille and Orénoque and Lespugue by Robert Ganzo were published by Georges Blaizot. Arrested in January 1943 and then released, he left for Chamonix. On his return to the capital, he settled at Châtenay-Malabry where he was to live and work for the rest of his life. Around this period he finally broke with figurative expression.
In 1943, the Galerie René Drouin showed works made between 1915 and 1943 with a text by Jean Paulhan and, in 1945, also showed the series Otages: paintings and sculptures, accompanied by a preface by André Malraux. The public had difficulty in perceiving what the artist had wanted to express and its reaction was often sharp: backgrounds appeared to have been mistreated by a trowel, an obvious provocation, although this contrasted with a degree of delicacy in the manner of drawing and an attractive palette. An entire new generation would be inspired by his work. A violent indictment of crime and massacres, his works show us the emergence of reality, beyond simple appearances. There is no distancing between the visible and the work, nevertheless what we might refer to as the logic of the relation between lived and evoked is destroyed. The texture recreates reality through substance rather than representation. The early hostages are still identifiable though, «little by little Fautrier does away with direct suggestion of the blood, and the complicity of the corpse. Colours (allusion to greens and pinks which are almost tender) free of any rational connection with torture replace the earlier tones; at the same time as a line that attempts to express the drama without representing it replaces the haggard profiles… hieroglyphics of pain,» wrote André Malraux. The following year, Francis Ponge wrote his Note sur les Otages, peintures de Fautrier. The poet commented on the constant presence of a form of logo, a sort of T placed within an O. Michel Ragon mentions a cross, «the crucifixion of twentieth century man… After Otages, Fautrier painted in 1956 Têtes de partisans. In 1947, Blaizot published Alleluiah by Georges Bataille and La femme de ma vie written by André Frénaud and illustrated by Fautrier. The artist then worked on the illustrations for a book which Jean Paulhan had written about him, Fautrier l’Enragé, which was published by Blaizot in 1949 with an exhibition with the same title held at the Galerie Billiet-Caputo.
In 1950 Fautrier and Jeanine Aeply (with whom he had lived since 1943 and by whom he had two children) developed a process of reproduction en épaisseur, and Fautrier experimented with Originaux multiples, shown the same year at the Galerie Billiet-Caputo with a text by Jean Paulhan, Les débuts d’un art universel. Making multiples would enable a wider public to have access to works of art. This exhibition had been preceded a few months earlier by one titled Aeply Replicas at Gimpel Fils in London.
Fautrier repeated the experience in 1953 at the gallery of the N.R.F, and in New York in 1956, but it was not however a success.
In 1954 he began work on a new series, Objets, boxes in cardboard or in iron-white-cage-bottle-key-glass-coffee mill that had been prefigured by certain works of 1947. Les objets de Fautrier were shown in 1955 at the Galerie Rive Droite with a catalogue text by Jean Paulhan, Un jeune ancêtre, Fautrier. Not a single work sold. André Berne-Jouffroy wrote an important study in the May issue of N.R.F, in which he says: «Fautrier paints a box as if the concept of box did not yet exist; and, rather than an object, a debate between dream and matter, tentative steps towards ‘the box’ in a realm of uncertainty where the possible and the real combine… Fautrier offers us objects in their nascent condition, offering them to us through something resembling painting but also reinvented, rediscovered in its nascent condition… Dreamed only.»
The paintings were shown again at the Alexandre Iolas Gallery in New York in 1956 with a text by André Malraux Lettre à un jeune Américain. Then came the series Nus.
An exhibition of seventeen nudes, painted between 1945 and 1955, was given at the Galerie Rive Droite, with a catalogue text by Francis Ponge who saw in them a conjunction of bodies and flowers. «Flesh combined with dresses, as if steeped in satin, here is the substance of flowers.»
The invasion of Hungary by the Soviet army inspired Fautrier to make a series shown in 1957 at the Galerie Rive Droite under the title Les partisans, a tribute to the rebels of Budapest. Since 1955, he had once more taken up the subject of the components of landscape, on which he had already worked in 1943: Les fougères, Forêt, Branchages, Herbes and Fruits.
Let us return to Fautrier’s highly personal technique of working in successive phases, a technique analysed by Palma Bucarelli in Peinture et Matière (Il Saggiatore, Milan, 1960). From the 1950s onwards, the impasto is created using a coating similar to the plaster which used for stucco, but which hardens faster although the surface for a while remains malleable. The artist projects on to this substance pastels or undiluted coating powder. The initial drawing is constantly re-commenced, sometimes using a brush with touches of oil paint. In 1956-1957, Fautrier worked on the buvards, oil paintings done on blotting paper. Extremely precise and attentive to anything concerning ‘texture’, which he regarded as an integral part of creation, Fautrier was virtually an alchemist, making his colours himself.
