22, rue du Bac, 75007 Paris
14th December 2017 – 20th January 2018

With the exhibition « Simon Hantaï, Paris, 1948–1955″ Galerie Jean Fournier has opted for a focus on a relatively little-known segment of the Hantaï oeuvre. These works from the late 1940s and the 1950s are fundamental in more than one respect, embodying everything that was to come in terms of media, methods and the personal ethos of someone who sensed – as he would write years later, when making his donation to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris – that « everything [was] already there, but neither seen nor thought through ».

Arriving in Paris in 1948 with the illusory promise of a study grant from the Hungarian government, Hantaï discovered not only the Louvre and the Musée de l’Homme, but also the art of his time at the recently reopened Musée d’Art Moderne and, above all, in the city’s galleries. This was a period unmatched for its artistic richness, intensity and diversity: in the galleries of Nina Dausset and René Drouin Hantaï got to know the work of Jean-Paul Riopelle, Francis Picabia, Max Ernst, Georges Mathieu and Alberto Giacometti, while the Musée d’Art Moderne introduced him to the new work of Henri Matisse. There was, too, the bombshell of American painting, notably with the first Jackson Pollock exhibitions at Nina Dausset and Studio Fachetti. Picking up on the ambient energy, Hantaï at this time was experimenting, feeling his way as he responded to what he was seeing and reading. Over a span of less than ten years he availed himself of collage, cut-outs, scraping, transfers, imprints, frottage, runs, crumpling and – of course – folding.

At the same time another career was taking shape in Paris: that of Jean Fournier. Two destinies which, once they crossed, remained intertwined until death separated them in the early 2000s. In 1954 Fournier was running the Kléber bookshop and gallery; that year he organised its first exhibition, devoted to Josef Sima, and followed up in 1955 with « Alice in Wonderland », curated by Charles Estienne and including Hantaï’s Femelle miroir. The encounter was mutually decisive: Hantaï’s work came as a revelation for the young Fournier and would become the keystone of his future gallery’s identity. Thus « Simon Hantaï, Paris, 1948–1955″ offers the works that convinced Fournier to take up the painter’s cause, and which triggered his passionate commitment to an oeuvre in which he saw the early stirrings of one of the greatest artists of the second half of the twentieth century.

1955 brought the monumental Sexe-Prime, simultaneously fuelled by Mathieu and Pollock and the beginning of the more gestural period that would culminate in the magisterial series of foldings extending from the Mariales to the Tabulas.

The curatorship of the exhibition has been entrusted to Marc Donnadieu, conservator until 2017 at LaM, the museum of modern art in Villeneuve d’Ascq, and now conservator in chief at the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne.

Portrait de Simon Hantaï publié dans Harper’s Bazaar en février 1954
Photographie de Brassaï, mars 1953
© Brassaï


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