Talk about pictures

The view of writers on the work of painters: throughout the week, we ask ourselves what it means to “write the painting”, or when the hand of the writer takes over from that of the artist, each one with its own language.

Vermeer's View of Delft (circa 1660), in the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague
Vermeer’s View of Delft (c. 1660), in the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague • Credits: Photo by Buyenlarge / Getty Images – Getty

Pascal Dethurens , professor of comparative literature at the University of Strasbourg, talks to us today about the relationship between painting and literature. He has devoted several books to this theme: Writing painting. From Diderot to Quignard , republished in 2018 by Citadelles & Mazenod, Éloge du livre. Readers and writers in literature and painting (Hazan, 2018), or L’œil du monde. Images of the window in Western literature and painting (at l’Atelier Contemporain, 2018). 

A fairly mild attack of uremia was the reason she had been prescribed rest. But a critic who wrote that in the View of Delftby Ver Meer (on loan from The Hague Museum for a Dutch exhibition), a painting he loved and thought he knew very well, a small section of yellow wall (which he did not remember) was so well painted that it was, if one looked at it alone, like a precious work of Chinese art, of a beauty which would be sufficient in itself, Bergotte ate a few potatoes, went out and entered the exhibition. From the first steps he had to climb, he was seized with dizziness. He passed in front of several paintings and had the impression of the drought and uselessness of an art so artificial, and which was not worth the drafts and sun of a palazzo in Venice, or of a simple house by the sea. Finally he was in front of the Ver Meer that he remembered more brilliantly, more different from anything he knew, but where, thanks to the article of the critic, he noticed for the first time little figures in blue, that the sand was pink, and finally the precious material of the tiny piece of wall yellow. His dizziness increased; he fixed his gaze, like a child, on a yellow butterfly he wants to seize, on the precious little piece of wall.“This is how I should have written, he said. My last books are too dry, it would have been necessary to pass several layers of color, to make my sentence in itself precious, like this small yellow section of wall”. However, the severity of his dizziness did not escape him. In a celestial scale appeared to him, loading one of the trays, his own life, while the other contained the small section of wall so well painted in yellow. “- Marcel Proust, La Prisonnière . 

The links between literature and painting are rich and multiple. With our guest, we discuss several aspects: first, the descriptions of works of art in literary texts – or ekphrasis , the first of which probably date back to Homer, with the shield of Achilles described in the Iliad . According to Pascal Dethurens, by putting words on the “astonishment” he feels, “the writer legitimizes the exercise of admiration”. The writer, sensitive to images, cannot remain blind in front of a painting – as one sees it in the passage of the death of the writer Bergotte at Proust, in front of the “small yellow wall” of the View of Delft by Vermeer ,, whose sketches he had seen in the painter’s studio: 

It is wonderful, in an infinite solitude on the sea shore, under a cloudy sky, to gaze upon a desert of limitless water. You still have to have gone there, have to come back, want to cross over to the other side, not have power, be deprived of everything that sustains life, and nevertheless perceive the voice of this life in the roar of the waves, the breath of the air, the passage of the clouds, the solitary cry of the birds. This requires a requirement of the heart and this disappointment that, to express myself thus, nature inflicts on you. But all this is impossible in front of the painting, and what I was to find in the painting itself, I only found between myself and the painting, namely a demand addressed by my heart to the painting and a disappointment that I felt. inflicted the painting. I thus became the Capuchin myself, the painting became the dune, but the expanse to which my melancholy gazes must have been, the sea, was totally absent. –Heinrich von Kleist, Empfindungen vor Friedrichs Seelandschaft

"The monk by the sea" by Caspar David Friedrich, painted between 1808 and 1810 and exhibited at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin
“The monk by the sea” by Caspar David Friedrich, painted between 1808 and 1810 and exhibited at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin • Credits: Photo by Fine Art Images / Heritage Images – Getty

