Gaston-Marie Martin

Photography and Sculptural Work by Gaston-Marie Martin

Following a lineage of artistic personalities, Gaston-Marie Martin is a French photographer and sculptor who currently lives and works in Paris. His photographic work of male figures  are either in black and white format or tinted with colors.  

Revisiting classical references in his sculptural work, Martin creates reliquaries which, hidden away in their interiors, contain secret, almost ceremonial photographs of male figures. These instruments of memory blend the history of painting and the epic of photography with an archaeology of erotism. The reliquaries raise, in a very personal way, the art medium of nudity to a fascinating form of symbolism.

Gaston-Marie Martin’s works can be found at the artist’s sites located at: 

https://ofleadandlight.tumblr.com

http://gastonmariemartin.blogspot.com

Étienne-Louis Boullée

Architectural Design by Étienne-Louis Boullée

Born in Paris in February of 1728, Étienne-Louis Boullée was a architect, theorist, and teacher. Though regarded as one of the most visionary and influential architects in French neoclassicism, he saw none of his most extraordinary designs come to life. 

Throughout the late 1700s, Boullée taught, theorized, and practiced architecture in a characteristic style consisting of geometric forms on an enormous scale, an excision of unnecessary ornamentation, and the use of repetitive columns and other similar elements of regularity and symmetry. Boullée’s focus on polarity, offsetting opposite design elements, and his use of light and shadow were highly innovative for the period.

Boullée studied under architects Germain Boffrand of the Académie Royale d’Architecture, and Jacques-François Blondel of the Ecole des Arts, where he studied until 1746. He was immediately appointed a professor of architecture at the newly established Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées, under its director, civil engineer Jean-Rodolphe Perronet, This professorship gave Boullée access to public commissions and an opportunity to engage his architectural vision within France’s social and economic progress.

Étienne-Louis Boullée was elected to the Académie Royale d’Architecture in 1762, and was appointed chief architect to Frederick II of Prussia. From 1762 to 1778, he designed a number of private houses, most of which no longer exist, and several grand Parisian hotels, which included the Hôtel de Brunoy, demolished in 1939, and the still-existing Hôtel Alexandre, on the Rue de la Ville-l’Évèque. 

Boullèe’s reputation and vision as an architect rests mainly on his teachings and his drawn designs which span the years from France’s Revolution in 1784 to Napoleon’s rise to power and Egyptian expedition in 1790. Boullée’s project drawings, as a collection, represented  the necessary institutions for an ideal city or state. They displayed no direct political affiliations with any of the reigning doctrines or parties during this span of time; rather they adopted a belief in scientific progress symbolized in monumental forms, a dedication to celebrate the grandeur of a Nation, and, more often than not, a meditation on the sublime sobriety of death.

During this period, Boullée produced a continuous series of elaborate architectural designs beginning with a metropolitan cathedral and a colosseum for Paris, both designed in 1782. He designed a monumental-sized museum in 1783, which was followed by a cenotaph, or memorial tomb, for Isaac Newton in 1784. The design for a new reading room at the Royal Library was finished in 1785; and in 1787, Boullée finished plans for a new bridge over the Seine River.

In the late 1780s after the Revolution, severe illness forced Boullée to retire to his country house outside of Paris, where he finished the final architectural designs of his career. These included design plans for: a monument in celebration of the “Féte Dieu”, one of the most popular of the Revolutionary festivals; a monument to ‘Public Recognition’; and plans, finished in 1792, for both a national and a municipal palace. In silent protest against the terror spread by  the Revolution, Boullée also designed a reconstruction of the Tower of Babel which took the from of a pure cone on a cubic base, with a trail of figures winding in a spiral, hand to hand to the top; this sturcture would by seen by the nation as a symbol of hope for a unified people with a common language.

Étienne-Louis Boullée died in Paris on February 4th of 1799, at the age of seventy. During his life, he taught some of the most prominent architects of his day including Jean Chalgrin the designer of Paris’s Arc de Tromphe, and Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand, who anticipated the use of simple modular elements in construction,. Boullée’s book “Architecture, Essai sur l’Art”, a collection of papers, notes and letters arguing for an emotionally committed Neoclassicism, was posthumously published in 1953.

