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- )
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.
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.
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.
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.