The proximity to images thus also allows the writer to reflect on his own work: Pascal Dethurens summons during this program the figures of Pascal Quignard (and in particular his text On the image which is missing today ) or of Yves Bonnefoy , which both offer a reflection on the image, the question of the visible and poetic research. Finally, certain literary works can by themselves be considered as paintings, in the same way that a text is also “a window, a cutout given on reality”. We think in particular of the flamboyant red of Salammbô , the shimmers of La Tentation de Saint-Antoine or the mouse gray of Madame Flaubert. As we see with our guest, the writer’s gaze enriches our conception of the works, just as it needs the painter’s hand and eye: “if we were content to see what is only under our eyes, we would miss thousands of images “. 

The painting

The painting is the most expressive visual arts: indeed, the sculpture only makes the shape, while painting can translate all the conceptions of the mind through all the realities of the kind or of the imagination , represented on a smooth surface, in their shapes and colors.
From a technical point of view, a painting is conventionally made up of three elements-:color, support and intermediate plaster. The colors are classified into four categories: vegetable, animal and mineral colors, and finally charcoals. Many of them are altered by the effect of light or by chemical reactions resulting from their mixture. The colors derived from aniline must, for this reason, be excluded without exception. Any solid material can be used as a support for painting: stone, wood, metals,ivory, tanned skins, canvas, paper, fabrics,earthenware. The support plays a purely passive role. The intermediate coating is, on the contrary, of capital importance: the indefinite conservation of a painting or its rapid deterioration depend on its nature and its quality.

The colors crushed with water are spread over a fresh sand and lime mortar ( fresco ); in these same colors we can incorporate, as we paint, skin glue ( tempera ), wax made miscible with water by the presence of lime ( wax paint ), yellow d ‘ eggs emulsified in cold water and mixed with resin (egg paint). The watercolor colors , ground with erased water, are applied directly to the support. For oil painting, the support (canvas or panel) is glued with skin glue, then garnished with a layer of white lead. The colors, crushed with a small quantity of carnation oil, should only be applied to this plaster when it is perfectly dry.

The execution procedures are, in principle, not subject to any rule. The hemp canvas, well stretched, is placed on an easel. The colors , all prepared, are enclosed in tin tubes. The artist arranges them in the order he likes around the rim of his palette, the medium remaining reserved for the various mixtures he will make, before placing them on the canvas using round brushes, flat paintbrushes or brushes, sometimes a small trowel or palette knife. Two operations precede the final work and guide its execution: the sketch, summary reduction of the paintingto paint, where the artist fixes the arrangement and the general effect; the studies or cartoons, where he stops separately the important details. By transferring these studies to the canvas, either by decals or by squaring, he proceeds to set up his composition. He performs the drawing, to his rough or detailed taste, either using charcoal (which he will have to fix before painting so as not to soil his tones), or with a brush, with a diluted color. He then begins to paint: by smear, when he covers his canvas with a light layer applied dry; by impasto or in full paste, when it loads it with a thick material and of solid aspect; by glazing, when he superimposes a layer of transparent and very diluted color on a dry color. To obtain broken tones, he mixes frank tones on his palette, or juxtaposes them on the canvas, thus producing an optical mixture, the effect of which, brutal when viewed up close, takes on a precious intensity in decorative art from a distance. The variety of effects results from the simultaneous and intelligent use of these various methods.

Once the paint is completely dry, it is varnished, if necessary, to remove any cloudiness and restore the tones to their true value. The variety of materials and manipulations used in oil paintingis the dangerous side of this process, the most perfect as an immediate result. The resins of the varnishes turn yellow. The bitumen, which never dries, blackens and cracks the pastes with which it is covered; the work of the colors modifies their aspect, and makes reappear the tones of the deep layers through the superficial layers, in the form of spots which one calls repentances. The watercolorist has more limited resources, because he can only use transparent colors and the white of the paper is the culmination of his luminous effect; but his work is, as a preservation, very solid. This is the watercolor that painted silks, lint, etc., adding to the water a light bite.earthenware , metal oxides are the only ones that can be used. They are diluted in gasoline and subjected, the work once finished, to a firing which incorporates them into the enamel of the support, subjecting them to changes of tone which the artist must take into account when painting. This painting is, in short, the only one to which the word “unalterable” applies rigorously.