‘Yes, I believe that our buildings, above all our public buildings, should be in some sense poems. The images they offer our senses should arouse in us sentiments corresponding to the purpose for which these buildings are intended.” — Étienne-Louis  Boullèe

La Culture Physique Magazine

La Culture Physique Magazine

In 1885. French physiologist and physician Professor Edmond Desbonnet developed his Physical Culture theory and practice, which became popular in many European countries. His method was a reaction against the decadence he saw in the Belle Epoque era, and an emphasis on the premise that a healthy body was equally as important as a healthy mind. Before the first World War, fitness rooms were mostly  frequented by the French societal elite; following the war, the working classes gained access to the Physical Culture movement and its facilities. 

At the height of Desbonnet’s popularity, more than two hundred fitness centers espousing his method existed across Europe. Famous body builders, adepts of Desbonnet’s method, were often depicted in the various magazines and books that Desbonnet published. These photographs were offered for sale, often with a hand-held stereo viewer, through advertisements in his magazines. 

Professor Desbonnet published five magazines on the practice of physical culture, in which his theories were explained and illustrated by famous athletes’ photographs, such as Apolion the Mighty, with the form of an ancient Roman gladiator, and Eugene Sandow, who organized the world’s first major body building competition.

Among Desbonnet’s many publications, one of the two most popular magazines was the French “La Culture Physique”. It was an illustrated bimonthly magazine created in Paris by both Desbonnet and author-publisher Albert Surier. Published between 1904 and 1967, except for the war periods between 1914 to 1925 and September of 1943 to December of 1946, the magazine promoted bodybuilding and the benefits of an active lifestyle for all. 

During the rise of the gay consumer culture from 1945 to 1969, physique magazines, paperback novels, and other items became available through gay-oriented mail catalogues. This contributed to the sense of being in a larger community, validating one’s gay identity, and establishing models for what it meant to be gay. The legal struggles of the physique magazine publishers, in their fight against censorship laws, led to the first gay victories on the legal front, establishing the right to market these items, and became a catalyst for the rise of America’s gay movement.

For a more thorough study of the physique magazine and its contribution to the then-emerging gay rights movement, the article “Physique Pioneers: The Politics of 1960s Gay Consumer Culture” by University of Florida Professor David K. Johnson is a must read. The study was published by the Journal of Social History through Oxford University Press.

Available to read and download free through your school or library at:  https://www.jstor.org/stable/40802009?seq=1

A full version of Professor Johnson’s study can also be found at: http://history.usf.edu/faculty/data/johnsonarticle.pdf

James Tissot

James Tissot, “The Circle of the Rue Royale”, 1868, Detail, Oil on Canvas, 174.5 x 280 cm, Musée d’Orsay, RMN-Grand Palais, France 

Born in Nantes in October of 1836, Jacques Joseph Tissot received his education at a Jesuit school, later enrolling at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris at the age of twenty. Here he studied under Hippolyte Flandrin and Louis Lamothe, both successful painters from the city of Lyons. While studying in Paris, Tissot met the young American pinter James Whistler and was befriended by the Impressionist painter Edgar Degas. it was also at this time that he anglicised his Christian name to James.

James Tissot exhibited at the Paris Salon for the first time in 1859, showing five paintings depicting medieval scenes and scenes from Goethe’s play “Faust”. The following year, the French government purchased Tissot’s exhibited painting “The Meeting of Faust and Marguerite”. In the early 1860s Tissot traveled to Italy and then to London, where his painting “Walk in the Snow” was shown at the 1862 London International Exhibition. 

Around 1863, James Tissot changed the focus of his work from medieval scenes to portraiture depicting modern life. He oriented his style to the taste of the British Victorian era, in subject matter and style, often employing the mystery of the Orient by including Japanese objects and costumes. The son of a fashion seller and a milliner, Tissot gave particular attention to the clothing and costumes in his paintings. In 1864, he exhibited his oil paintings of contemporary scenes at the Royal Academy in London for the first time.

James Tissot’s painting “The Circle of the Rue Royale”, a detail of which is shown as the central image of this posting, gave him an opportunity to show his interest in costume and his degree of accuracy to detail. The painting shows the taste of the British aristocracy of the 1860s, depicting the social status of the figures in the prestigious surroundings of the Hotel de Coislin, established in 1758. 

The Circle of the Rue Royale was a male club founded in 1852 which commissioned James Tissot to paint this portrait of its members in the style of a British conversation piece rather than Tissot’s French tradition. Each one of the twelve members paid 1000 Francs for the painting to be made, and the final owner was to be determined by a special draw. Baron Hottinger, the central figure in the detail image, was eventually named the winner. This painting contributed the Tissot’s emergence as one of the most talented portraitists of his generation. 