The informal was established as a theory and school by Michel Tapié in his book Un art autre, which appeared in 1952 in conjunction with an exhibition under the same title at the Studio Facchetti, and which included Fautrier under its abstract section. In 1951 Michel Tapié had already shown Dubuffet, Michaux, Mathieu, Riopelle and Serpan in the exhibition Signifiants de l’Informel at the same gallery. A number of monographs appeared on Fautrier and contributed to making his work known. Fautrier by Michel Ragon, collection du Musée de Poche, Fall, 1957; Fautrier 43 by Robert Droguet, Besacier, Lyons. Fautrier by André Verdet, Falaise, Paris, 1958. Fautrier d’un seul bloc fougueusement équarri, in Mercure de France, 1959. Fautrier et le style informel, by Pierre Restany, Hazan, October 1963. There was also a film directed by Philippe Baraduc, Fautrier l’Enragé, a dialogue between Jean Paulhan and the artist.
During these years, there were a number of major, often retrospective exhibitions. Trente années de figuration informelle, Galerie Rive Droite, 1957; Galerie André Schoeller, works on paper, with a catalogue text by Restany and historical notes by René Drouin. 1958, Gouaches et dessins informels de Fautrier de 1928 à 1958, Galerie René Drouin. This was to be his last exhibition in Paris.
There were an increasing number of exhibitions abroad: New York in 1957, Dusseldorf, Barcelona, Madrid, Turin, Milan, Rome, Bologna, London, Lausanne and Stockholm.
In 1958, Fautrier visited Japan accompanied by Paulhan, and the following year his work was show in Tokyo at the Minami Gallery.
In 1960, Fautrier was the Guest of Honour at the Venice Biennial, receiving the Grand International Prize in Painting and in 1961 the Grand International Prize at the VIIth Tokyo Biennial.
A solitary and exacting man, Fautrier did not open up easily and did not participate in any of the Salons. He did, however, participate posthumously in the 1964 Salon de Mai with a sculpture, Brisures, released by Michel Couturier with whom, in 1958, he had signed an exclusive world contract for all the works executed after 1950. In about 1960, he reprinted a number of old plates and published some new prints with the printer Jacques David. Sculpture, which had been a part of his work since the early years, followed the same course as his painting. In 1964, Fautrier made an important donation to the Musée de Sceaux (which notably included the series Otages) as well as a donation to the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, which held the first official retrospective. Seriously ill, he worked on the exhibition from his bed but died on 21 July, before the exhibition opened. A number of exhibitions followed, of which a complete list is to be found in the catalogue of the 1989 Fautrier retrospective held at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris.
1986 Fautrier 1940-1964. Galerie di Meo, Paris. Catalogue, text by Castor Seibel.
1990 Fautrier. Galerie di Meo, Paris. Catalogue, text by Christian Derouet.
It is impossible to mention here the many museums throughout the world which conserve works by the artist.
- Pierre Cabanne: Jean Fautrier, Classiques du XXIe siècle. La Différence, Paris, 1988. Biography. Complete bibliography.
- Yves Peyré: Fautrier. Regard, Paris, 1990.
- Rainer Michaël Mason: Nouvel essai de catalogue raisonné, œuvre gravé. Cabinet des Estampes, Geneva, Galerie Tendances, Paris, 1986.
- In preparation: Marie-José Lefort: Catalogue raisonné of Fautrier’s work.
Estève is undoubtedly one of the leading representatives of the first generation of artists that inluded Bissière, Bazaine, Manessier, Singier and Le Moal and who, after the Second World War, chose non-figuration.
