Pierre Thiriot was one of the great 1920’s artistic designers, and this rare and exquisite painting encapsulates all of the legendary avant-garde flamboyance of the historic Ballets Russes.
“The canvas, treated like a tapestry, has the sumptuous extravagance of a Gobelin [tapestry]. In the centre, a remote and ethereal dancer appears to interpret Chopin’s music as if they were Alexandre Sakharoff himself, moving with the divine music created by the brilliant Polish composer. An opaline moonlight emerges above the romantic ruins of a cathedral, on the other side a feudal castle with mysterious crenulations adds to the archaic impression with the dramatic modern flourish of this subtle and sublunary dancer, whose gestures are as beautiful, and equal to Chopin’s musical score, emphasised by Marcel Proust’s poetry.” Sacha Bernhard, c.1930.
Pierre Thiriot’s passion and talent for artistic design put him in high demand in the theatre, music halls and casinos of Paris during the 1920’s. Born in Étan he moved to Paris in 1914 where he studied at the Lycée Janson de Sailly, and the Lycée Henri Poincaré in Nancy, before attending the École des Arts Décoratifs de Paris. He was drawn to all forms of art, painting, music, dance, and poetry. He began exhibiting at the Salon d’Automne, and at the Salon des Indépendants, and in 1927 he attracted the attention of the famous art collector Gustave Gompel, a department store owner, and he was soon earning a successful living developing a reputation for his theatre sets and costume designs. He received regular commissions including for the Folies Bergère, and the Moulin Rouge, where in 1928 he designed the famous embroidered curtain “La Jungle”; and in 1929 he created a large decorative panel for the Casino de Paris, “Les Papillons” inspired by the music of Schumann. He was immersed in the life of the theatre and music halls, creating portraits of all the legendary stars of the period: Alexandre Sakharoff, Vaslav Nijinsky, Jeanne Ronsay, Maurice Béjart, Dolores Parguez.
During the 1930’s Thiriot, began to spend more time working from nature, dividing time between his studios in Paris and Argonne, painting beautifully stylized images of animals, fish, and birds, especially Peacocks, the mythical beauty of which fascinated him. He also published a series illustrating the “Fables de la Fontaine”, and in 1938 “Images de Danse” with text by Jeanne Ronsay. After the war he settled in Clermont-en-Argonne and married the painter Jehanne Farine, also a friend of Jeanne Ronsay.
On the centenary of Thiriot’s birth, in 2004, a retrospective was organised by the Centre Culturel d’Argonne; and in 2012 an exhibition celebrating his work was held at the Musée Barrois in France.