Jean-Léon Gérôme

Jean-Léon Gérôme, “A Bischari Warrior”, 1872, Oil on Canvas, 41 x 33 cms, Private Collection

Jean-Léon Gérôme was a French painter and sculptor of the academicism style, painting historical themes, portraits, Greek mythology, and oriental and Middle-East themes. He studied under the historical painter Paul Delaroche and later attended the atelier of Charles Gleyre, a Swiss artist who took over Delaroche’s studio in 1843. Gérôme attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris but failed to enter the notable Prix de Rome due to inadequacy in his drawing skill.

Gérôme won a third-class medal at the 1847 Paris Salon Exhibition for his 1846 painting “The Cock Fight”, which is viewed as a high point of the Neo-Grec movement. He took a second-class medal at the 1948 Prix de Rome Exhibition for his painting “Bacchus and Cupid”. Gérôme received two important commissions between 1852 and 1854 which enabled him to widely travel: the large historical canvas, “The Age of Augustus”, for the court of Napolean III, and his “Last Communion of Saint Jerome” for the Church of Saint-Séverin in Paris.

Jean-Léon Gérôme visited Egypt in 1856 for the first time, traveling up the Nile to Cairo, across the Sinai Peninsula, and eventually to Damascus. This trip began the start of his many orientalist paintings depicting the Arab religion, landscapes of the North African regions, and genre life of the its peoples. He made multiple studies and sketches of the landscapes and gathered costumes and artefacts as studies for his oriental scenes. Between 1864 and 1904 Gérôme taught at his own atelier at the École des Beaux-Arts, one of three professors, teaching his students a progession of drawing skills before they were allowed to work in oils.

Jean-Léon Gérôme died in his atelier on the 10th of January 1904. He was found in front of a portrait of Rembrandt and close to his own painting “Truth Coming Out of Her Well”. At his own request, he was given a simple burial service. But the Requiem Mass given in his memory was attended by a former president of the Republic, most prominent politicians, and many painters and writers. Gérôme is buried in the Montmartre Cemetery in front of the statue “Sorrow” that he had cast for his son Jean who had died in 1891.

Jean Giraud

Jean Goraid. Illustrations for “The Eyes of the Cat”, 2012, Graphic Novel

Jean Giraud, known as Moebius, was a French artist, writer, and cartoonist who worked in the Franco-Belgian “Bandes Dessinees” tradition. These “drawn or strip stories” have been a long tradition in Belgium and France, becoming a major style on the comic scene starting in 1945. This style contains such comics as Herge’s “The Adventures of Tintin”, Goscinny and Uderzo’s “Asteix”, and Peyo’s “The Smurfs”.

Jean Giraud’s most famous works include the “Blueberry” series with writer Jean-Michel Charlier, featuring one of the first anti-heroes in Western comics. Under the name of Moebius, he created surreal, almost abstract style, fantasy and sci-fi comics, including the collection of short graphic stories entitled “Arzach” about a silent warrior who rides a pterodactyl creature. As Moebius, Giraud contributed concept designs and storyboards for the films “Alien”, “Tron”, “The Fifth Element”, and “The Abyss”. His designs for the Nostromo crew attire, and particulary the spacesuits, in Ridley Scott’s “Alien” were adopted by Scott and appeared onscreen as designed.

“The Eyes of the Cat” was Jean Giraud’s first collaboration with the filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, who would become a close friend and co-author. The portfolio-sized, 56-plate book was actually never meant for widespread distribution. Rather, it was printed in a tiny quantity, as a bonus gift for friends and clients of French comic publishers Les Humanoides Associes  as a kind of internal thank you note. A very limited edition, the supply of the book was depleted before the demand for it was satisfied.

In the story, a cat is attacked by an eagle as it wanders through a decaying city in the future. Each of the twelve by sixteen inch black and white plates is detailed and gritty. The narrative of the story is text-free, full of violence and chaos. This was influenced by Alejandro Jodorowsky’s association with the Panic Movement, a surrealistic group which he founded in 1962. The group concentrated on chaotic and surreal performance art, staging violent events designed to be shocking in a response to the mainstream acceptance of surrealism.

