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Musée du Niel - Pathways to Abstraction
3/6/23-30/9/23, Hyères


“Pathways to Abstraction -
17 non-figurative painters in conversation with Jean Grenier”


A new port of call on the Côte d’Azur, the Musée du Niel’s in Hyères inaugural exhibition celebrates post-war abstraction through the lens of critic Jean Grenier.

About fifty works illustrate the paths explored in this exhibition. Camille Bryen, Jacques Busse, Michel Carrade, Olivier Debré, Jean Deyrolle, Robert Fontené, Oscar Gauthier, Jacques Germain, André Marfaing, Jean Messagier, Zoran Music, Joseph Sima, Pierre Soulages, Arpad Szenes, Raoul Ubac, Gérard Vulliamy and Léon Zack take us into the intimacy of their artistic journeys, towards non-figuration and abstraction.

The exhibition is directly inspired by Jean Grenier's book of interviews published in 1963, “Interviews with 17 non-figurative painters”. In this book, Jean Grenier, philosopher, writer and art critic, interviews 17 painters about their career and the way they evolved to reach their particular form of expression in the early 1960s. The outcome of twenty years of creative and artistic evolution, which revolutionised modern art and the way we consider painting.

For the first time we can listen to the recordings of the interviews conducted by Jean Grenier, thanks to the archives of the INA, the voices of the painters are heard as we walk through the exhibition. And it is Pierre Soulages himself who explains the extent to which rhythm is the fundamental criterion of his work, and Olivier Debré who talks to us about the importance of signs in his work and in his inspiration.

In 1963, Jean Grenier had been an art critic for almost twenty years, first at Combat, where Albert Camus (to whom he had been a philosophy teacher in Algiers and then a friend) had introduced him. He had also been at Derrière le Miroir, La Galerie des Arts, La Nef, L'Express, L'Œil, and Preuves. He witnessed the emergence of this new current of French painting that he highlighted and defined as non-figuration. Over the years, he became both the great commentator and champion of this new form of pictorial expression alongside Léon Degand, Charles Estienne, Michel Tapié, Roger Van Gindertael, Michel Ragon and Michel Seuphor. His various contributions were compiled in the collection “Essais sur la Peinture Contemporaine”, published in 1959, with a preface by Albert Camus. Four years later, Jean Grenier published his “Entretiens avec 17 peintres non-figuratifs”.


Commissaire de l’exposition, Antoine Villeneuve