The knowledge of the painter are drawing , the anatomy , the perspective linear, aerial perspective and chiaroscuro . To achieve the effects he aspires to, he needs invention, the science of composition, and great practice, ie. everything related to execution, to the work of the hand. We must also take great care in the grinding and composition of the colors , in the preparation of the material on which these colors will be applied. Some painters prepare on the palette, before painting, the tints that are necessary for them: others do them with the brush as and when they need, which produces more variety in the color.
From the point of view of the material execution, the processes and the materials that it implements, the art of painting is subdivided into several specialties, which are:

the oil-painting , the paint mural painting with the tempera , paint polish painting with watercolors , the wash painting with tempera , paint pastel , to the wax , painting in miniature , painting in shades in mosaic ;
Compared to the materials on which we paint, we distinguish:
the mural , on wood , on canvas, ivory , on enamel , on porcelain , on glass , etc.
With regard to the subjects represented, we distinguish:
the history painting (representation of historical or mythological episodes), of battles , paint portraits or nudes , genre painting (paint familiar scenes), painting landscapes or marine ; painting of animals , flowers , painting of still life ; decorative painting , arabesques , grotesques . (L.).

In the library . – Théophile, Schedula diversarum artium , Paris, 1843, in-8 °; L.-B. Alberti , De pictura, Basel, 1516, in-8 °; Robert Fludd , Tractatus de arte picturae, Frankfurt, 1624, in-fol .; J. Scheffer, Graphica, id est de arte pingendi, Nuremberg, 1669; A.-F. Doni, Il Disegno, Venice, 1549, in-8 °; Lomazzo, Trattato dell ‘arte della pittura, Milan, 1585, in-4 °; Leonardo da Vinci , Trattato delta pittura , trad. in French by Fréart de Chambray , 1651, 1716 and 1724; Algarotti , Saggio sopra la pittura,traduct. in French by Pingeron, Paris, 1769, in-12; Roger de Piles, Course of painting by principles, Paris, 1708 and 1720, in-12; Watelet, The Art of Painting, 1760, in-4 °; Liotard, Treaty of the principles and rules of painting, Geneva, 1781, in-8 °; Gérard de Lairesse , The Big Book of Painters , Paris, 1787, 2 vols. in-8 °; Richardson, Treatise on Painting , transl. from English by Rutgers, Amsterdam, 1728, 3 vols. in-8 °; Reynolds , Discourse on Painting , traduct. from English by Janssen, 1188 and 1806, 2 vols. in-8 °; Hagedorn, Reflections on painting, traduct. from the German By Huber, Leipzig, 1775, in-8 °; l’Abbé de Marsy , Abridged Dictionary of Painting and Architecture , Anise, 1746, 2 vol. in-8 °; Pernetty, Dictionary of painting, sculpture and engraving , Paris, 1757, in-8 ° Watelet et Lévesque, Dictionary of painting, sculpture and engraving , Paris, 1792, 5 vol. in-8 °; Paillot de Montabert, Complete Treatise on Painting , 1828-1851, 9 vols. in-8 ° and atlas.
For the history of painting: Bulenger, De Pictura, plastice et staluaria veterum , Leyden, 1627, in-8 °; Bellori , Della Pittura antica , Venice, 1697; Junius, De Pictura Veterum , treatise published by Graevius, Rotterdam, 1694; Durand, History of Ancient Painting , London, 1725; Turnbull, Treatise on Ancient Painting , in English, London, 1740; Requeno, Saggi sul ristabilimento dell’antica arte de Grecie de ‘Romani pittori , Parma, 1787, in-4 °; Letronne, Letters from an antiquarian to an artist on the use of historical mural painting in the decoration of temples among the Greeks and Romans, Paris, 1836, in-8 °; Raoul-Rochette, Unpublished antique paintings , Paris, 1836, in-4 °; Vasari , Vite de più excellenti pittori, Florence, 1550, translated into French by Jeanson and Léclanché, Paris, 1840, 10 vol. in-8 °; Dati, Vite de ‘pittori antichi , Florence, 1667, in-4 °; Dezallier d’Argenville, Summary of the life of the most famous painters , Paris, 1762, 4 vol, in-8 °; Séroux d’Agincourt , History of art through monuments , 1809-23, 6 vols. in-fol .; Denon , Monuments of the drawing arts among ancient and modern peoples , 1809, 4 vol. in-fol .; Ch. Blanc, History of painters of all schools, from the Renaissance to the present day , Paris, 1849-62 gr. in-4 °.


