Thursday, December 06, 2007

Jean Fautrier (1898-1964)

French artist Jean Fautrier fought in WW I, like many artists of that time. His paintings anticipated the emergence of Art Informel, the European counterpart to Abstract Expressionism. They are dark and ominous, smeared and hazy. Here are two paintings of glaciers from 1926:




From 1934 to 1939 Fautrier stopped painting, became a ski instructor and ran a jazz nightclub in the French Alps.

Later, when he returned to Paris during WW II, he worked in a studio that was near a wooded area where the Nazis executed their prisoners. At night he could hear the screaming victims. In response he created the "Otage" (Hostage) series, which includes sculpture as well as paintings. The paintings feature thickly applied paint and plaster and crudely articulated scribble-like gestures to evoke primitive heads with bumps and holes instead of features, chunks of flesh with bloody gashes.




After the war, he turned to more everyday objects, depicting them in a confectionary palette of pastel hues - but they are painted in the same style as the Otages. The strange and somewhat problematic fusion of kitsch and the horrors of war is interesting to me. As his friend Francis Ponge wrote, Fautrier combines "brilliant discomfort and rage in a smooth bouquet."

There is a great article by David Ebony on Fautrier (Art in America, September 2003). You should read that.

6 comments:

slothy said...

mm, these are amazing! the heads are so raw & strange, really eerie. He sort of pre-figures Kiefer, I am thinking? I wish he could have been my ski instructor.

Anonymous said...

"Later, when he returned to Paris during WW II, he worked in a studio that was near a wooded area where the Nazis executed their prisoners. At night he could hear the screaming victims. In response he created the "Otage" (Hostage) series, which includes sculpture as well as paintings"

what a hero.

Mountain Man said...

Not a hero, no. But it's an immediate response - flawed, unrefined. Does it bother you? Can you say more about why? Curious.

Mountain Man said...

Sloth I agree about the Kiefer connection. There is something Romantic and almost embarrassing about both of their work, I can't quite describe it. I wish I had known Fautrier's paintings undergrad.

I need a ski instructor who likes to paint bloody cleft heads too.

dubzy said...

obviously he should have rushed in with his brushes and impaled the nazis, then smeared their faces with paint to shame them. only then would he have been a true hero. anonymous, thank you for speaking out for the prisoners! hurrah!

MM said...

Raping the tushes of the Nazis with brushes would have also possibly qualified him to be a hero.