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Art Basel Unlimited 14-17 June 2018

GEORGES MATHIEU

HOMMAGE AU CONNÉTABLE DE BOURBON

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GEORGES MATHIEU (1921–2012), GESTURE, SPEED, PERFORMANCE


Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon

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y eliminating the three major references normally used in painting, namely, nature, aesthetics and the sketch, the painting process would allow for a greater rapidity of execution which would however in no way be considered an advantage, a quality or a criterion.” – Georges Mathieu 1.

After having studied English and Law, Georges Mathieu decided to become a painter, selftaught, at the age of 21. ˝For me, painting is a sacred enterprise. Since 1942, it has become the purpose of my existence […]. In 1944 I had the revelation that, to exist, painting did not need to represent anything. It was therefore after deep reflection on aesthetics that I decided to practice non-figurative painting, reaching this decision not by a formal path, but by a spiritual one.˝ 2 Mathieu invented a form of painting called Tachisme, a type of action painting expressed by means of an intuitive and improvised act of painting guided by emotion: ˝ …One makes a spot, because one feels the need of a certain surface of colour on a given part of the canvas because it is the most direct means of putting the brush to the surface of the canvas with a greater or lesser degree of violence…”

”I decided to practice non-figurative painting, reaching this decision not by a formal path, but by a spiritual one.”

The young Artist gave up teaching English in order to become a painter while, at the same time, working as a public relations officer in an American maritime company. From 1947, he moved to Paris and participated in the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles where he presented paintings composed of abstract forms and spots, sometimes drawn straight out of the paint tube. He declared in a sort of manifesto that: “Freedom is emptiness”. He later showed his work at the Salon des Surindépendants where his canvasses attracted a great deal of attention, and particularly that of the art critic JeanJosé Marchand who described his works as “very lyrical, extremely moving and, I think, capable of genuinely touching the public even though they seem not to represent anything in particular” 3! At this point, Georges Mathieu invented, theorized and promoted what was to be called l’Abstraction lyrique of which he defined the four main criteria:

• Primacy to be given to the speed of execution, • No pre-existing forms, • Absence of premeditated movements, • Need for a trance-like state of concentration. From then on, with great energy, impetuosity and passion, he dedicated himself to imposing “an abstraction which is not limited by rules, dogma or canons of beauty, an open abstraction, that is free”. He said that ”calligraphy, which is by essence an art of signs, has freed itself from the literal significative content of writing, to become only the direct power … /… of meaning.” 4

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Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon

… /… From the end of the 1940s, Georges Mathieu was the first person to cultivate a link be-

tween various painters of the Schools of Paris and New York, both in his role as a curator and as a painter himself. He organized a number of group exhibitions where he attracted the public’s attention to the significance of the work of American abstract expressionists, and namely Jackson Pollock and his totally spontaneous and gestural painting technique. On the other hand, Abstraction lyrique painting was a movement that resolutely turned its back on tradition and formal systems of rules. This movement made Georges Mathieu, along with his life-long friend, Wols, and also Fautrier and Dubuffet, a pivotal figure on the scene of informal French art. In April 1948, Mathieu inaugurated an exhibition called HWPSMTB at the Galerie Colette ­Allendy. The title consisted of the initials of each of the participating Artists, and namely, Hartung, Wols, Picabia, Stahly, Mathieu, Tapié and Bryen. In November 1948, he organized an initial confrontation with avant-garde American painting, presenting works by Pollock, ­Tobey, de Kooning and Rothko. Another exhibition he organized together with ­Michel Tapié in March 1951, was entitled Véhémences confrontées, bringing together Bryen, De Kooning, Hartung, Pollock and Riopelle. In April 1952, he published his well-known Déclaration aux peintres d’avant-garde américains.5

”Calligraphy, which is by essence an art of signs, has freed itself from the literal significative content of writing, to become only the direct power of meaning.”