Brought up in the countryside by his grandparents who were peasants, Estève retained from his childhood on the land memories that fed his work. In 1913, at the age of nine he went to live with his parents in Paris: his father was a cobbler and his mother a dressmaker. A solitary visit to the Louvre had a decisive effect on the boy: he was fascinated by Corot, Delacroix, Chardin and Courbet and above all by Paolo Uccello’s Bataille de San Romano of which today he still has a reproduction in his studio. After the First World War, which he spent at Culan, he returned to Paris. His father, unfavourable to his wish to become an artist, found him a position as an apprentice to a furniture maker. He began to paint showing evident talent. In 1923 he spent a year in Barcelona designing fabrics and familiarising himself with Catalan art. On his return, despite the financial difficulties that were to pursue him for many years, Estève devoted himself to his vocation. He attended the free Academies in Montparnasse (Colarossi at the Grande Chaumière), and above all trained himself by studying the artists whom he referred to as the ‘Primitifs’: Poussin, Fouquet and Cézanne. «…Cézanne is the artist who has always comforted me. He makes me want to paint. He indicates the endless possibilities of evolution, gives confidence and opens up horizons; this is a permanent and fascinating encouragement. And what sincerity he has! Part of his greatness doubtless lies in the fact that it was impossible for him to cheat… Each of his gestures over the work is a response to an absolute need, profound, urgent and vital. A saint of painting…» (Estève, Zodiaque, April, 1979). He painted landscapes, still lives, interiors and a few portraits in a naturalist style, influenced by the fauves, the pointillists and even the surrealists. In about 1929 he was influenced by the work of Fernand Léger, whose cubist style decided him to give up the illusionism of traditional painting and explore a purely plastic and inventive path. This was the subject of Couple, with its graded planes that introduced arabesques onto a flat surface animated with bright colours.
He participated for the first time at the Surindépendants where he continued to show until 1938.
His first exhibition was held in 1930 at the Galerie Yvangot and attracted the attention of Maurice Raynal, the historian of cubism. In 1933, in reaction to the earlier flat style, he painted forms and colours dominated by green and orchestrated by the play of shadow and light. Around 1935 we note the marked presence of lines in spirals against transparent backgrounds, with a preference for blues and reds. 1936 saw «a brief expressionist crisis», a consequence of the Spanish Civil War which brought back to him memories of Catalonia and «the expressionism changed into hieratic primitivism». (Jean Leymarie, in his preface to the catalogue for the exhibition Estève, Grand Palais, Paris, 1986). In 1937, Robert Delaunay, who was responsible with his wife Sonia for the decoration of the Aviation and Railway pavilions at the Paris Universal Exhibition, requested Estève’s contribution. This was a period of intimate paintings that show a remarkable control of the summary of the composition in which figures and objects match each other.
Just before the Second World War, he found a studio in the rue Lepic, in Montmartre, and began to draw his subjects from domestic reality. In his painting Hommage à Cézanne (1942), a hymn to colour, he celebrated the still life. A work was included in the exhibition Hommage aux Anciens at the Galerie de Friedland, which also included works by Lapicque, Bazaine, Gischia, Tal Coat and Pignon. In the same year, 1942, he took part in group exhibitions at the Galerie Berri-Raspail Les étapes du nouvel art contemporain and at the Galerie Saint-Germain-des-Prés with Desnoyer, Latapie, Rouault and Villon.
In 1943, he exhibited at the Galerie de France with the group Douze peintres d’aujourd’hui, and in Cinq peintres d’aujourd’hui with Borès, Beaudin, Gischia and Pignon. From 1941 to 1944, he took part in the Salon d’Automne.
An exclusive contract with the Galerie Louis Carré (1942-1949) allowed Estève to work on his painting without financial constraints. Two influences predominated during this period: Roman painting and in particular the work of Bonnard with its spectacle of light and colour. Estève returned to painting landscapes, abandoned since 1934, painting from memory or the imagination. He created a chromatic network of lines with a multitude of vibrant strokes.
In 1945, he exhibited with Bazaine and Lapicque at the Galerie Carré (catalogue with an essay by Jean Lescure, Estève ou les chemins silencieux de la réalité).
Then in 1948, the Galerie Carré held its first exhibition of the painter’s work: Trente peintures, 1935-1938, 1941-1947, showing his work again in 1965 with Vingt-quatre peintures, 1935-1947.
Estève was now a respected member of the French contemporary school and he began to have exhibitions abroad: 1946 Stedelijk Museum at Amsterdam with Bazaine and Lapicque, then in 1947 the same group was welcomed at Copenhagen and at Stockholm (where he had already exhibited in 1937, invited by the Franco-Swedish gallery on the advice of Braque, with the latter, Picasso, Léger, Gris and Matisse).
Scandinavian interest in Estève’s work dates from this period and he had regular one-man or group exhibitions in the region: we should mention his one-man exhibitions in Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst in 1956; at Stockholm, Svensk-Franska Konstgalleriet 1956; Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst, with 159 paintings, and a catalogue by L. Rostrop Boyesen in 1961; Oslo, Kunstnernes, 150 paintings, catalogue by A.J. Aas and R. Revold, 1961.