Note: Hardcover is now out of print. https://www.humanoids.com/y_catalog/book?id=274#.VfVRZ7Q-BHU

Images reblogged with thanks to https://thefugitivesaint.tumblr.com

Paul Jacoulet

Paul Jacoulet, “Boy with Dragonfly”, Date Unknown, Woodblock Print

Paul Jacoulet is renowned for his stunningly intricate designs, his eloquently romantic subjects and his complex printing techniques.  He was born in Paris in 1902 and moved to Japan with his family at the age of four. He developed skills in drawing, music and languages early on, speaking Japanese, French and English fluently. World War One and the devastating 1923 earthquake that effectively leveled Tokyo had a profound effect on Jacoulet.

Jacoulet left his job as a translator and resolved to focus entirely on his true passion: art.  Having been intensely moved by the works of Gauguin on a recent visit to Paris, Jacoulet departed for the South Seas, visiting Saipan, Truk, Rota, Titian and dozens of small atolls, where he filled up several sketch books with copious drawings and notes of the local people and landscapes. By 1930, he had added subjects from Korea, Mongolia and Manchuria.

Jacoulet produced his first woodblock print in 1934.  His technical requirements for the craftsmanship of his prints were so demanding that he could only work with the best, most talented printers.  He employed some very elaborate techniques and materials, including features such as embossing, lacquers, micas and the use of metal pigments and powdered semi-precious stones. Jacoulet was involved in very facet of the production and published many of his prints himself, selling them by way of subscription.  To keep costs down, he would print only enough to fill the subscriptions, and so often printed far less than the proposed edition number would suggest.

Jacoulet was a self-promoter and sent prints to famous people to enhance his reputation. Mrs. Douglas MacArthur received an annual Christmas gift, and Jacoulet’s work hung in the general’s headquarters in Tokyo and later at the Waldorf-Astoria. Jacoulet was flamboyantly and openly gay at a time when that was not accepted. His sexual orientation and gender fluidity are clearly reflected in his work. Near the end of his life Jacoulet was barred from entering the U.S. due to his “undesirability” as a gay person. Undeterred, he dressed up in a white suit and, carrying a silver-headed cane, walked into the U.S. at Niagara Falls.

In Jacoulet’s best work, images of the most extravagantly aristocratic exoticism stand beside spare studies of the very poor.  This balance of sentiment and objectivity, spiced by imagination, is the life work of an eccentric and passionate artist who was influenced by both the East and West, yet stands firmly and defiantly outside of both traditions.

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A Year: Day to Day Men: 7th of November,  Solar Year 2018

Fervor Doubled

On November 7, 1492, the Ensisheim Meteorite strikes a wheat field in Alsace, France.

Shortly before noon on November 7, 1492, a meteorite fell in a field just outside the walled city of Ensisheim in Alsace, France. The fall of the meteorite through the Earth’s atmosphere was observed as a fireball at a distance of up to 150 kilometres from where it eventually landed. The only witness was a young boy who saw the single stone punch itself a meter deep into what is now the rich soil of the eastern French countryside. It is the oldest meteorite impact with a confirmed date on record, and has become famous for its dramatic fall from the heavens, recorded for posterity by the Italian priest Sigismondo Tizio.

In an age when comets, shooting stars, and other celestial phenomenon remained unexplained, the appearance of the meteorite was quickly attributed to divine intervention. When the citizens of Ensisheim learned of the fall, many people wanted their own souvenir of the event in the form a fragment chipped from the main mass. As the crowds descended on the stone, the Chief Magistrate took charge and stopped further destruction. The stone was set at the door of the Ensisheim church where its fame was soon magnified.

On November 26th, the “King of the Romans” King Maximilian arrived in Ensisheim to consult privately with the stone. Several days later, Maximilian declared the meteorite to be a wonder of God, and then chipped off two small pieces of the stone, one for himself and one for his friend Archduke Sigismund of Austria. King Maximilian gave the stone back to the citizens of Ensisheim stating that it should be preserved in the parish church as evidence of God’s miracles. The meteorite was fixed to the church wall with iron crampons “to prevent it from wandering at night or departing in the same violent manner it had arrived” .

Today, the Ensisheim meteorite resides on display at the sixteenth-century Musée de la Régence in Ensisheim. It is now protected in the town; but over centuries,  visitors managed to chip off about 56 kg (123 pounds) of its original 127-kg mass. The Ensisheim meteorite is classified as an ordinary chondrite, the most abundant meteorite class, constituting more than 85 percent of meteorite falls.