1 Georges Mathieu, “Du don de soi à l’espérance”, in L’abstraction prophétique, 1984. 2 Georges Mathieu in Au-delà du tachisme, Julliard, 1963. 3 Combat 16 October 1947. 4 Georges Mathieu in Au-delà du tachisme, Julliard, 1963. 5 Édouard Lombard in Deux œuvres du MoMA, Applicat-Prazan, 2017.

From 1950 onwards, he started giving titles to his paintings inspired by French history or prompted by the Sciences or Philosophy. Using the paint directly out of the tube without any prior sketch, he painted freely on his canvasses and took the painting process into another realm, with his approach comparable to that of the American Action painters. Fundamentally a precursor, Georges Mathieu was also to be amongst the very first Artists to take painting out of the painter’s studio and to revel in performances that really caught people’s attention. He revealed the creative process to the public by painting in front of them! From 1954 on, the Artist added yet another note of theatricality to his painting process by painting on monumental formats:

On 25 April 1954, Mathieu painted La bataille de Bouvines (250 x 600cm) in the Calmels workshops in Paris which, at the time, were directed by Dante Bernardi. Later, in October of the same year, he executed a 300 x 600cm painting called Les Capétiens partout, in 80 minutes and in front of a photographer from Life magazine. This session took place in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in the private park of Jean Larcade, owner of the Galerie Rive Droite in Paris. As he was fascinated by History, this painting is one of a series that Georges Mathieu started that year dedicated to Battles (Batailles). From this moment onwards, he cultivated with fervour and perseverance this theatrical form of art or action painting which reached its culmination in 1956 with a giant, 400 x 1200cm painting, which he completed in 20 minutes at the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt in front of an audience of 2,000 spectators, using 800 tubes of different colours. On 2 April 1959, on the stage of the Fleischmarkt Theater in Vienna, Mathieu painted Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon in 40 minutes to the electro-acoustic music of Pierre Henry, composed for the occasion. His works have since been exhibited all over the world, particularly at the Samuel Kootz Gallery in New York, and purchased by the most important museums the world over. Georges Mathieu holds a pivotal role in the relations between the European and American art scenes of the time n

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Mathieu, painting Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon in Mathieu, 1993, Patrick Grainville & Gérard Xuriguera, Nouvelles Éditions Françaises.


ON 2 APRIL 1959, ON THE STAGE OF THE FLEISCHMARKT THEATER IN VIENNA, IN 40 MINUTES, TO THE ELECTROACOUSTIC MUSIC OF PIERRE HENRY COMPOSED FOR THE OCCASION, GEORGES MATHIEU PAINTS:

HOMMAGE AU CONNÉTABLE DE BOURBON

Mathieu, painting Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon.


HOMMAGE AU CONNÉTABLE DE BOURBON

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n 2 April 1959, on the stage of the Fleischmarkt Theater, an avant-garde theatre in Vienna, home of the Viennese Actionnists, Mathieu painted Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon. For 40 minutes, the Artist was totally engrossed in the creation of this work to the electro-acoustic music of

Pierre Henry.

He was dressed in a partly open white shirt over black trousers: ˝For me the clothes I wear are a form of magic. They help me to better prepare myself for the atmosphere of the process of painting and to adapt. In my view, painting is a moment which approaches the idea of a holy ritual. One can even say — for this is done in certain societies, or other civilizations — lending this act a solemnity whereby, for the occasion, new or specific clothes would be worn.˝ Georges Mathieu faced this vast canvas measuring 250 x 600cm. The public looked on mesmerized by the vision of this man, silent in front of this white screen: “I started by painting flat on the stage floor. After about 20 minutes, the audience became restless as they could see nothing other than me dumping colours onto the canvas. Pierre Henry thought they didn’t like his music and angrily asked everyone to be quiet, even threatening to stop his concert. The audience quietened down, and I continued painting with my canvas now upright.” As usual, when he painted these enormous canvasses called Batailles (“Battles”) he soon covered himself with polychrome spots, splashes, squirts, drippings. Possessed by this mad creativity and guided by his intuition and momentum, he used to seek out the paint strokes to the rhythm of the music, using paint brushes and colours, without any preconceptions and with totally free movements. In a state of trance, he would leap up, reverse, move forward, with a long brush in his hand, sometimes seizing a tube of painting, which he would then crush, enraged, onto the canvas: ˝I paint quickly because it’s my rhythm.˝ ˝I give it everything I’ve got.˝

