Derain, Balthus, Giacometti, exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art of the city of Paris

Derain, Balthus, Giacometti at Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris by Esprit de France
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Far from the obstreperous avant-gardes, an unexpected artistic friendship

This exhibition is intriguing because, at first, there is no justification for wanting to bring together these three artists. Indeed, apart from the fact that they privilege the human figure in their work, Derain, Balthus and Giacometti belong neither to the same artistic tendency nor to the same generation. What binds them is deep friendship. Their encounter took place in the early 1930s, when surrealism dominated the Parisian scene. At that time, Giacometti himself became part of the surrealist movement, even if he was soon excluded in 1935. The debates of the time, from Saint-Germain to Montparnasse, were very lively conducted by a whole nucleus of poets and writers including André Breton and Antonin Artaud of course, but also Louis Aragon, Jean Cocteau, Samuel Beckett and even Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.

When their friendship began, Derain was twenty years older than his younger peers and he had already lived through one of the greatest pictorial adventures of the beginning of the century, that of Fauvism where pure colors burst on the canvas with a new violence. He had been a friend of Matisse and Picasso, but since the war he turned to a more classical approach of painting. The exhibition, organized in major themes such as the world of dream, silent life (more adapted than "still life") or the various stagings for the theater scene, makes it possible to draw comparisons between these three personalities who were lonely in their approach but shared the same interest for ancient art and true anchoring in a modernity that they viewed as timeless. The comparison of their work is sometimes coupled with overlaps that is pleasurable to see: for example, we discover that the beautiful Isabel Rawsthorne Giacometti was in love with, also posed for Derain. Indeed, the three artists have in common many friends and patrons that we meet here, immortalized in a set of crossed portraits. The proposed hang-up allows, among other things, to enjoy rare masterpieces by Balthus, such as La Rue loaned by the MoMa of New York, and to discover some Derain's neglected works, such as his Grande Bacchanale of 1935-1945, in which the colour black is used in a radical way.