Discover the main lines of art history

According to a BVA survey, 20% of French people have already bought a work of art . Although contemporary art does not appeal to the majority of the general public, historical works of art still interest many people who survey the finest painting museums. The opportunity to discover the greatest masterpieces of French painting through various movements such as Impressionism, Symbolism, Dadaism, Classicism, Romanticism, Cubism or even Expressionism.

From still life to self-portrait, including wall painting or oil on canvas, the history of painting and its great artists have seen it all. Here is a small summary of the information to remember about this 3rd art.

Who are the greatest painters in history?

The history of art, and more precisely the history of painting, has been marked by great painters. Without knowing anything about the history of painting, many have already heard of the great names of the 3rd art . Picasso, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Dali, Matisse, or even Michelangelo are among these great characters widely known to the general public.

Who are the greatest painters?
Van Gogh is one of the essential painters in the history of art.

Many museums allow visitors to discover the large canvases and oil paintings which have made the reputation of painting and which are entirely part of the history of France or elsewhere.

In France there is one of the most famous museums: the Louvre museum . But art lovers can also take advantage of the Orsay museum or the Georges Pompidou center to admire the great works of contemporary painting.

According to recent studies, 6 in 10 French people say they go to the museum at least once a month . An average that explodes in the capital since it is easier to access this kind of establishment. However, the other big cities do not lack collections and offer, for the most part, a Museum of Fine Arts.

All these artistic meetings thus allow to discover the greatest painters, all periods and artistic movements combined.

At the Louvre museum, you can admire painters such as Lénoard de Vinci and his famous Mona Lisa, but also Théodore de Géricault, Rembrandt, Courbet and Le Caravaggio . Painters from the Italian Renaissance to the beginning of modern painting. It is also possible to admire the most beautiful paintings of Antiquity while strolling in the alleys devoted to Egypt or to Greece.

At the Musée d’Orsay, you can also admire great painters in the history of art such as Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Manet, Cézanne, Renoir , and many others. The history of painting is long and many painter made a name for themselves with their contemporaries, and sometimes much later.

In any case, their works, regularly restored, reach us today for the pleasure of our eyes. Klimt, Kandinsky, Van eyck, Giotto, Fra angelico, Véronèse, Degas, Botticelli, Rubens, Goya, Vermeer, Duchamp, Ingres, Pissarro, Mondrian, Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec, Chagall, the list of the great painters of history n ‘does not end.

The top 10 paintings to know absolutely!

The works sometimes exceed the masters. Thus large historical paintings have marked the spirits over the centuries, leaving the image in the head of the general public, without necessarily being associated with the name of the artist. Some canvases marked by their strangeness , others by the subject they deal with , or even because they mark the beginning of a great change in the history of painting .

What are the famous paintings?
Guernica is one of the most famous works of art in the painting world.

One of the most famous paintings, as well known as its author, is the famous Mona Lisa . Painted by Leonardo da Vinci, it is now an international star at the Louvre Museum. Thousands of visitors flock to the museum to see this work so original for the time. Painted like today’s portraits, the Mona Lisa is intriguing with her smile, but also with her gaze that follows visitors wherever they may be. This strangeness of the canvas continues to intrigue many art historians who look into the subject.

