Simon Hantaï — Paris, 1948 — 1955

Exhibition

Collage, painting

Simon Hantaï
Paris, 1948 — 1955

Past: December 14, 2017 → January 20, 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”.

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Simon Hantaï, Le cercle des amis, 1946 Oil on canvas — 143 × 246 cm Courtesy Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris

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.

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Simon Hantaï, Espaces engourdis, 1950 Oil on canvas — 74,5 × 74 cm Courtesy Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris

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.

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Simon Hantaï, Sans titre, 1951 Oil on canvas — 79,5 × 93,5 cm Courtesy Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris

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.

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Simon Hantaï, Femelle Miroir I, 1953 Oil on canvas — 165 × 174,5 cm Courtesy Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris
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Simon Hantaï, Collage, 1953 Mixed media on paper — 94,5 × 59,5 cm Courtesy Galerie Jean Fournier, Paris
  • Opening Thursday, December 14, 2017 6 PM → 8:30 PM
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The artist

  • Simon Hantaï