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JEAN FAUTRIER (1898-1964)
JEAN FAUTRIER (1898-1964)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more 20TH CENTURY MODERN MASTERS FROM A PRIVATE FRENCH COLLECTION
JEAN FAUTRIER (1898-1964)

Pièges (Traps)

Details
JEAN FAUTRIER (1898-1964)
Pièges (Traps)
signed and dated 'Fautrier 46' (lower left)
mixed media on paper laid down on canvas
44 7/8 x 57 ½in. (114 x 146cm.)
Executed in 1946
Provenance
Galerie Rive Droite, Paris.
Galerie René Drouin, Paris.
Carlo Frua de Angeli, Milan.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel.
Galerie Thomas Borgmann, Cologne.
Helge Achenbach Collection, Dusseldorf.
Gilbert Brownstone & Cie, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1990.
Literature
G. Waldemar, ‘Fautrier (Nus) à la Galerie Rive Droite' in Prisme des Arts, March 1956 (illustrated, p. 34).
H. Wescher, ‘Fautrier‘ in Cimaise, April 1956 (illustrated, p. 27).
H. Wescher, ‘Documenta II, Kassel, l'art après 1945' in Cimaise, September-November 1956 (illustrated, p. 56).
P. Bucarelli, Jean Fautrier, Pittura e materia, Milan 1960, p. 324, no. 198 (illustrated, p. 325).
ProspectRetrospect. Europa 1946-1976, exh. cat., Dusseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, 1976 (illustrated, p. 11).
P. Cabanne, ‘Fautrier: La matière écorchée’ in Beaux Arts Magazine, June 1989 (illustrated in colour, pp. 64-65).
Y. Peyré, Fautrier ou les outrages de l'impossible, Paris 1990, p. 431 (illustrated in colour, p. 234).
Exhibited
Paris, Galerie Rive Droite, Paroles à propos des Nus de Fautrier, 1956, p. 8, no. 3.
Milan, Galleria Apollinaire, Mostra di Jean Fautrier con opere dal 1928 ad oggi, 1958 (illustrated, unpaged). This exhibition later travelled to Rome, Galleria l’Attico and Bologna, Galleria La Loggia.
Cologne, Josef-Haubricht Kunsthalle, Jean Fautrier Gemälde, Skulpturen und Handzeichnungen, 1980, p. 49, no. 91 (illustrated in colour, p. 71).
Cologne, Museen der Stadt, Westkunst Zeitgenössische Kunst seit 1939, 1981, p. 384, no. 306 (illustrated, p. 385).
Paris, Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Fautrier 1898-1964, 1989, no. 115 (illustrated in colour, p. 124).
Cologne, Monika Sprüth Gallery, Fautrier: Bilder 1926-1956, 1989 (illustrated in colour, pp. 26-27).
Paris, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Passions privées, Collections particulières dart moderne et contemporain en France, 1995-1996, p. 410, no. 7 (installation view illustrated, p. 409; illustrated in colour, p. 413).
Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Post Lot Text
This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being prepared by Marie-José Lefort.

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Lot Essay

In Jean Fautrier’s Pièges (1946), a sinuous, enigmatic form emerges from mists of luminous blue and sepia shadow. It glows as if backlit; dark strokes hint at the curves of a reclining nude, a billowing shroud, or a face seen in profile. Wisps of violet flicker through it like flames. With his typical matiériste approach, Fautrier has compounded the surface with layers of oil paint and paper pasted onto canvas, building from soft, vaporous stains to a haute pâte of thickly encrusted pale pigment. While similar in technique to the ‘matter paintings’ of his contemporary Jean Dubuffet, who was interested in primal forms of expression, Fautrier’s work was more political in spirit. With a note of danger in its title—Pièges translates as ‘snares’ or ‘traps’—the present painting follows the artist’s 1943-45 series of Otages (Hostages), which were inspired by the wartime horrors he witnessed while living in hiding outside Paris. Blooming, bruised and visceral even as it tends towards abstraction, Pièges insists on the material presence of the body: Fautrier’s Art Informel is haunted by a form which cannot be ignored.

Pièges is one of a small number of large-format works created in the two years after the Otages’ debut at Galerie René Drouin in October 1945. The author Yves Peyré has described these amoebic compositions as nudes, ‘each express[ing] very differently the anguish of the woman’s body amid the azure or the fervour of a night sky’ (Y. Peyré, Fautrier, ou les outrages de limpossible, Paris, 1990, p. 218). Particularly close among them to the present work is pouille (1946), a primordial vision in airy blue-greens held in the collection of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Like Pièges, pouille’s title (‘skin’, or ‘remains’) implies a violence seemingly at odds with the dappled, atmospheric beauty of the painting, which is as suggestive of embryo, fossil or landscape as of brutalised body. The power of these works lies in their sublimation. Fautrier does not depict atrocity directly—what illustrative picture could do it justice?—but nor does he turn away. He instead conveys wounding in surfaces, injury in his handling of materials, layering paper and pigment into ruptured, bleeding membranes. With their scarred, cracked, stucco-like roughness mottled with powdered pastels and sumptuous oils, these paintings contain the unspeakable behind achingly fragile veils.

Fautrier had taken an unusual path for a French painter. Born in Paris in 1898, he moved to England after the deaths of his father and grandmother in 1908, and entered London’s Royal Academy aged fourteen. From 1915 until 1917—when he was called up to fight in the First World War—he studied at the Slade School of Fine Art under the post-Impressionist Walter Sickert. He became fascinated during his time in London by the works of J. M. W. Turner, whose mastery of cloud, atmosphere and light can be richly felt in works like Pièges. Discharged in 1920, Fautrier went on to establish himself as a moderately successful salon artist in Paris, but largely stopped painting in the 1930s, much of which he spent working as a ski instructor and managing a jazz bar in the French Alps. He returned to the capital in 1940. Three years later, after a run-in with the secret police, he sought refuge in the nearby commune of Châtenay-Malabry. It was here, where he heard the Gestapo torturing and shooting resistance fighters in the nearby forest, that Fautrier embarked on the Otages: outraged, painful and beautiful paintings that envisage ghostly, broken faces and bodies in fields of blushing Turneresque colour.

The rawness of Fautrier’s works is troubled by their loveliness, and vice versa. They are spectacles of existential anguish that could have been made only with feelings of great tenderness towards the dead. In their dissolution, indeterminacy and hazy admixtures of colour and material, they can also be seen to directly oppose the Fascist artistic ideals promoted in Vichy France. Fautrier had personally encountered Arno Breker, whose neoclassical sculptures were championed by the regime. Rachel E. Perry has observed that Fautrier’s paintings make for a physical, almost somatic riposte to such imagery. ‘Where Breker presents the body in health, Fautrier offers up the body in pain and death’, she writes. ‘Breker’s universe is peopled by triumphant, heroic soldiers—musclemen who advertise Aryan, masculine virtues and indeed virility itself. … Fautrier envisions himself, rather, as the painter of the infirm, the wounded, the victim, showcasing what André Malraux later called a “hieroglyphics of pain.” … Where Breker presents the body as whole and intact, Fautrier offers dispersion and fragmentation’ (R. E. Perry, ‘Jean Fautrier’s Jolies Juives’, October, Vol. 108, Spring 2004, pp. 62-63). Complex, delicate and deeply felt, Pièges exemplifies the beauty Fautrier found in bearing witness to human suffering: it is a beauty forged in compassion.

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