Between 1947 and 1950, he returned to painting the human figure with the admirable series Métiers. In this cycle, Estève emphasised the profound relationship between the artisan and his tool using a compartmentalised grid in which spirals and lines are arranged using a palette of bright colours that lend a dynamic to the composition. He painted twenty paintings on the theme of Le peintre, Le sculpteur (1947 Donation Estève City of Bourges), Le photographe, Le souffleur de verre, Le tisserand (1948), Le faucheur (1949)… He said that he was a “manufacturer” of paintings and not an artist. «Trades fascinate me. It is in what is achieved by the hand that I find the greatest, the highest sources of wonder,» (op. cit.). His paintings demonstrate increasing formal autonomy and Hommage à Fouquet (1952 priv. coll.) appears in this context as a key work. With perfect control of the palette and abandoning all reference to the outside world, Estève creates his own world moving towards pure painting and accepting its demands as his only priority. Without disowning the example of the masters, «painting’s roots in the past also work for its future,» he wished «to discover an order derived from my nature» (op. cit.) and to be master of every aspect of his creation, to employ Poussin’s expression. Between 1952 and 1954, he tried out this new language in a series of paintings on the subject of the Middle Ages, with tournaments and emblems, popular feasts and legendary beasts: Trophée, Tournoi, Tarasque, Trouvère (priv. coll.). Other titles refer to the world of Islam, with its fables, colour and abstraction par excellence. In these paintings, coloured signs mingle with or confront each other in a perfect balance of forms and colours. Estève wrote about his method of working: «…I never use a sketch, painting directly on the canvas, without a preparatory drawing. Colour and forms find their place….Each work is a series of transformations… In fact for me each work is an addition of endless repetitions that last until I find myself in front of an organism that I consider to be alive. Only my sensitivity can tell me whether or not I have attained this recognition… One of the things which characterises me the most is that I do not have any pre-imagined image; no form which I wish to obtain on the canvas. When I begin to paint, an exchange is put in motion, a conversation commences between myself and the painting as it becomes organised… No longer having nature in front of me, nor the recollection of it, I find myself in front of art, of a reality, an object which has grown and which is even more tyrannical than a subject, but at the same time more flexible, obstinate and open.» (op. cit.).
For Estève, time is a decisive factor. He speaks of the ‘conversation’ conducted with a work. He applies himself for an hour, then leaves the work, forgets it and finally takes it up again. The sessions are numerous, until the moment when «looking at the work I’ve done, I see that in it that something has been offered to me…» (op. cit.).
In 1955, he settled in the neighbourhood of the Jardin du Luxembourg spending each summer in the Berry. Here he found his roots in communion with his forebears: «I feel them alive in me and I feel myself alive in them» (op. cit.).
Estève worked on watercolours, drawings and collages where a change similar to the one which occured in his paintings is noticeable. «In watercolour, there is the transparency of the colour produced by the water which sometimes allows us to see the paper… and I rework the parts which don’t satisfy me. I work with watercolour in the same way that I work with oil – for long periods.» (op. cit.). The forms and colours arrange themselves without any apparent intervention from the artist, leaving his role to chance. Fluid colours and strong forms are balanced in perfect chromatic modulation. He makes frequent use of the sponge.
Presented in all the one-man exhibitions, the watercolours were shown separately in Paris, at the Galerie Villand-Galanis in 1956 (30 watercolours and 20 drawings), 1958 (catalogue with a poem by André Frénaud) and in 1963 (34 watercolours 1960-1962, catalogue, text by G. Borgeaud); then in Cologne at the Galerie Dom (watercolours 1956-1962) 1963. Followed by exhibitions in 1973 in Paris at the Galerie Claude Bernard (42 watercolours 1957-1972) and Zurich (preface Dora Vallier); in 1978 at the Fiac (1952-1974) and 1986 in Tokyo (1950-1986).
For his drawings, Estève used after 1941 charcoal, more appropriate for stump, and rubbing which allowed him to work with every possible shade of grey and black, sometimes highlighted with yellow and blue. In 1960, the Galerie Villand-Galanis showed 100 drawings done between 1920 and 1954. An album was published with a text by Frank Elgar. In 1972 the Galerie Claude Bernard showed 60 drawings done between 1960 and 1971 (catalogue, text by J. Laurent) and in 1984, 50 charcoals and crayons 1970-1983 (text by Y. Peyré). With his use of this technique Estève showed himself to be the heir to Seurat. Finally, he worked with collage with which he had first experimented in 1950, returning again to this technique in 1956, 1957 and 1964. The two important phases occured between 1965 and 1968, followed by a new series in 1971 and 1973. In 1969, 69 collages from 1950 to 1968 were shown at the Galerie Nathan, Zurich (text by P. Francastel).
