Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sujet: La Jeune Peinture

It is not often that one can see a complete overview of an art movement, but this is the case for the post-war French figurative school known as La Jeune Peinture, whose members practically all contributed to the series of print portfolios Sujet. I have the first five issues of Sujet, published between 1950 and 1953, and I believe that that is the complete set. Sujet was published by the artist Philippe Cara Costea (1925-2006), who was the organizing force behind the screenprinting collective that produced it. According to a website devoted to Cara Costea, the group was formed in 1949. The first issue is undated, but can be confidently dated to 1950 as several of the artists dated their prints '50, and the second issue came out in January 1951. Issues 3 and 4 also appeared in 1951, but the last issue was not published until June 1953.

Sujet 1: Io, vierge à cornes de vache

Paul Aïzpiri (1919- )

Antoni Clavé (1913-2005)

Gaëtan de Rosnay (1912-1992)

André Minaux (1923-1986)

Jean Souverbie (1891-1981)

Maurice Verdier (1919- )

Sujet contained no text save for a list of contributing artists, and the whole thing was quite economically produced. All the prints are silkscreens (serigraphs), and almost all are in black (there are a very few with a second colour). These are not the vivid, colour-saturated, garish silkscreens we associated with Pop Art, but sombre and restrained works that essentially seek to mimic the effect of original lithographs. I don't think that before WWII silkscreen had any acceptance in France as an artistic medium, so the choice of silkscreen for Sujet was an innovative one. I suspect that the reason for it was financial, as assuming Cara Costea had the necessary equipment, he could produce the whole thing without paying a separate printer, so the only costs were the paper, the ink, and the artists' time. I imagine each artist printed their own work, with the assistance of Philippe Cara Costea.

Sujet 2: Les mères

Antoni Clavé (1913-2005)

Paul Collomb (1921-1998)

Michel de Gallard (1921- )

Édouard Goerg (1893-1969)

Philippe Lejeune (1924- )

Paul Rebeyrolle (1926-2005)

As the title suggests, each issue centred on a particular topic. Sujet 1 was Io, vierge à cornes de vache. Sujet 2 was Les mères. Sujet 3 was Job. Sujet 4 was Autoportrait. Sujet 5 was La Mort. Io, virgin with a cow's horns; mothers; Job; self-portraits; Death. Each issue contained a selection of original silkscreens by various artists, almost all hand-signed apart from one by André Minaux (which is signed in the plate, suggesting he knew he would be unable to hand-sign) and except for three of the four works contributed by more established artists who were invited to be the star guest in each of the first four issues. These older artists, who were evidently regarded as mentor figures by the younger ones, were Jean Souverbie, Édouard Goerg, Roger Chastel (Chastel did sign his print), and Bernard Lorjou.

Sujet 3: Job

Paul Aïzpiri (1919- )

Philippe Cara Costea (1925-2006)

Nicolas Carrega (1914-1992)

Roger Chastel (1897-1981)

Roger Montané (1916- )

Orlando Pelayo (1920-1990)

The total number of prints published by Sujet is 54, of which 50 were pencil-signed by the artists. The edition was restricted to 200 copies. Of course not every artist associated with La Jeune Peinture is represented, but the only major omission is that of Bernard Buffet, whose spiky style and muted palette are typical of this anxious and sombre group. These artists who came of age during the horrors and privations of war are still gripped by a sense of loss and sorrow. It is notable that of the five portfolios, two depict characters who are archetypes of suffering - the nymph Io and the Biblical figure Job - while the last looks Death straight in the eyes. No wonder one popular word at the time for French art in the post-war period was Misérablisme. That said, some of these artists cheered up over time, and in future posts I will showcase some of their more colourful and vibrant work. For this post I have chosen 6 silkscreens from each of the five portfolios.

Sujet 4: Autoportrait

Philippe Cara Costea (1925-2006)

Daniel du Janerand (1919-1990)

Bernard Lorjou (1908-1986)

Orlando Pelayo (1920-1990)

Claude Roederer (1924- )

Claude Schurr (1921- )

Some of these artists are, or course, more famous now than others. Philippe Cara Costea is not a name I had come across before (and there is confusion about whether his surname should be hyphenated as Cara-Costea or not; he signs with no hyphen, but gives himself a hyphen in the contents). He is one of only two artists who contributed to all 5 issues, the other being Gaëtan de Rosnay. But whether their stars are still on the rise or have suffered a temporary eclipse, all of the contributors to Sujet enlarge our knowledge of the French art scene in the confused and confusing years after the Second World War, when Paris had lost ascendancy in the art world to New York, but did not quite realise it yet.

Sujet 5: La Mort

Nicolas Carrega (1914-1992)

Gabriel Dauchot (1927- )

Jean-Claude Vincent Guignebert (1921- )

Jean Jansem (1920- )

Abram Krol (1919- )

Jacques Yankel (1920-2004)

Those who remember my post on the 1950 portfolio Douze poètes, douze peintres will notice that six of the artist contributors to that are also contributors to Sujet: Aïzpiri, Krol, Minaux, Montané, de Rosnay, and Verdier.


Groslier said...

Thank for this post (an for the others)

Neil said...

Thanks, TG - always nice to know there are appreciative readers out there in cyberspace. I was rather thrilled to find a complete run of Sujet, which I'd heard about but never seen.

Jane Librizzi said...

A lot to digest here. The do-it-yourself aspects foreshadow the internet. I recall reading something similar about how Anais Nin arranged and produced her novels in the 1930s and 1940s, (including "Seduction of the Minotaur"). Thanks to Picasso, Nin et al, there seem to be lots of bulls wandering through art in the first half of the century.

Roxana said...

wow, overwhelming - it is impossible to single out works, they are so compelling - but for some strange i find myself addicted to Death by Gabriel Dauchot...

and Philippe Cara Costea is half romanian, very interesting, i hadn't heard of him before. the romanian name sounds Caracostea (though rare, probably, macedonian origin), if he chose to separate it in two then it was his own decision, i wonder what his reasons could be, simply playing with the sound?
i tried to find more information about his family, and he is a relative (nephew of a cousin) of a very important romanian literary critic. the article i am reading now asks the same question, why is he totally unknown in Romania, hmmm...

Neil said...

Roxana - I believe Philippe Cara Costea's father was Romanian, so you are no doubt right about the name. So many people who emigrated to France, or were the children of emigrés, modified their names to be more acceptable or more easily pronounced. I'm thrilled you like the Dauchot - I think he is a very underrated artist. I love the spareness of this image - it's quite typical of him to leave a lot of empty space - yet there's always an underlying sense of composition.

Neil said...

Jane - I think you're right to blame Picasso for all the bulls! Even these gentle put-upon cows may be his responsibility, as he was one of the earliest encouragers of André Minaux (whom he met at the Atelier Mourlot), and I think now that Minaux must have been closely involved in the setting-up of Sujet. The first "subject", the nymph Io, seduced by Zeus and then persecuted by Hera, is more imaginative than the others, and seems to derive from a Minaux lithograph of 1949, Io et Argus. Only 12 copies were printed of this, but the figure of Io in Minaux's silkscreen is obviously based on the one in the lithograph.

J. G. said...

buena forma de descubrir el arte