Paul Rebeyrolle

"The French painter Paul Rebeyrolle, who has died aged 78, once said: "All my mysteries have remained intact. Nobody understands them. These mysteries are what feeds my passion for art, and for fly-fishing. You never know where the solutions are. You always have to invent. And you never know more than a tiny part. In fact, I don't understand this world at all, and that's part of its richness."
Rebeyrolle courted controversy, and put himself outside the centres of power of modern painting. With his work excluded from the French art establishment, he created, in 1995, his own museum, Espace Rebeyrolle, in his native Burgundy, where he showed his own art and that of other painters.
Always contrary, he would never align himself with any lobby that might help his career. He refused teaching posts and artistic compromise. He eschewed the realism his comrades demanded in favour of a physical, powerful, expressionist style.

 After political works in the 1950s - he left the Communist party after the 1956 invasion of Hungary by the Soviet army - he turned to figurative canvases, often violent, populated by nude figures; and to abstractions of natural motifs connected with his passion for fly-fishing, and on the border between figurative art and abstraction. Two series, one of trout and the other of frogs, are a particularly forceful expression of this approach. Tate Modern has a trout painting.
He was born in the village of Eymoutiers, and contracted Pott's disease, a form of tuberculosis of the bones, at the age of five. He was first strapped into a corset and not allowed to leave his bed; later he took short, painful outings. A rose bush outside his window was his companion during the five years of his confinement. His schoolteacher parents taught him, but he soon preferred drawing to reading or writing.

 On leaving school in 1944, Rebeyrolle immediately went to Paris, "with the first Liberation train", determined to be a painter. He enrolled in La Grand Chaumière, an avant-garde art school associated with Picasso and Cézanne. His greatest inspirations, though, came from outside the classroom. "I passed by the window of an art dealer, Kaganovitch, on the Boulevard Raspail. There was a Rouault in the window, and I thought I was going to faint: that was the first real painting I saw."
Rebeyrolle was attracted by the great modernists, by Picasso and Soutine. Unlike many of his generation, though, his interests went further back into history. When the Louvre reopened its doors in 1947, he admired Titian, Velásquez and Flemish still-life painters. Taking his cue from these old masters, Rebeyrolle believed that he was continuing their project of looking at the world with unending inquisitiveness, an impulse that had been lost with the Impressionists. In his canvases, he integrated objects found in nature or given him by locals. "Once, a farmer turned up here," he remembered. "He handed me a rabbit's skeleton and said 'here, you know what to do with it'. "

 Rebeyrolle's unclassifiability made him a difficult commodity for museum curators to handle, and he was never truly accepted by an establishment looking for a more readily consumable form of modernism.
In 1963, he moved back to Burgundy, determined not to be intimidated. His Espace Rebeyrolle, he declared, was to be "a bastion, not a mausoleum. Something outside the norms. This is an antimuseum. I want to defend unfashionable art and show something else than formalism and tricksters."
He staged special exhibitions of works by Fernand Léger (2001), César (2002), and Jacques Monory (2003).
Although the official establishment did not value Rebeyrolle as he deserved, collectors, including the industrialist François Pinault, had more foresight. "A private collector can be more flexible," Pinault said of his decision to buy, "and Rebeyrolle is one of our greatest artists. I want to make people understand that."
He is survived by his wife.
Paul Rebeyrolle, painter, born November 3 1926; died February 7 2005 .."(

Post a Comment