As the years went by, Estève’s work grew in grandeur. The rigour of the composition and the robustness of the forms combined with an increasing softness in the use of colour. He stressed the fundamental tones to the extent where it has been said that his palette’s ‘sonority’ permits black and white to act in counterpoint. This saturation of reds, intense blues, greens and yellows induces light, inseparable from form. In endless space, the luminous vibrations provide depth within the two dimensional work. The vigorous playful character of Estève’s imagination, inherent to his creative process, is also present in his titles that refer to the painting’s visual character.
There were few one-man exhibitions besides those already mentioned: 1954 Lille, Galerie Henri Dupont (11 paintings, 15 watercolours) and again in 1957 (6 paintings, watercolours and drawings); his first exhibition in Paris at the Galerie Galanis in 1955, 30 paintings from 1948 to 1954; this gallery subsequently became the Galerie Villand-Galanis and in 1961 it showed 34 paintings done between 1956 and 1960 (catalogue, text by J.P. Raus). We should mention the exhibitions at the Galerie Benador in Geneva in 1957 (watercolours and drawings, catalogue by J. E. Muller) and in 1960 (27 drawings done between 1926 and 1959).
In 1957 Estève made the stained glass windows for the church of Berlincourt in the Swiss Jura. He also made a number of lithographs: the first of these in colour were published in 1951 at the Clot workshop and others were made in 1954 at the Desjobert workshop, then from 1955 at the Fernand Mourlot workshop. A series made between 1952 and 1969 was shown at Privas in 1971. Finally, he executed tapestry cartoons (the first of these in 1963) woven by Pinton in Felletin.
The first retrospective was held in 1961 at the Kunsthalle in Basel (catalogue by A. Rüdlinger and J.E. Muller), then shown at Düsseldorf, Kunsthalle (catalogue by K. H. Hering and J. L. Ferrier), the Copenhagen Museum (catalogue by L. Rostrop Boyesen) and in Oslo at the Kunsternes Hus (catalogue by A. J. Aas and R. Revold).
Estève has since regularly exhibited in Paris — showing at the Galerie Claude Bernard since 1972 — and in the French provinces, as well as in Switzerland, Denmark and Luxembourg and recently in Japan.
Among the many group exhibitions we should mention: 1949 La Nouvelle Peinture française. Musée du Luxembourg. 1950 Le cabinet d’un amateur d’aujourd’hui, Galerie de France, Paris; Galerie Denise René Quelques aspects de l’art d’aujourd’hui and again in 1951 and 1953. 1951 École de Paris 1900-1950, Royal Academy, London; Parisian painters of the second generation, Kunsthalle, Basel. 1952 Painters of the Ecole de Paris, Edinburgh Arts Council: Current trends of the Ecole de Paris, Basel, Kunsthalle, text by Charles Estienne; La Nouvelle École de Paris, Galerie de Babylone, Paris, organised by Charles Estienne. 1954 Current trends of French art, Ostend, Kursaal; Aspects of contemporary French Painting, Parsons Gallery, London. 1955 Painters of today, Turin. 1957 Beaudin, Estève, Tal Coat, Milan, Centre français; Pérennité de l’art français, Geneva, Musée de l’Athénée. 1959 Peintres d’aujourd’hui. Musée Grenoble. 1964 Survey of international painting since 1950, Kunsthalle, Basel, text by A. Rüdlinger.
Estève participated in the Salon de Mai in 1950-1952 with Paris a 2000 ans, and in 1953-1954-1955 with Jazz équestre.
Venice Biennial 1954. Dokumenta II Kassel 1959. Invited to take part in l’Ecole de Paris Galerie Charpentier, from 1954 to 1958 and in 1960.
1970 awarded the Grand Prix national des Arts.
1981 Rétrospective 1950-1980, Musée Cantini Marseille, Musée du Luxembourg and Musée de Metz. Catalogue, text by M. Le Bot.
1983 Proposition pour une rétrospective Maison de la Culture, Bourges and Musée Bertrand, Châteauroux. Catalogue, text by Dora Vallier.
1986 Retrospective, Paris, Grand Palais. Catalogue by Jean Leymarie with a text by Yves Peyré A la pointe extrême de la durée. Complete bibliography. Then shown in Oslo and Tübingen.
Recent exhibitions Galerie Tendances in Paris in 1985-1986-1988 (text by Robert Marteau) and 1989. Catalogues.
1990 Estève, peintures récentes. Galerie Carré, Paris. Catalogue, text by François Chapon. In 1982, Estève wished to donate a large number of works and an association was created. The donation was accepted in 1985 by the City of Bourges which shows the works in the Hôtel des Echevins. The Musée Estève was inaugurated in autumn 1987. Catalogue.