In the category of popular works, it is also possible to cite a famous painting by the painter Edvard Munch entitled ”  The Scream  “ . Painted in 1893, the work represents a humanoid form as frightened as it is frightening. Known to the general public and repeatedly misused, the work is still talked about today.

Other large canvases are known to deal with strong subjects and have sometimes become real symbols. This is particularly the case with a painting by Eugène Delacroix entitled ”  Liberty leading the people  “ . Great symbol of the republic thanks to the allegory of freedom represented by a woman wearing the Phrygian cap, the painting is one of the most famous in the history of art.

It is the same for the “  Raft of the Medusa  ” by Théodore Géricault which represented the sinking of the royal navy or for “  Guernica  ” by Pablo Picasso who denounced the horrors of the Spanish civil war .

Finally, several paintings have become famous for having announced a new artistic movement or for having inspired it. It is indeed thanks to Claude Monet’s painting “  Impression, soleil levant  ” that the impressionist movement was born. As well as the famous ”  Great wave of Kanagawa  ” of Hokusai which influenced all the impressionist painters.

Other paintings marked major upheavals in the art world. This is particularly the case of Edouard Manet and his ”  Déjeuner surherbe  “ , the first modern painting, or even of ”  Demoiselles d’Avignon  ” by Pablo Picasso who created the cubist movement, and finally of the ”  Persistence of  Dali’s memory ” for surrealism. Large paintings which still mark the major stages in the history of painting today.

Discover the history of painting!

Painting was born much earlier than one might think. And no, Leonardo da Vinci is not one of the first masters of painting!

Long before him, prehistoric men already used paint . Painters from another time then painted the animals of their time. In particular, there are representations of mammoths in several European archaeological sites. To paint, our ancestors especially used colors such as black, yellow ocher and red ocher .

When did we start painting?
The cave paintings are the first traces of painting in history.

Antiquity is also a great artistic period since the Greek, Roman and Egyptian civilizations do not hesitate to decorate the walls as well as the painting ceramics representing men or even architectural elements.

In the Middle Ages and in the West, paintings were made on manuscripts or on wooden boards. The representations are then related to religions and especially Christianity. A theme that has been discussed for a long time, since painting will serve religion for several centuries before this medium really breaks free from it.

The Italian Renaissance is an opportunity to see the appearance of geniuses of painting such as Botticelli or Leonardo da Vinci. The study of the environment and the sciences marked notable changes for art. The prospect starts to be represented and human bodies have never been real.

Little by little, the Renaissance gave way to baroque painting, represented in particular by the artist Le Caravaggio. Baroque paintings are particularly concerned with depicting tragic scenes from the Bible. The paintings are dark due to the chiaroscuro technique. The painters thus accentuate the contrasts by illuminating part of the painting, thus creating shadows in certain places.

A few years later, in the middle of the 17th century, some painters like Fragonard decided to lighten up the themes used in painting, we then speak of rococo . The paintings are rather joyful and sensual, even sometimes erotic.

Towards the end of the 18th century, painters took a new turn by deciding to return to the fundamentals of art . The artists were then inspired by ancient architecture and painted simpler, more refined canvases, which we would call neoclassical . Then comes the romantic movement during which artists paint in a melancholy way events where nature takes back its rights. Events also painted in the realism of Courbet . The painting is then in a way, the photography of the time.

With the arrival of cameras, painting therefore lost its role of representing reality. No need to paint portraits, or the big events of this world. Painting then becomes a way of expressing oneself and of giving one’s own vision of the world.

The history of painting will then know many movements such as pop art or fauvism. Until today when painters continue to draw inspiration from the great of this world while trying to find a place in history.

Who are the most famous contemporary painters?

Who are the contemporary painters?
Pierre Soulages’ blacks have become famous.

