André Cottavoz

André Cottavoz (French, 1922–2012)
"André Cottavoz was born on July 22nd, 1922, in Saint Marcellin in Isère, first child of the young Marguerite (she is hardly 18 years old then) and of her husband Paul Cottavoz. André, called « Doudou » by his grandmother (nickname that he will assume all his life) expresses his passion for painting as soon as he is a teenager. Indeed, he is 14 when his mother surprises him copying a landscape from the « Illustration » gazette. Practicing herself watercolour, she encourages him in this way, buys colors to him and takes him to paint in the nature with her.She gives him a precious advice which he will never forget : « Paint what you like, a bridge, a tree, a reflection on the water and forget the rest. » He also benefits from Michel Gaudet’s advice, a friend of Renoir living in the area, and regularly works « sur le motif » (from nature) with him, to the great displeasure of his father opposed to a future career as an artist.

 At the age of 18, against the advice of his father, but supported by his mother, he enrolled at The Fine Arts School in Lyon to continue his learning. But he is quickly disappointed with academic teaching and frustrated by some « worthy teachers » (it is forbidden to pronounce the name of Cézanne), he does not understand why before painting a nude, he should first have drawn its skeleton, and is excluded from a workshop on the day he arrives, exhibiting a reproduction of Van Gogh in whom he recognizes a Master. His regular attendance is nevertheless rewarded with a mention « for the amount of work performed » !
In 1942, he is obliged to spend two years in the “STO” (forced labour services) in Austria. There, he carried on painting and drawing. He met a talented young artist, the humorist Paul Philibert Charrin. This latter straight away recognizes him as a master and dedicates him an admiration that, according to Frédéric Dard, will become detrimental to his own career. They organize exhibitions of their works together. These pieces unfortunately will be destroyed or lost because of the war.

 When he comes back from “STO”, he cumulates studies, drawings and paintings. He knows that he cannot escape from his destiny : he is a painter. However without resources, living by his own wits (but always supported by his mother), he « goes up » to Paris to follow the courses of Paris’ Art School, in order to obtain a diploma and a vacation as a drawing teacher. His passionate temperament, on top of his way of conceiving pictorial art closer to the emotion, does not match with the academic requirements of the school, and he does not obtain the diploma which could have ensured him a regular income. At the same time, he attends the courses of the « Grande Chaumière », where he is reproached to do his own « Cottavoz way ».
In 1946, he exhibits a sight of Paris at the « salon of the young painting », La place d’Ivry which will make him recognized as a rather wellknown figurative painter in the line of Bonnard.
The same year, is held the first salon of non-figuration painting called « les Réalités Nouvelles ». At that time, being qualified of « Bonnardish » painter, is a true disavowal, because times are not ideal for figurative painting. However, faithful to himself, Cottavoz refuses any fashion influences or labels and is more than ever obstinate by his own way of painting, as close as possible to “his own emotion”, will he entrust to Jacques Zeitoun later on.

 In 1950, André Cottavoz obtains a price at the Biennale of Menton. Therefrom in 1952, he presents his paintings at the “Art Vivant” gallery, boulevard Raspail in Paris, and becomes friend with Raymond Cogniat and Georges Besson, respectively director of “Art” newspaper, and art critic for several other papers. At last, in 1953, he receives the first price at « Fénéon reward » which reveals him to the general public and contributes to his fame abroad, particularly in the United States and Japan for his engraved work. His relations with painters such as Garbell, Lanskoy, Saboureau and Tereskovitch make easier his introduction in the circle of the Parisian Art galleries. He then signs up his first contract with the gallery of « Art Vivant », ardently supported by the unfailing Jacques Zeitoun, Art director.From 1962, a turning point occurs in his life. Further to a conjugal disagreement, he leaves Ste Foy-les-Lyon. He settles down in his own artist studio at Sicard street in Vallauris. Leaving Lyon also means that he has to leave the artists’ circle of his friends and amateurs, but it also signifies that he is extracted from competitions in between artists worried to get a place in the world of Art. A necessary insulation for his way of conceiving painting will follow that period, when the Abstract Art has the favour of the media, galleries and art amateurs.

 In 1990, André meets Hélène, his third wife who shares his life in his Vallauris’ house, until the painter’s death on July 8, 2012. She accompanies him to Japan, Bali, Morocco, Hong Kong, etc… as many sites which renew, not only his inspiration, but also a kind of liberation of the tension, to finally succeed in a pictorial apotheosis, synthesizing his accurate look, linked with the emotion and power of the gesture.
At last, it should be noted that in 2005, the municipality offered to the painter (discreet citizen of Vallauris for nearly 50 years), already rewarded by the Knight of Arts and Letters Academy and internationally recognized, a major retrospective of his entire work at the Magnelli Museum of the city."(

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