On a walk to the Dijon museum of fine arts (VI)

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Burgundian sculptor François Pompon provided a fine example of modernity. The museum owns a large number of his works. Born in Saulieu in 1855, Pompon was essentially an animal sculptor. The search for the natural is of prime importance to him. He observes animals in their natural environment to capture an attitude that is as close as possible to the truth. At the same time, he greatly simplifies shapes and volumes and smoothes surfaces. He eliminates accessory details (feathers, hair, etc…) to better translate volumes and movement. This very modern approach to sculpture will soon be exploited by Brancusi or Zadkine.

François Pompon, The pelican, 1931, Bronze

François Pompon, The black panther, 1931

The 20th century collection owes much to the Pierre and Kathleen Granville donation where Cubism is widely represented.

Juan Gris, Glass of beer and playing cards, 1912/1913, Oil on canvas, 24×19 cm

The space is deconstructed but, if we concentrate on the shapes, we see the playing card, the glass of beer with its gadroons and a disc above to represent the foam. The use of strong colours distinguishes, at that time, Juan Gris from the extinct tones of compositions by Picasso and Braque.

Louis Marcoussis, The three poets, Oil on canvas, 38×33 cm

It is an evocation of the poets André Salmon, Max Jacob and Apollinaire. While denying the volume with very flat shapes, the painter nevertheless alludes to it, by the superimposition of the motifs and the black line that evokes the outlines of the characters. For Marcoussis, painting is a game between the flat surface of the canvas and the illusion of representation.

Robert Delaunay, Relief-Rythm , 1930, Painting with cork gluing and sand, 146 x89 cm

This painting belongs to a series started in 1930. The composition, with circles aligned on an oblique, in an oval, is inspired by the alignments of megaliths of Carnac in France . The circular shapes, protruding from the canvas, create a rhythm in which shadow and light replace colours.

The Cubist works are associated with a series of African masks and objects, a reminder that this art strongly inspired Cubist artists, as well as the avant-gardes of the early 20th century in general.

Reliquary figure Mbule, Gabon

Hairdressing crest of Tyi Wara, Mali

The inter-war period was marked by the presence of some singularly talented artists.

Jean Fautrier, The open man, 1928, Oil on canvas, 116×73 cm

Signed in two places, the painting can be looked at vertically or horizontally and one can see either an autopsy or a sort of walking ghost. Fautrier does not seek scientific truth in his representation. He shows the body as a banal object, a machine emptied of its mechanisms.

Raoul Dufy, Portrait of Nico Mazaraki, 1932, Oil on canvas, 81×65 cm

Dufy uses black contour lines to delineate the silhouette and suggest movement.

Georges Rouault, Portrait of Verlaine, C. 1937, Oil on canvas, 48×36 cm

This is a preparatory study for a larger painting showing Verlaine contemplating an image of the Virgin.

Georges Rouault, Verlaine, 1939, Oil on canvas, 101×74 cm, Washington, The Philipps collection

After the Cubist works, the Granville donation gives pride of place to the artists of the Second School of Paris, which took off after the Liberation and questioned figuration.

Nicolas de Staël, The football players, 1952, Oil on canvas, 14×22 cm

The painter endeavours to make the acceleration of the movements through the use of bright colours.

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, The golden city, 1956, Oil on canvas, 81×100 cm

There are two opposing tendencies in Vieira da Silva’s abstract landscapes: on the one hand, the design of the small tiles gives a strong framework to the composition and on the other, the colour tends to invade the canvas to engulf this architecture.

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Urbi et orbi, 1963-1972, Tempera and oil on canvas, 300×400 cm

This huge painting is a rare format for the artist. This urban landscape, between figuration and abstraction, is typical of his work.

Arpad Szenes, The racing cyclists, 1954, Oil on canvas, 100×73 cm

Szenes tries to retranscribe the movement, the speed and the colours of the cyclists of the Tour de France.

Etienne Hajdu, Lia, 1965, Bronze

Hajdu is particularly interested in the theme of women. He draws his inspiration from the art of the Cyclades and draws from it forms of primitive simplicity. His approach to the material is reminiscent of a kind of calligraphy in space.

A few artists, more isolated from the artistic movements or not part of the Granville donation, also caught my attention.

Samuel Buri, Cow-landscape, 1971, Acrylic painting on polyester, 135x220x90 cm

This cow represents a landscape in which cows can be seen precisely. Buri, apart from the playful side, is concerned about mixing art and ecology.

Zoran Music, We are not the last, 1974, Acrylic on canvas, 65×50 cm

The theme of the painting is the horror of the concentration camps that the artist himself experienced.

Georges Mathieu, Louis XIV arrives in Damietta, 1958, Oil on canvas, 163×97 cm

Georges Mathieu is one of the fathers of lyrical abstraction in France. His art is based on the speed of gesture and improvisation. That’s why the title is of little importance, only the gesture counts.

Apel-les-Fenosa, Ophelia, 1951, Bronze, 100×175 cm

This literary theme of the death of Hamlet’s fiancée and the fusion of the body and nature inspired many artists, including Delacroix and the Pre-Raphaelites. On this bronze plaque, which could be a funerary stele, the body seems to leave only the imprint of its form.

Roger Bissière, White aurora, 1961, Oil on canvas

The shades of grey suggest a quiet winter atmosphere

Here we are at the end of our journey through the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts. I hope that my selection, which reflects my tastes and is by no means exhaustive, will make you want to discover the many other works that await you in Dijon …


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