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Jean Lurçat

Cotonou noir (Black Cotonou)



Aubusson tapestry woven in the Tabard workshop.
Complete with certificate of origin signed by the artist.


Lurçat’s artistic production was immense : it is however his role as the renovator of the art of tapestry design which ensures his lasting renown. As early as 1917, he started producing works on canvas, then in the 20’s and 30’s, he worked with Marie Cuttoli. His first collaboration with the Gobelins workshop dates back to 1937, at the same time he discovered the tapestry of the Apocalypse which was essential  in his decision to devote himself to tapestry design. He first tackled the technical aspects with François Tabard, then on his installation at Aubusson during the war, he established his technique : broad point, a simplified palette, outlined cartoons with colours indicated by pre-ordained numbers.

A huge production then follows (over 1000 cartoons) amplified by his desire to include his painter friends, the creation of the A.P.C.T. (Association des Peintres-Cartonniers de Tapisserie) and the collaboration with the art gallery La Demeure and Denise Majorel, and then by his role as a tireless advocate for the medium around the world.

His tapestries reveal a pictorial world which is specifically decorative, with a very personal symbolic iconography : cosmogony (the sun, the planets, the zodiac, the four elements…) stylised vegetation, fauna (rams, cocks, butterflies, chimera …) standing out against a background without perspective (voluntarily different from painting) and, in his more ambitious work, designed as an invitation to share in a poetic (he sometimes weaves quotations into his tapestries) and philosophical (the grand themes are broached from the wartime period onwards) vision whose climax is the “Chant du Monde” (Song of the World) (Jean Lurçat Museum , ancien hôpital Saint Jean, Angers) which remained unfinished at his death.


In 1962 Lurçat spent some time at the residence of his friend Jacques Dupont, the French Ambassador in Dahomey (he also painted a fresco in the Emmbassy dining room). Cotonou noir, an extraordinary tapestry, both rich and dense is the result, without however making a radical departure from his South American cartoons : should Lurçat’s sense of the exotic be see as uniform? (the only concession here being the pineapple plants, a first in his work).

A similar tapestry is on show at the Musée de la Tapisserie d’Aubusson; another example exists but featuring only the right half of this tapestry (cf Christie’s sale Amsterdam 23.05.2007 n° 212).


Bibliography :
Exhibition catalogue Jean Lurçat, Tapisseries nouvelles, Maison de la pensée Française, 1956
Exhibition Catalogue Jean Lurçat, Nice, Musée des ponchettes, 1968,  ill.
Exhibition Catalogue Lurçat, 10 ans après, Musée d’Art moderne de la ville de Paris, 1976
Exhibition catalogue Les domaines de Jean Lurçat, Angers, Musée Jean Lurçat et de la tapisserie contemporaine, 1986
Exhibition Catalogue L’homme et ses lumières, Angers, Musée Jean Lurçat et de la tapisserie contemporaine, 1992
Symposium Jean Lurçat et la renaissance de la tapisserie in Aubusson, Aubusson, Musée départemental de la tapisserie 1992
Exhibition catalogue Jean Lurçat, Donation Simone Lurçat, Académie des Beaux-Arts, 2004
Jean Lurçat, le chant du monde Angers 2007
Gérard Denizeau, Jean Lurçat, Liénart, 2013, ill. fig. 161