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IN PURSUIT OF FORM

12 oct. - 16 nov. 2023

HANS BELLMER

FÉLIX DEL MARLE

AUGUSTE HERBIN

MARCEL JEAN

DORA MAAR

LOUIS ROY

JEAN TINGUELY

For this inaugural exhibition, we have chosen eight remarkable pieces by avant-garde artists of the 20th century, in which we perceive innovation and a difference that captivates us. One main question guided us in this selection: Which force drives the artist to embrace a distinctive line?

 

Therefore, we are interested in the artist's quest for form. It is a personal pursuit, marked by technical concerns and theoretical reflections.

It is hard to isolate these practices from the environment in which they originated, as artists draw inspiration from the innovations of their peers. Synthetists, cubists, futurists, surrealists, new realists... Various artistic movements with more or less defined theoretical foundations, to which artists contribute and from which they draw inspiration. It is also in opposition to these movements that each artist constructs their own formal research, and in doing so, new ideals emerge.

It is this tension in creation, between personal convictions and external influences, that we explore in the exhibition.

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Auguste Herbin (1882 - 1960)

Nature Morte à la cruche

1909

Oil on canvas
Signed 'herbin'  (lower left)

81 x 65 cm

Color plays a significant role in the work of the young painter Herbin, and his trip to Corsica in 1907 marks a turning point in his fauvist palette. Like most of his contemporaries, Auguste Herbin was deeply influenced by the retrospective of Cézanne at the Salon d'Automne in 1907. This experience fueled his desire for an even greater simplification of forms, leading to a radical transformation in his painting.

In 1908, Auguste Herbin moved to the legendary Bateau-Lavoir, where he became neighbors with Pablo Picasso. In the heart of this artistic laboratory, frequented by artists such as Georges Braque and Gino Severini, Herbin's painting evolved towards Cubism.

In "Nature morte à la cruche," Herbin breaks the planes and the refraction of light down. However, he has not completely abandoned his palette; he plays with volumes using both form and color. While analytical, his canvas still retains the powerful vibrancy of fauvist art and is more reminiscent of the works of Matisse than those of his friends at the Bateau-Lavoir.

Herbin finds himself at a turning point in his artistic evolution, seeking simplification yet still drawn to the vibrant world of color.

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"Two effects related to movement should be considered: one is visual, while the other is purely emotional."
Félix Del Marle, Le Futurisme (dynamisme, emotion, synthèse), 1915

"MONTMARTRE MUST BE DESTROYED !!!"

With this incredible statement, in July 1913, a young painter challenges the parisian art world. Through his manifesto "A Montmartre," Félix Del Marle thus became the first (and ultimately, the only!) French futurist painter.

The futurist modus operandi is confrontation, and it is through confrontation that Del Marle's unique form emerges on his canvas. While he acknowledges the Cubists' good intention of representing the simultaneity of aspects, Del Marle aims to take things further: one must smell, feel the texture, and see the speed. To achieve this, Del Marle retains the lines on his composition that triumph over others, what he calls "lignes-forces." These lines of force result from the sensations retained by the painter.

"Diane Chasseresse" perfectly illustrates Félix Del Marle's futurist ideas. He diverts an academic subject to create a scene of modern life, a woman walking her dog. The walk serves as a pretext for the decomposition of their movements, reminiscent of Giacomo Balla's iconic painting "Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash" (1912). The signs "CASINO" and "BUVETTES ET GARGARISMES" are clear markers of a tumultuous modern life, characterized by noise and frenzy.

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Félix Del Marle (1889 - 1952)

Diane chasseresse

c. 1913

Oil on canvas

65 x 50 cm

"The imaginary is what tends to become real."
André Breton, Le Revolver à cheveux blancs, 1932

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Marcel Jean (1900 – 1993)

La Nouvelle Journée

1935

Ink on paper

62 x 47 cm

Marcel Jean is considered one of the finest historians of the surrealist movement, to the extent that his fundamental role as an artist is often overlooked. He took part in every significant surrealist show from 1933.

