Centre Pompidou

Georges Duthuit, 1891-1973

27 May - 21 Dec 2015

Matisse and Byzantine art: sources for a poetics of modern art

Curator : Mnam/Cci / Cécile Debray

Art critic, poet, ethnographer and Byzantinist, Georges Duthuit carved out a distinctive niche for himself at the intersection of different disciplines and historical periods. In his writings on art – from Inuit to Byzantine to 1950s Abstraction – he sought to identify a work’s distinctive poetics. Developing a radical critique of the mimesis of Western art, he saw post-War abstraction and the painting of Henri Matisse as the culmination of an aesthetic of the decorative originating in oriental art. Like Georges Bataille, Roger Caillois and Michel Leiris, he thus combined interests in contemporary art and ethnography, producing a series of works like Une fête en Cimmérie (1947-50), in which Duthuit’s poetical text on the Inuits is accompanied by lithographs by Matisse. Exiled in New York during the Occupation, he became a conduit between the New York and Paris art scenes, editing the Paris-based English-language magazine Transition between 1948 and 1950, assisted in this by his friend Samuel Beckett. He championed many Paris-based artists, among them Bram Van Velde, Sam Francis, Jean-Paul Riopelle and Alberto Giacometti, and was close to the poets André du Bouchet, René Char and Yves Bonnefoy.

Cécile Debray, in collaboration with Anna Hiddleston


Tags: Sam Francis, Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse, Jean-Paul Riopelle