A large number of works by Estève are held in museum collections including Paris: Musée d’Art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Petit Palais – Lille – Châteauroux – Colmar – Dunkerque – Grenoble – Le Havre – Marseilles – Metz – Stockholm – Göteborg – Lausanne – Pittsburgh – Brussels – Luxemburg – New York – London – Copenhagen – Liège – Oslo – Ottawa – Sydney.
- P. Francastel: Estève, Galanis, Paris, 1956.
- J.E. Muller: Estève. Hazan, Peintres d’aujourd’hui, Paris, 1961.
- Dora Vallier: Estève et le dessin. N.R.F. Paris, July 1972.
- Hommage à Estève, XXe siècle special edition, Paris, 1975.
- Monique Prudhomme, Estève, Hans Mœstrup. Catalogue of Estève’s prints (introduction by Dora Vallier), Forgalet Cordelia, Copenhagen, 1986.
- Monique Prudhomme-Estève: Estève. Catalogue Musée Estève. Donation by Monique and Maurice Estève to the City of Bourges. 1990. Complete bibliography.
Designated, in 1955, in the survey conducted for the review Connaissances des Arts by a jury comprised of curators and critics — among whom were G. Bazin, Michel Florisoone, P. Courthion, R. Cogniat and Waldemar George… — as one of the ten young masters of contemporary painting, Bazaine had a strong influence on the art of our time, an influence that has still not been sufficiently appreciated. As soon as the hostilities ceased within the sterile controversies which arose between the supporters and opponents of figuration, Bazaine emerged as the leader of a new movement soon to be known as non-figuration «which includes anxiety, joy, hope, desire» (Edouard Jaguer Juin, 1st October 1946). This movement began in 1941, with the creation of the group Jeune France (disbanded the following year). Bazaine was responsible for the ‘Fine Arts’ section and organised at the Galerie Braun, in the rue Louis-Le-Grand, the first exhibition of avant-garde painting to be held under the Occupation with the reassuring title Vingt jeunes peintres de tradition française, which included Bissière, Bertholle, Manessier, Le Moal, Lapicque, Singier, Lautrec, Pignon and Fougeron… This period saw the forging of sound friendships with other artists (group exhibitions, Galerie Louis Carré, 1942 to 1947 and the Galerie de France) and with the poets and writers Guillevic, Blanchot, Follain, Seghers, M. Arland and above all André Frénaud and Jean Tardieu. When the group broke up in 1947, Bazaine continued working alone, pursuing his research begun around 1940 and abandoning figuration by a gradual turning away from reality, moving towards a «re-creation» of the visible world influenced by his personal experiences affected by vivid recollections of nature. It is indeed unusual to find an artist’s work that has such a strong identification with nature. This identification does not resemble that of the impressionists who wished to capture a fleeting sensation, but gives a momentary perception of feeling. Bazaine re-transcribes this sensation through a formal and emotional synthesis dominated by the mind. It is therefore much more of an ethical approach whereby the artist’s life is entirely immersed in his creation. Bazaine was never abstract. His painting is the outcome of an emotion felt in the presence of nature. The subject’s outline is of no importance, what counts are the lines of force and the light which creates the dynamic.
«Art at all periods has always been non figurative… the destiny of the world is not a choice between ‘figurative’ and ‘non-figurative’ but between the incarnate and the non-incarnate, which is very different.» (Bazaine: Notes sur la Peinture). In 1945, André Frénaud sensed this commitment when he wrote: «He (the painter) proposes to render what has inspired him beyond appearance; impressionism with a metaphysical resonance, a means of super-naturalism. The artist must find this harmony which is immediately lost and unforgettable. Bazaine knows that the lost moment is re-conquered not by a trick of the memory but by constructions of the imagination, it is necessary not to describe a vision of the past, but in the language of painting write a new object which gives, by its different means, the equivalent of an unusual experience,» (Jean Bazaine, peintre de la réalité. Preface to the catalogue of the exhibition Bazaine, Estève, Lapicque. Galerie Louis Carré, Paris, 1945).