In the 1930s, the exploration of the unconscious and its illustration was central to the surrealists, particularly promoted by Salvador Dali. This incredibly detailed drawing is teeming with extravagant details that evoke the multitude of dreams, delusions, and fantasies that occupy the mind of one who awakens.

Marcel Jean primarily defines himself as a creator: "At school, I drew maps of imaginary countries with their mountains, rivers, seas, coasts, cities, and roads. I invented names for all these places and wrote complete descriptions of the continents created by my drawings."¹

Through its organic and intricate form, Marcel Jean draws the shape of a personal universe that stands on its own. In this regard, "La Nouvelle Journée" is not just a state of semi-consciousness but a whole new world.


¹ Au Galop dans le vent, Marcel Jean, 1991, Ed. Jean-Pierre de Monza, p. 9

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Hans Bellmer (1902 – 1975)

Fillettes

1938

Gouache on black paper

65 x 50 cm

In 1938, Hans Bellmer moved permanently to Paris after the death of his wife, Margarete. He had already established connections with the surrealist group during his first trip to Paris in 1935. Bellmer was particularly close to Georges Hugnet, who admired his work. They collaborated on the book "Œillades ciselées en branche," for which Bellmer created 25 illustrations to accompany Hugnet's calligraphic poems.

The drawing "Fillettes" is faithfully reproduced in one of the illustrations in this collection. Bellmer's fillettes undergo metamorphosis, and in his work, one can discern a desire to alter bodies as a way of changing reality. In this drawing, the girl is confronted with the multiplication of her limbs. She appears to scrutinize herself, as if to materialize the reality of her body, while her duplication raises doubts about her own existence.

Joë Bousquet, a poet and a friend of Bellmer (and the first owner of this drawing), described him as someone who "slyly employs exact and deliberate lines, reserving this engineer-like drawing for figures that turn against the engineer and exceed his calculations." This pursuit of artistic perfection in rendering serves Bellmer's philosophical concerns about the body and reality.

The horror of World War I ultimately led to the abandonment of the Futurist principles by Félix Del Marle. Nevertheless, he remained active in the avant-garde art scene, and after a muscalist period influenced by his contact with Kupka, he embraced Neoplasticism with the De Stijl group. During World War II, while locked down in his hometown of Pont-sur-Sambre in the North of France, he embarked on a Surrealist period despite having no confirmed contact with the Surrealist group.

The Mormal Forest, located near his village, became his primary and almost obsessive subject during these war years. Del Marle's Surrealist style is infused with symbolism, allowing him to express himself freely in a time of severe restrictions.

In "Synthèse de la Forêt," the forest takes on an erotic aspect, resembling a reclining nude with her face thrown back. More details about this work can be found in an essay on the large version of the painting, which is housed at the Museum of Grenoble: the painting was a gift from Del Marle to his model, Gisèle Courbet, who explains in her letters that this work is the result of a passionate connection. Through its mysterious and symbolic rendering, Del Marle's Surrealist form bridges the gap between his sensitivity and imagination, resulting in a highly intimate composition.

² Synthèse de la Forêt, 1943, de Félix Del Marle, Une nouvelle donation au musée de Grenoble, Patricia Belbachir, in Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France, no. 1 - Janvier 1999, pp. 58 - 61

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Félix Del Marle (1889 – 1952)
Synthèse de la Forêt

1943

Oil on board

36,8 x 54,2 cm

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Dora Maar (1907 – 1997)

Quatre études de visage

c. 1939

Blue ink on letterhead paper (Le Régent, Royan)

20,8 x 13,5 cm | 8 1/4 x 5 3/8  in.

After months of hesitation, Dora Maar and her partner Pablo Picasso took refuge in Royan at the beginning of World War II. It was a period of intense work for Dora Maar, who had picked her interest in drawing and painting up in recent years, encouraged by Picasso.