Painting has therefore evolved well since prehistoric times. Contemporary painters use the codes of their predecessors while including a personal touch. Among the most famous artists of our time, we can mention:

  • Gerhard Richter,
  • Yan Pei Ming,
  • Yue Minjun,
  • Martial Raysse,
  • Anselm Kiefer,
  • Philippe Garel,
  • Gérard Garouste,
  • Miquel Barcelo,
  • Vladimir Veličković,
  • Georg Baselitz,
  • Pierre Soulages,
  • Marlene Dumas.

Portrait of Marcel Duchamp as a “queer” artist

Anyone can hide behind an opaque window. And one artist can veil several others. The Fresh Widow work, part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MOMA), reproduces in miniature a “ French window ” with squares entirely covered with black leather. The museum notice attributes the work to the facetious artist “Marcel Duchamp, American born in France, 1887-1968”. However, an inscription at the base of the sculpture window states: “Copyright, Rose Selavy, 1920”. Which makes it “the first work signed by Duchamp’s female alter ego “, so just a century ago.

Portrait of Marcel Duchamp in Rrose Sélavy (1921)-Man Ray
Portrait of Marcel Duchamp in Rrose Sélavy (1921)-Man Ray

The signature will transform to become Rrose Sélavy: “Eros, c’est la vie”, perhaps also a reference to “ Rose is a Rose is a Rose ”, by Gertrude Stein, which deals with an eternal “indefinition” . The heteronym will finally allow the Dadaist to reinvent himself as a woman with her independent creative production. Man Ray photographed Rrose Sélavy-Marcel Duchamp, with wig, fur coat, pearl necklace and hat, playing on the fluidity of sexual identities.

Was he (was she? Were they?) So queer ahead of his time, as the buzzword, intentionally ambiguous term is in use now? A hundred years ago, did the Einstein of modern art also play with gender or sexual identity, as many artists and mere contemporaries do today?

“Dadaism is fundamentally anti-standard. Everything goes there, including heteronormative norms, which allows some men to claim a share of femininity, and some women, a so-called androgynous identity. So talk about queer for the time of a hundred years ago, why not, ”comments art historian Julie Richard.

“Some purists claim that the term queer cannot be attributed to a historical body of work. It would be anachronism. I think it’s wrong and too restrictive. Already, at the beginning of the XX E century, in certain clubs of New York, the LGBTQ community appropriated the term, which means “strange”, to transcend it, and draw from it the positive. This nominative process dates back a century and it is necessary to reexamine history through the codes of queer identity , I would even say of the queer approach to art at all times. ”

Follow the guide

Only, nothing is as simple as it seems with Marcel Duchamp, and this additional strangeness leads to even more complex ramifications involving the work Fountain of 1917. There is nothing more fascinating than this ready- made . At the turn of 2000, when The Guardian asked dozens of art historians what was the most important work of the XX th century, the urinal won .

“ Fountain establishes a paradigm in art,” says Ms. Richard. Marcel Duchamp had in fact made another ready-made before, the wheel on a stool, in 1913, but the urinal is much more radical. The object is presented as is, but upside down, without modification, except for the signature: R. Mutt. It diverts the object from its initial function. By offering it to the Salon des Indépendants, he says that what counts in deciding what art is is the authority of the artist. ”

The American art historian Amelia Jones was the first to take a different interest in Marcel Duchamp, first to criticize his fetishization by his colleagues, then to show that Fountain is a collective creation produced in collaboration with one, two or even three people.

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874-1927) is one of the creative people. Born Elsa Hildegard Plötz in Pomerania, she moved to Berlin, then to the United States in 1910. She married Baron Leopold Freytag-Loringhoven (who committed suicide shortly after), led a penniless bohemian life in Greenwich Village, returned to Europe in 1923, died in Paris.