Bazaine discussed the future of painting at length. He considered that the artist was also a significant analyst of art (it should be recalled that in 1932, after meeting E. Mouiller, he worked with Esprit) and, when in 1948 he wrote Notes sur la peinture d’aujourd’hui (republished by Seuil in 1953), he spoke of ‘his’ painting with passion and lucidity. Was not his admiration for Cézanne, Bonnard his «master» who always encouraged him and for Matisse who «found the essential through the violence and passion of expression, with a basic choice of colours and forms» —characteristic of Bazaine’s paintings between 1950 and 1955? The lesson requested of Uccello or of Van Eyck who «could well represent, in all the history of painting, the extreme point of abstraction». For Bazaine, «real sensitivity begins when the artist discovers that the swirl of the tree and the bark of water are related, twins the stones and his face and that the world thereby gradually contracting he sees rising, from beneath this rain of appearances, the great essential signs that are both his truth and that of the Universe.» (op. cit.).
His work began with countless studies done from nature. «What is drawing from nature other than completely changing our own form, confronting new living structures with a structure that tends to freeze, adding to this system the new system of a face, a stone or of tangled branches? We recognise ourselves in them. Drawing from nature, is simply for me to incorporate by the hand, more profoundly than by sight, these rhythms, forces, structures — and make them my own.» (op. cit.).
Since 1924, Bazaine had filled the sketchbooks that he always kept beside him and whose drawings or watercolours were one of the essential foundations of his art from 1934, serving as a starting point for his painting. He always worked on several canvases at once, and unlike the drawings and watercolours, the time he spent working on them was a decisive factor. «There is neither a beginning nor an end in the life of a painting… the time of painting is not that of man.» (Bazaine. Exercice de la peinture, Seuil, 1973.) Bazaine said about the development of his painting: «I always started with… colours mixing in an increasingly complex manner. These ‘stains’ are never gratuitous: from the beginning they have the value of space and of atmosphere, they mean something and have a reality… what changes, is this reality, or rather its power to evoke.» (Bazaine, Maeght, 1953.)
Saint-Guénolé, where he had stayed each year since 1936, provided him with his main themes of inspiration: sea, wind, earth, the original elements confronting each other in a permanent combat, in the same way that the artist struggles with his art. The movement of the branches and waves is expressed by lines of force, whose structure responds to an inner rhythm. What if these starting points, the stones, earth, trees, water, and also wind, sky and fire were only pretexts no attempt to renew with the sacred, «this sacred which unconsciously haunts us, how do we rediscover it, now that man lives alone, drawn into himself, and that the burning tunic of nature is no longer at his feet, any more than a comfortable carpet,» (Notes sur la peinture, op. cit.). «We have lost the sun,» said Bazaine borrowing Lawrence’s expression and, as a man of faith, it is by dialogue, communion and exchange that there is a possibility of reconnecting with the universe, by plunging «into the depths of the primitive intelligence that sleeps within us.» Art should be the means of attaining this and making possible «this need, more or less unconscious, to ‘find oneself again’, to become aware of one’s intimate existence or of one’s strength through its visible extension, to objectivise one’s inner world. Art is a temperament seen through nature.» (op. cit.).
Today «mankind is no longer lost in the ‘cosmos’, it has become the centre of the world, and also its summary.» (op. cit.).
We need to rediscover the first breath. From 1937, at the same time as painting, Bazaine worked on making stained glass windows, a technique which he always found fascinating and which he continued to perfect. Although he gave a model to the master glassmaker, he executed life size lead drawings and chose, one by one, the ochres that he painted using the medieval process of ‘grisaille’. From 1947, the year in which he met Père Couturier, he participated in the revival of sacred art which corresponded to his artistic and spiritual ideas, with his friends Manessier, Elvire Jan and Le Moal… Between 1943 and 1947, he made three stained glass windows for the church of Assy (Haute-Savoie). In 1951, he executed the first mosaic for the facade of the church of Audincourt (Doubs). In 1954, he made two stained glass windows in slabs of glass for the baptistery of the church of Audincourt and, in 1958, a window for the church of Villeparisis for the reception centre for the homeless at Noisy-le-Grand. In 1964, he made a series of eight windows for the church of Saint-Séverin in Paris (finished in 1970). Finally he participated in a group commission for windows for the cathedral of Saint-Dié. In 1960 he made a mosaic for the liner France and in 1963, a mosaic for the Maison de l’ORTF. Towards the end of his life he completed two monumental works: a mosaic fresco for the Sénat, in Paris (1987) and the mosaic for the vault of the Cluny-Sorbonne metro station, in Paris (1988).
Another activity retained Bazaine’s interest: set designing. In 1951, he designed the sets and costumes for the Comédie de Saint-Etienne and in 1952, costumes for a ballet by Janine Charrat, Massacre des Amazones. From 1967 he made tapestries. From 1944 he had illustrated a large number of works of poetry.