This drawing immediately evokes the atmosphere of the studio through the repetition of the motif and the "spontaneous" use of letterhead paper. However, in this quadruple study, the use of space is deliberate, and Dora Maar uses blue ink, whereas her studio drawings are usually done in pencil. In addition to this, there is the existence of a second nearly identical drawing ³ , suggesting that this sheet is more than just a study. Dora Maar gives us four masks, four states of varying emotional intensity.

It is difficult not to see Picasso when looking at this drawing. Dora Maar is still digesting the creative process of her lover to make it her own. It is through the constant repetition of the motif - we know how much portraiture meant to Picasso - that she assumes the language of someone she considers an absolute master of painting. The student, Dora Maar, will gradually invent her own pictorial language, breaking free from the master's influence.

³ Dora Maar, Secrets d'atelier, 2023, ed. Dilecta, no. 207 and 208, p. 121

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Louis Roy, a Jura-born painter who arrived in Brittany in 1882, was close to the Synthetist artists, particularly Gauguin, who, from 1886, offered him an affectionately dedicated canvas titled 'Au Seigneur Roy.'

This fan is dedicated ('Respectful Homage') to Madame Bauchy, the wife of Auguste Bauchy, the owner of a café (Café des Variétés) in the 1880s. However, it should not be seen as a gallant tribute! The art of fan painting has evolved since the Impressionists. It is no longer the fan as an object that interests artists, but the fan as a form.

The shape of the fan naturally directs the viewer's eyes towards the center. Roy draws an oblique horizon line that divides the fan into two parts. By compartmentalizing the two spaces, he places terrestrial activities at the bottom and a dreamlike horizon merging with the sky at the top. The spaces are separated by trees, while the church and its steeple connect the two worlds.

The Synthetist rendering of this composition is evidence of Louis Roy's adherence to the ideas of his friends. His broad areas of bright colors and the compartmentalization of planes and objects give this fan a true vibration. This vibration reflects the painter's feelings, as he puts the form of his object in the service of the form of his subject.

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Louis Roy (1862 – 1907)

Paysage breton

1901

Aquarelle sur soie

Signé, daté et dédicacé en bas à gauche 'À Madame Bauchy, hommage respectueux. Roy 1901'

45,5 x 23 cm | 18 x 9  1/8  in.

Je n'arrivais pas à décider : "Voilà, c'est terminé"; à choisir le moment où le tableau est donné à la pétrification. C'est à partir de là, au fond, que le mouvement s'est imposé à moi. Le mouvement me permettait d'échapper à cette pétrification, à cette fin, me permettait de dire "Voilà, c'est terminé".
Jean Tinguely, extrait d'une interview recueillie par Charles Goerg et Rainer Michael Mason, juin 1976

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Jean Tinguely (1925 – 1991)

Sans titre

1988

Collage, technique mixte sur panneau noir

65 x 49 cm | 25  5/8 x 19  1/4 in.

Le format et le medium sont au commencement des interrogations artistiques de Jean Tinguely. Préoccupé par la finitude de la feuille de papier, par l’immobilisme du trait, il est à la recherche de l’infinité de la forme par le mouvement perpétuel. Cette recherche de mouvement donnera corps à toutes ses créations de machines. Dès lors, la création en deux dimensions et figée semble trop restrictive pour Tinguely. 

S’il s’intéresse au mouvement et à la vitesse dans son œuvre, c’est en particulier le côté répétitif de la machine qui lui plaît. Ainsi la machine n’est plus effrayante, elle sombre dans le burlesque, le sisyphéen. La vie en harmonie entre hommes et machines devient alors possible. 

« Fabricant de machines », Tinguely n’aimerait-il pas les dessiner ? Il admet dessiner pour s’aider à la construction ou pour les améliorer et même les rêver.

 

Cette œuvre matérialise le plaisir que Jean Tinguely prend à réutiliser des matériaux pour leur donner vie. Le carton déplié symbolise l’action même d’ouverture, pleinement réalisée grâce à ses mécanismes  apparents : des roues, une machinerie faite de couleurs et une tête. La partie supérieure, avec ses collages et sa roue en guise d’œil de cyclope, semble être le système nerveux de ce mécanisme de dépliage, si vivant.

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