Sebastian Brant, satirist and author of “Das Narrenschiff”, described the meteorite and its fall in the poem “Loose Leaves Concerning the Fall of the Meteorite”. Brant created broadsheets in Latin and German with a poem about the meteorite describing it as an omen. On the reverse side of Albrecht Dürer’s 1495 painting “Saint Jerome in the Wilderness” is an image of what appears to be a meteor/meteorite. It has been suggested that this might be the Ensisheim Meteorite.

Julien Douvier

The Gifs of Julien Douvier

Julien Douvier is a freelance computer graphic artist based out of Strasbourg, France. His ability to combine well-crafted photographic compositions with just a touch of motion somewhere in the frame makes his cinemagraphs some of the most compelling. Not limited by one genre, his photographs range from landscapes and nature scenes to street photography, sometimes augmented by only the slightest bit of motion, and at other times completely wrapped up by it.

Gofs reblogged with thanks to the artist’s site https://juliendouvier.tumblr.com

Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret

Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret, “Orpheus’s Sorrow”, 1876, Oil on Canvas, Dahesh Museum, New York City

Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret was one of the leading French artists of the Naturalist school. He was known as a leading modern artist known for his peasant scenes, but also for his mystical-religious compositions. Dagnan-Bouveret was one of the first artists to use the then new medium of photography to bring greater realism to his paintings.

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A Year: Day to Day Men: 22nd of October, Solar Year 2018

The Bibliophile

October 22, 1797 marks the first parachute descent from a balloon in Paris.

Early inventors have been designing and testing parachutes since the seventeenth century. Croatian bridge designer Faust Vrancic constructed a device based on Da Vinci’s drawings. To demonstrate it, he jumped rom a Venice tower in 1617 wearing the rigid-framed parachute. He called it the Homo Volans, describing it in his published technical book “Machinae Novae”.

The French inventor Jean Pierre Blanchard was probably the first person to use a  parachute for an emergency. Blanchard claimed in 1793 to have escaped from an exploding hot air balloon by parachute. There were no eye witnesses to the event unfortunately. He did, however, develop the first foldable parachute made from silk.

Andre-Jacques Garnerin was a student of the ballooning pioneer professor Jacques Charles, a French scientist and mathematician. Garnerin was involved with the flight of hot air balloons, working with his older brother in most of his ballooning activities. He began to experiment with early parachutes based on umbrella-shaped devices.

Garnerin became the first person recorded to jump with a parachute without a rigid frame. His frameless parachute descent occurred on October 22 in 1797 at Parc Monceau, a public park in Paris. His parachute was made of silk in an umbrella-shape with a diameter of about ten meters. The umbrella was closed before he ascended, with a pole running down its center and a rope running through a tube in the pole, which was connected to the balloon.

Garnerin rode in a basket attached to the bottom of the parachute to a height of about 1000 meters. At this height, he severed the rope to the balloon. The balloon continued upwards, while Garnerin, in his basket with parachute, fell. The basket swayed violently on its descent, and landed roughly; but Garnerin emerged uninjured. Garnerin made multiple ascents and tests with his parachute at the Parc Monceau.

Andre-Jacques Garnerin was an avid balloonist, making many ascents in a balloon before large numbers of spectators. In 1798 he was the first to ascend with a woman as a passenger. There was much concern from officials regarding the possible ill effects of ascent on a woman and the moral implications of the such close proximity of the sexes. Nevertheless, the balloon trip was successful; and both Garnerin and passenger Citoyenne Henri arrived safely at their destination in Goussaninville about thirty miles north of Paris.

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A Year: Day to Day Men: 20th of October, Solar Year 2018

Working in the Heat

October 20, 1854 was the birthdate of poet Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud.

Arthur Rimbaud was born in the provincial town of Charleville, France, to a father who was a military officer and a mother lacking in a sense of humor, who Rimbaud nicknamed “Mouth of Darkness”. Rimbaud was a writer from a young age; at the age of nine, he wrote a seven hundred word essay objecting to his having to learn Latin in school. In 1865, he and his brother were sent to the Collège de Charleville where he became a highly successful student able to absorb great quantities of knowledge. In 1869 Rimbaud won eight first prizes in the French academic competitions, and in 1870 won seven first prizes.

