This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné, being prepared by Marie-Jose Lefort - Galerie Jeanne Castel, Paris.
Ile be happy is a large and impressive late work by Fautrier made in the year that he finally won universal recognition by being awarded the grand prize at the 1960 Venice bienale. Consisting of a broad expanse of painted material on canvas, Ile be happy is a particularly expansive and open work that demonstrates the unique properties of Fautrier's highly personal art.
In one of his relatively rare recorded statements, Fautrier spoke of what he called the "total expansion of being in solitude". Such solitude was, of course, the precondition out of which his traumatic but groundbreaking Otage paintings had been made, and it was the unique "matter" of these works combined with their break from all traditional procedure that had assured Fautrier's place as a key instigator of the Informel movement. Fautrier described the significance of his radical new means of painting and of giving material expression to reality in a letter to his friend Jean Paulhan. His painting was "not so far from the question of the common place, " he explained, "matter makes the common place happen in painting. (Exactly as in literature a certain atmosphere, a certain poetic sense permits one to say naturally 'rosy lips')". Then describing the process of making his work he continued, "This is what you want to know: the canvas is now merely a support for the paper. The thick paper is covered with sometimes thick layers of plaster - the picture is painted on this moist plaster - this plaster makes the paint adhere to the paper perfectly - it has the virtue of fixing the colours in powder, crushed pastels, gouache, ink, and also oil paint - it is above all thanks to these coats of plaster that the mixture can be produced so well and the quality of the matter is achieved." (Letters to Jean Paulhan, cited in Jean Fautrier 1898 -1964 exh. cat. Harvard University Art Museums, 2002, pp. 43-44.)
Fautrier's unique means of painting on plaster to create a material and almost animated paste generated a new and often disturbing life to the surface of his paintings. In this large painting, the artist's experience with his means has culminated in a work that is both openly abstract while at the same time seemingly rooted in the material reality of life. An artist can do "no more than reinvent what already exists", Fautrier explained, "one restores, with hints of emotion, the reality that is embodied in material, in form, in colour...The action of painting is not simply the need to lay paint on a canvas, and one must admit that the desire for expression comes, at its origins, from something seen. As this reality is transformed - modelled into an image according to the temperment of the artist - the image ends up becoming more real than reality itself." cited in cat. Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Fautrier 1898- 1989. p. 13.)