… /…

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Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon [auteur du sac de Rome (1527)], painted in public in Vienna on 2 April 1959, in 40 minutes, at the Fleischmarkt Theater, to music by Pierre Henry Oil on canvas Signed, dated and located lower right 250 x 600cm provenance The Collection of the Artist Family of the Artist by descent Private collection, London (acquired from the above). exhibited Vienna, Galerie Sankt Stephan, Apr. 1959 Paris, galerie internationale d’Art contemporain, Georges Mathieu, huit toiles majeures (la Bataille de Bouvines, la Bataille d'Hastings, l'Incendie de Rome, la Bataille des Éperons d'Or, la Bataille de Brunkeberg, l'Abduction de Henri IV, Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon, auteur du sac de Rome (1527), le Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy), 7 Jul. 1959 Paris, musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Georges Mathieu, 28 Mar - 9 Jun. 1963, cat. n° 64 Ostende, Casino-Kursaal, Les Mathieu de Mathieu, 2 Jul.- 28 Aug. 1977 Avignon, Palais des Papes, Georges Mathieu, Aug.-Oct. 1985, cat., ill. Venice, 42nd Venice Biennial, International Pavilion, 29 Jun.– 28 Sept. 1986 Versailles, Château de Versailles, Petite Écurie, Mathieu à Versailles, 5 May – 2 Jul. 2006, ill. double p. col. pl. n° 2 p. 28-29 literature François Mathey, Georges Mathieu, Hachette-Fabbri, Paris – Milan 1969, n° 145, ill. Lectures pour tous, n° 195, Apr. 1970. René Huyghe, Formes et Forces, Flammarion, 1971. François Mathey, Georges Mathieu, Celiv, Paris 1989, ill. Patrick Grainville & Gérard Xuriguera, Mathieu, Nouvelles Éditions Françaises, 1993, ill. Georges Mathieu, 50 ans de création, Hervas, Paris 2003, ill. col. p. 88, ill. double p. col. p. 484-485.


Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon [auteur du sac de Rome (1527)], painted in public in Vienna on 2 April 1959, in 40 minutes, at the Fleischmarkt Theater, to music by Pierre Henry Oil on canvas Signed, dated and located lower right 250 x 600cm provenance The Collection of the Artist Family of the Artist by descent Private collection, London (acquired from the above). exhibited Vienna, Galerie Sankt Stephan, Apr. 1959 Paris, galerie internationale d’Art contemporain, Georges Mathieu, huit toiles majeures (la Bataille de Bouvines, la Bataille d'Hastings, l'Incendie de Rome, la Bataille des Éperons d'Or, la Bataille de Brunkeberg, l'Abduction de Henri IV, Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon, auteur du sac de Rome (1527), le Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy), 7 Jul. 1959 Paris, musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Georges Mathieu, 28 Mar - 9 Jun. 1963, cat. n° 64 Ostende, Casino-Kursaal, Les Mathieu de Mathieu, 2 Jul.- 28 Aug. 1977 Avignon, Palais des Papes, Georges Mathieu, Aug.-Oct. 1985, cat., ill. Venice, 42nd Venice Biennial, International Pavilion, 29 Jun.– 28 Sept. 1986 Versailles, Château de Versailles, Petite Écurie, Mathieu à Versailles, 5 May – 2 Jul. 2006, ill. double p. col. pl. n° 2 p. 28-29 literature François Mathey, Georges Mathieu, Hachette-Fabbri, Paris – Milan 1969, n° 145, ill. Lectures pour tous, n° 195, Apr. 1970. René Huyghe, Formes et Forces, Flammarion, 1971. François Mathey, Georges Mathieu, Celiv, Paris 1989, ill. Patrick Grainville & Gérard Xuriguera, Mathieu, Nouvelles Éditions Françaises, 1993, ill. Georges Mathieu, 50 ans de création, Hervas, Paris 2003, ill. col. p. 88, ill. double p. col. p. 484-485.


Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon

… /… On the canvas, the sky has darkened, there is a clear opening patch to the

right. One can imagine the sound of swords crossing, Charles V’s horsemen fighting off the Romans in a mighty and bloody combat. The Artist continues to splash himself with his paint. His face and hands express the intensity of his Artistic process. He wipes his spotted face with oil. Then kneels down on the ground, contemplates his work and, standing up again, leaps at the canvas to bring some finishing touches. Extenuated and emptied, he sits down, pensive, at the end of the execution of his masterpiece. ˝I am what I paint.˝ ˝I feel that my painting is completed when this inner need becomes manifest, or when the vitality of this process has reached its peak with a minimum of gestures or brush strokes˝. ˝The Connétable de Bourbon, as we know, was the Commander of the sack of Rome. He drove out the Pope and all the Artists working there at the time. I wanted to express a form of celebration of his kicking out all those painters of the classical school. It was thanks to these spectacular measures, that baroque and later modern painting made their appearance.˝ Le Connétable de Bourbon, is ˝the marriage of concrete music and abstract art˝. For François Mathey, ˝Mathieu adores large formats. He is particularly comfortable with them and he appreciates the resources of this painting strategy. He measures up the canvas, measures himself to the painting, surveys the scene of his battle…˝6 François Mathey, Georges Mathieu, Hachette-Fabbri, Paris – Milan 1969. 6

Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon has been shown at all major exhibitions dedicated to the work of Georges Mathieu. This piece is without doubt one of the masterpieces of the Artist n

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Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon

On 2 April 1959, on the stage of the Fleischmarkt Theater in Vienna, Mathieu painted Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon in 40 minutes to the electro-acoustic music of Pierre Henry, composed for the occasion.

˝It is the marriage of concrete music and abstract art.˝ Georges Mathieu in interview with Yvan Audouard (Paris-Presse - L‘Intransigeant, 11 April 1959)

Extract from a report published in Neuer Kurier on 11 April 1959, Vienna.

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Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon

In this interview (Paris-Presse - L’Intransigeant, 2 August 1959), he explained the title as follows:

˝The Connétable de Bourbon, as we know, was the Commander of the sack of Rome. He drove out the Pope and all the Artists working there at the time. I wanted to express a form of celebration of his kicking out all those painters of the classical school. It was thanks to these spectacular measures, that baroque and later modern painting made their appearance […].˝

Applicat-Prazan is grateful to the Comité Georges Mathieu and its Director, Mr Edouard Lombard, for the invaluable information provided. georges-mathieu.fr – facebook.com/georges.mathieu.officiel – twitter.com/officielmathieu We would like to thank in particular the proud owner of Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon. And for their help : Dagmar Diernberger, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna – Christophe Gaillard, galerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris Edouard Lombard, Comité Georges Mathieu, Paris – Elisabeth Madlener, Galerie Nächst St. Stephan, Vienna – Isabelle Warnier, Archives Pierre Henry, Paris – the team of Art Basel Unlimited, Basel, who offered us the perfect opportunity the exhibit this masterwork!

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Photos © Art Digital Studio, Imagno, DR – © Adagp, Paris 2018 Création agence Communic’Art

A P P L I C A T – P R A Z A N

Georges Mathieu – Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon  

Catalogue | Art Basel Unlimited | 14-17 June 2018

Georges Mathieu – Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon  

Catalogue | Art Basel Unlimited | 14-17 June 2018