The baroness is drawn more and more from oblivion. The Quebec art historian studies the performances in public space of the baroness and another queer artist before the hour, the Frenchwoman Claude Cahun (1894-1954). This work is part of the recent revival of research on the so-called historical avant-garde (Peter Bürger), Futurism, Surrealism and Dadaism. Publications and exhibitions are multiplying. The study of the contribution of women to these artistic movements is enriched in particular by the renewed perspective of gender studies .

The dada spirit

The list of collaborators and artists (we are not talking about muses-model-mistresses à la Picasso) is constantly growing. Just for hype, we can quote Hannah Höch, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Emmy Hennings, Suzanne Duchamp, Céline Arnauld and, of course, the baroness. German art historians Renate Wiehager and Katharina Neuburger have just published Duchamp and the Women und di Frauen , which presents a hundred women artists, writers, patrons or gallery owners who have gravitated around Duchamp.

For the Dadaist circle, Elsa is Dada. Man Ray said so. Marcel Duchamp repeated it. Elsa von Freytag is the embodiment of the spirit of questioning conventions and ideological, aesthetic, political and identity constraints. In addition, like other Europeans, she fled the continent before the great butchery of 1914-1918, to somehow start over in America.

Research by Ms. Richard and others shows that this artist developed a whole lexicon related to plumbing. She exhibited in 1917 (the year of the urinal) a sculpture called God made of pieces of pipe forming a hydraulic siphon, like the one connected to urinals.

“She was interested in iconography of the order of the trivial and even the abject,” explains Julie Richard. It is said that she cultivated bad smells on purpose. This way of being wanted to be anti-normative. She wrote several poems about the body, including one on orgasm. She stars in a film by Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp titled La baronne shaves his pubic hair .

There is also a trace of the Duchampian debt to von Freytag in Marcel Duchamp’s correspondence. The day after the opening of the Salon des Indépendants, on April 11, 1917, he wrote to his sister that one of her friends under a male pseudonym offered a porcelain urinal and that she was refused. “This is the most striking element. He confided in an intimate correspondence. He has no reason to hide anything. ”

In her latest book, Souvenirs from the Future (Actes Sud), published this summer, the American writer Siri Hustvedt bluntly accuses Marcel Duchamp of having stolen his famous ready-made . “The baroness has been ignored and ridiculed: this is what generally happens with female artists,” she summed up in a virtual conference this summer at the Buenos Aires International Literature Festival.

An antiart art

The dada master has not revealed anything publicly to perpetuate the game, the criticism, the overthrow. The original ready-made has been destroyed. Copies have been “authenticated”, including a so-called fifth version , dated 1964, in the National Gallery of Canada .

“Marcel Duchamp revolutionized art, that’s undeniable. It is now interesting to see which acolytes he worked with and how he played with art-antiart-art notions. He was against validation by the market and the urinal completely plays that card. Elsa von Freytag thought no less. A kind of jousting has taken place to find the most eccentric idea, going against the art market and making works that are almost unsaleable or of fake value. In addition, the Salon des Indépendants opens with the butcher’s shop raging at Vimy, four days after the United States entered the war against Germany.

His poems were grouped together in 2016 under the title Body Sweats . This publication and recent research allow us to reposition this extraordinary, peerless artist. “She was difficult to understand for her contemporaries. She was queer ahead of her time. She took on a fluid gender identity. She showed an assertive masculinity. She was even arrested in 1910 when she arrived in North America, in Pittsburgh, for wearing men’s clothes. ”

She practiced strolling, strolled in the streets of New York in 1913, before Duchamp arrived in this city. “She walked around, but in an artistic way duly claimed as such. She also used to make up costumes with whatever she found on the street, including rubbish. […] This way of being did not correspond at all to what was expected of the fairer sex in the public space. His eccentricity and performance were well known and accepted in Greenwich. ”

Another fundamental question therefore consists in asking whether this queer artist before the hour had to do with Marcel Duchamp’s decision to dress himself as a woman to play Rrose Sélavy. “I think so,” says the art historian. It was in the logic of the contest between the two. They were not in competition, but in very strong intellectual stimulation. It seems logical that they revived in this way. ”

