From the Douanier Rousseau to Séraphine - The Great Naïve Masters
In the autumn, the Musée Maillol is holding an exhibition of more than a hundred works from the fascinating, dreamy, unique, and rich world of the ‘Naïve’ artists. Called ‘modern primitives’ by one of their ardent supporters, the collector and art critic Wilhelm Uhde (1874–1947), these artists renewed painting in their own way, independently from the avantgarde artists and without academicism. Brought together for the first time in Paris, their brightly coloured works shed light on an inter-war period in the history of art that is often overlooked.
Based on Henri Rousseau and Séraphine Louis, the exhibition aims to highlight a constellation of overlooked artists such as André Bauchant, Camille Bombois, Ferdinand Desnos, Jean Ève, René Rimbert, Dominique Peyronnet, and Louis Vivin. Self-taught artists, like the Douanier Rousseau who preceded them, they took up art privately or later in life, driven by a thwarted vocation, a divine calling, or historical events. Out of necessity, they combined their artistic activities with an occupation that was often modest: they were road menders, domestic workers, fairground wrestlers, printers, or Post Office workers. It is thanks to several figures, including the founder of the Musée Maillol, Dina Vierny, that their works were discovered.
Dina Vierny, who came from a Bessarabian Jewish family that emigrated to France in the 1920s, who was a model for Maillol and Matisse, and who worked for the French Resistance from the outset of the war, discovered André Bauchant’s paintings at Jeanne Bucher’s gallery during the Occupation. Encouraged by the galley owner, the muse opened her own gallery in 1947, and then founded the Fondation Dina Vierny – Musée Maillol much later, in 1995. She exhibited works by her favourite artists, including Wassily Kandinsky, Serge Poliakoff, and Bauchant.
After the war, a new encounter played a major role in her career: she met Anne-Marie Uhde, who gave her the collection that belonged to her dead brother Wilhelm. By organising two legendary exhibitions, ‘Les Peintres du Coeur-Sacré’ in 1928 and ‘Les Primitifs modernes’ in 1932, Wilhelm Uhde brought together for the first time works by artists who did not know one another. After the war, Dina Vierny was one of the few collectors, together with Anatole Jakovsky, who continued the work of this lifelong art lover, as attested by the exhibition ‘Le Monde merveilleux des naïfs’, presented in the gallery in 1974. Almost fifty years later, the Musée Maillol is paying tribute to these artists and those who supported them.
Rousseau, Bauchant, Bombois, Desnos, Eve, Louis, Rimbert, Peyronnet, and Vivin all produced works that were captivating and full of a unique lyricism. Although they could be described as realistic, the works depict disjointed spaces, unsettling scenes, and imaginary images in which the obsessive attention to detail is often excessive and even surrealistic. Although they followed a certain pictorial tradition, in both the iconography and the surprising use of the rules of perspective, they renewed, sometimes in a humorous way, the portrait, still life, and landscape genres.
The exhibition will highlight—via a thematic itinerary—the pictorial qualities of these artists, beyond biographical accounts, which have for a long time been the only source of information about them. A selection of amazing revolutionary works, from major public collections (Musée d’Orsay, Musée de l’Orangerie, Musée Picasso, Centre Pompidou, LAM, Kunsthaus Zurich, Kunsthalle Hamburg) and private collections, will highlight each artist’s great formal inventiveness, without overlooking the links they maintained with pictorial tradition and contemporary art.
By combining a historical, analytical, and perceptive approach to the works and their presentation in the exhibition, the Musée Maillol will unveil the subversive dimension of Naïve art and will present these Naïve, primitive, modern, or anti-modern artists as great artists who ran counter to the avant-garde artists.
Curatorship: Jeanne-Bathilde Lacourt, Curator of Modern Art at the Musée d’Art Moderne, d’Art Contemporain et d’Art Brut, Lille Métropole (LaM). Àlex Susanna, a writer, art critic, and exhibition curator.
61 rue de Grenelle
Tel : +33(0)1 42 22 57 25
Métro : Rue du Bac, ligne 12.
Bus n° 63, 68, 69, 83 et 84.
11 September 2019 - 19 January 2020
The museum is open every day for the duration of its temporary exhibitions, from 10.30am to 6.30pm.
Late night opening on Fridays until 8.30pm.
Full rate : € 13.5
Reduced rate: € 11.5
Senior rate : € 12.5
Family rate : € 40 (for 2 adults and 2 young aged 7 to 25).Free admission for children under 7 years old and holders of an ICOM card.