Arthur Rimbaud’s first poem to appear in print was “Les Étrennes des Orphelins” (“The Orphans’ New Year’s Gifts”), published in the January 2, 1870 issue of “La Revue Pour Tous”. At the age of fifteen Rimbaud was salready howing  maturity as a poet. His poem “Ophelie” would be included in many anthologies and is regarded as one of Rimbaud’s three or four best poems. From late October in 1870, Arthur Rimbaud’s behavior at the age of sixteen became rebellious, drinking, stealing, and writing scatological poems. His friend Charles Auguste Bretagne advised him to write to the eminent Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine.

Arthur Rimbaud sent Verlaine two letters with poems, including his hypnotic and shocking “Le Dormeur du Val”. Verlaine was intrigued and sent Rimbaud a one-way ticket to Paris. Rimbaud arrived in late September of 1871 and resided briefly with Verlaine and his pregnant wife at their home. Verlaine and Rimbaud led a wild, vagabond-style life, a short and torrid affair filled with absinthe, opium and hashish. The Paris literary circle were scandalized by Rimbaud, who still writing poetry, was considered an archetypical enfant terrible. Their stormy relationship brought them to London in September of 1872, where Verlaine abandoned Rimbaud to return to his wire.

Arthur Rimbaud eventually returned to Charleville and completed his prose work “Une Saison en Enfer”, A Season in Hell, widely regarded as a pioneer work of modern Symbolist writing. He returned to London in 1874 with the French Symbolist poet Germain Nouveau, whose work was mostly published after his death. They lived together for three months while Nouveau finished his work “Illuminations”. By March of 1875, Rimbaud had given up his writing in favor of a working and traveling life.

In February of 1891, in Aden, Rimbaud developed what he thought was arthritis in his right knee. Failing to respond to treatment, he returned to France. On arrival in Marseille,, he was admitted to the Hôspital de la Conception where, a week later on the 27th of May, his right leg was amputated. The post-operative diagnosis was bone cancer. After a short stay at the family farm in Roche, he attempted to return to Africa, but his health deteriorated. He was re-admitted to the same hospital and received last rites from a priest before dying on November 10, 1891 at the age of thirty-seven.

Raoul Dufy

Raoul Dufy, “Le Marché aux Poissons à Marseille”, 1905, Oil on Canvas, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain

Raoul Dufy was a French fauvist painter, who developed a colorful, decorative style that became fashionable for the designs of ceramics and textiles. He is also noted for scenes of open-air social events. Dufy was also a printmaker, book illustrator, designer of stage scenery and furniture, and a planner of public spaces.

Madame Blanchard

Artist Unknown, “Mort de Madame Blanchard”, 1819, Newsprint Illustration

While not the first female hot air balloonist, Madame Blanchard was the most well-known: King Louis XVIII, after seeing her performance, named her the “Official Aeronaut of the Restoration”. She was the first female to pilot her own hot air balloon, and the first to make ballooning her career.

Unfortunately, several years after her husband, also a balloonist,  died in a ballooning accident, Madame Blanchard was also killed. During a demonstration for a large crowd in Tivoli Gardens, she lit several fireworks, which ignited the gasses within her craft, causing her to fall to the ground and sustain fatal injuries.

Jean-Noël Lavesvre

Sculptures of Jean-Noël Lavesvre

Jean-Noël Lavesvre is a French painter and sculptor who is living and working in Paris. He began his career as a set designer and costume designer in 1984 at the Opéra de Marseille with La Traviata. Lavesvre designed the atmospheric sets for the Canadian Opera Company’s 2012/2013 season presentation of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Il Trovatore”. 

Pierre Soulages

Pierre Soulages, “Lithograph Number 3″, 1957, 25 x 19 Inches, Museum of Modern Art, New York

As a child, Pierre Soulages was fascinated by the Celtic carvings in the local museum and the architecture of the abbey of Sainte-Foy in nearby Conques, and these early impressions would continue to surface throughout his career. In 1938, inspired by the works of Cezanne and Picasso, he enrolled in the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, but he was disappointed by the traditional instruction and soon moved back to his childhood home of Rodez.

In 1946, Soulages returned to Paris and set up a small studio in Courbevoie. He began to paint in a wholly abstract style, producing canvases with overlapping black, barlike strokes on a glowing white or colored, ground, which he exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in 1947.

Though his rejection of bright color in favor of black set him in opposition to the major trends in French abstract painting of the time, Pierre Soulages was nevertheless a prominent exemplar of the Jeune École de Paris (Young School of Paris), an umbrella term for the gestural or post-Cubist abstraction. in contrast to the gestural approach of his American counterparts, Soulages deliberately constructed his compositions to create a formal balance.