She also says that Elsa von Freytag went “much further” than Marcel Duchamp. “Him, copied the female attributes to make a character photographed in a studio. She was displayed in a fluid gender identity in public space. She practiced this fluidity in everyday life and she even dared to be naked in the street. ”

The important thing is to target the challenges of the community and to follow their evolution. The question of fluid identity, for example, was not the same 100 years ago as it is now. “When Marcel Duchamp plays Rrose Sélavy, what is he caricature? A woman of the time or her friend Elsa von Freytag? Today, transidentity asserts itself through a plurality of voices and a multitude of ways of challenging the norm. We speak of heterormativity today, which was not the case in the 1920s. “

De Visu – Shaping the space of the “white cube”

To what extent have contemporary multidisciplinary artistic practices transformed our perception of the gallery or museum? This question is at the heart of the exhibition Three paintings. A sculpture. Three spaces presented at the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery at Concordia University. Based on recent works by Claude Tousignant, curator Michèle Thériault offers us an intriguing reflection on the relationship between the work of art, the viewer and traditional exhibition spaces, commonly called “white cubes”.

Recognized mainly for his role in the visual arts movement in the 1960s, the artistic activity of Claude Tousignant, now aged 75, has always remained attached to the rigorous practice of geometric abstraction. This exhibition gives the opportunity to appreciate the recent production of this artist and makes it possible to understand to what extent his research remains very current.

As the title suggests, the exhibition presents simply four works: a series of large-format monochrome white or black paintings and a painted aluminum sculpture. When you enter the room, you are first struck by the refined feeling that emanates from it. The works are carefully demarcated and presented in different sections of the gallery. This presentation is reminiscent of the 3X3 exhibition we saw at the same place last January and which showed the work of Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Dan Flavin. In fact, Tousignant’s large monochrome paintings have a minimalist sculptural quality that closely resembles the work of these artists. This impression is reinforced by the way they are placed, flush with the ground and slightly offset from the wall.

What interests the curator is the deeply “spatial” quality of Tousignant’s work. Faced with these works, the viewer is invited to reflect on his relationship with the exhibition space: the large monochrome abstractions echo the large white panels that divide the gallery while their geometric shapes also refer to the window, the ceiling and even in the office at the back of the room. The gaze is therefore not only attracted by the work on display but also by its context and its environment. We realize that the entire space of the gallery and all its components participate, in a symbiosis, in the creation of a larger “artistic installation”.

We read in the text of the catalog: “We know that a gallery has the power to transform a work and vice versa. It is therefore a material that is shaped and shaped. ” We thus become aware of the importance of the role of the curator and of the fact that our experience of art is directly influenced by the place of exhibition which “shapes” our point of view. Indeed, one can wonder if the works of Tousignant would have had the same impact if they had been placed in another way or shown in a more “public” space which would not be imbued with the same aura as that of this gallery. .

Conversely, one can wonder if the proliferation of contemporary artistic practices, anchored in sound, audiovisual or “relational aesthetics”, has not transformed our perception of these same premises. The question is therefore to know whether we are now witnessing a redefinition of these “traditional” art distribution centers, namely galleries and museums. On this subject, Michèle Thériault says: “We agree that art is manifested today in a variety of places. It would be wrong, however, to deny the still important role that institutional white space plays in the challenges of the art market and the consecration of the artist. ” It is therefore all the complex dimension linked to this “white space” that she skillfully succeeds in bringing out here.

Another interesting addition to this exhibition is the inauguration of two new programs which will be presented by the gallery and which revolve around the permanent collection. The first, entitled “Collection”, currently brings together paintings from the Square Dances series produced in 1964 and 1965 by Yves Gaucher. The second, entitled “Capsule”, offers us a reflection by the writer Scott Toguri McFarlane around two abstract works by the artist Roy Kiyooka.

Collaborator of Duty