After obtaining a degree in literature, Bazaine studied at the Beaux-Arts in Landowsky’s studio, but gave up sculpture to attend painting classes at the Académie Julian. He made friends with Gromaire and Lhote and showed his work for the first time in 1930 at Jeanne Castel’s gallery with Fautrier and Goerg. After his first one-man exhibition at the Galerie Van Leer in Paris, in 1932, he regularly exhibited in the capital notably at the Galerie Maeght, from 1949: Peinture de 1943 à 1949, (Derrière le miroir texts by H. Maldiney and A. Frénaud); 1953, Trente Peintres de 1950 à 1953 (Derrière le miroir, text by M. Arland): 1957 (Derrière le miroir, text by A. Frénaud), exhibitions which continued until the end of his life.
Outside France, the Sandinavian countries always reserved the best welcome for Bazaine’s work. From 1946-1947 when he exhibited with Lapicque and Estève at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, then in Copenhagen and Stockholm where he had his first one-man exhibition at the Galerie Blanche in 1950, followed by a second in 1964.
From 1956 to 1958 he stayed each summer at Zeeland which inspired him to make an album of drawings and watercolours, Hollande, published by Maeght in 1962 with texts by Jacques Tardieu.
His first retrospectives took place in 1959 at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Stedelijk Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and the Kunsthalle in Bern, followed by those of 1962 at the Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hanover, the Kunsternes Hus in Oslo and the Kunsthaus in Zurich. He had an exhibition of watercolours and drawings at the Galerie Bendor in Geneva in 1958.
He participated in numerous group exhibitions: 1948-1952 Venice Biennial. 1951 Ist Sao Paulo Biennial and in 1953. Exhibited on several occasions at the International Exhibition of Painting at Pittsburgh, in 1950 (he obtained a second distinction), 1955 and 1958.
In 1952, invited as a member of the jury by the Carnegie Foundation, he visited the U.S.A for the first time. The gigantic scale of this country had a considerable influence on his work, as did Spain, which he visited in 1953-1954 and 1962.
Kassel Documenta in 1955 and 1959.
Bazaine took part in a number of exhibitions of French painting outside France: 1949 La Nouvelle Peinture française, which toured Europe, Canada and Brazil; Tendances actuelles de l’Ecole de Paris in 1952, Kunsthalle, Bern; Younger European Painters, Guggenheim Foundation in New York in 1954. In 1961, he travelled to Moscow for the Exposition d’art français. He gave a talk on La peinture et le monde aujourd’hui which was a considerable success despite the opposition of the authorities. He renewed the experience in 1962 in Bucharest and in 1966 in Prague.
In Paris, he showed at the Salon de Mai in 1949-1951 and 1952, and took part in l’Ecole de Paris, at the Galerie Charpentier, from 1954 to 1957.
The Galerie Louis Carré organised Peintures 1942-1947 in 1965.
The Musée national d’Art moderne in Paris held a retrospective in the same year. Catalogue by B. Dorival.
1964: Bazaine was awarded the Grand Prix national des Arts.
Bazaine’s world is constantly evolving. He speaks to us about our roots, about what is buried deepest within ourselves. A breath has carried away, torn up, one could say, the structural grid of lines that characterised his paintings until about 1955-1958, to free colour, giving it all its quintessence and allowing it to breath. The coloured strokes now mingle with violence, simulating arabesques, with bursts of light. The richness of his palette, with its very subtle shades, so delicate with their musical resonance, often in blues and reds. Today red seems uppermost, the most intense colour, and purplish red. A lyricism whirls round forms and colours like spray sweeping the shore where violent waves open onto an endless horizon of limitless possibility. Bazaine restores for us «nature’s gesture».
Among the many exhibitions and retrospectives we should mention:
1977 Bazaine. Musée Beaux-Arts, Rouen. Catalogue.
1977-1978 Œuvres récentes et tapisseries. Musée Metz. Catalogue.
1987 Retrospective Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul. Catalogue.
1988 Bazaine. Dessins 1931-1988. Musée Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambresis. Catalogue.
1990 Retrospective. Grand Palais, Paris. Catalogue, complete biography and bibliography Skira.
Recent exhibitions at the Galerie Adrien Maeght, Paris: 1987 Chants de l’aube. Catalogue. 1988 Early works.
1991 Recent works. Galerie Carré et Cie, Paris. Catalogue.
Bazaine’s work is represented in a large number of museums in France and abroad.
- Bazaine. Le temps de la peinture: réunion de Notes sur la peinture, d’aujourd’hui and Exercice de la peinture, with several articles. Aubier, 1990.
- Jean Tardieu, Jean-Claude Schneider. Viveca Bosson: Bazaine, monographie. Adrien Maeght, 1975.