Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, two important personalities were sitting next to each other in an aeroplane: at the controls, the pilot and later author of the "Little Prince", Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944), and next to him, Charles Lapicque (1898-1988), then a scientist and later a world-famous painter. During their joint flight, the young artist Charles Lapicque - mobilised for the war, at the National Centre for Scientific Research in Toulouse - was to conduct studies on the effect of colour during night flight and design camouflage patterns. The theories he developed at that time on the effect of colour would later shape modern painting - André Breton called Lapicuqe "one of the ten most important living artists" as early as 1961, and today the artist's works seem more topical than ever.
The agency showed paintings and drawings by Charles Lapicque in a nomadic gallery from 20 October to 13 November 2022. The works on display - some of which were shown at the Centre Pompidou in 1978 - come from an old private collection and have only been on the market again after more than 50 years.
On a plane with Saint-Exupéry
Charles Lapicque grew up in Paimpol, a small coastal town in Brittany. Lapique was trained as an electrical engineer. At the same time, he began to paint autodidactically. Encouraged by his wife, he worked more and more on his artistic work and was finally discovered and successfully exhibited by Jeanne Bucher, the famous Paris gallery owner. Despite the great recognition, he wrote a dissertation in the field of physics: Charles Lapique decided to combine art and science. Within the framework of the thesis, he investigates the functioning of the human eye in relation to colours. The focus is on the development of night vision devices. During the war, the painter is responsible for designing camouflage patterns and investigating the effect of colour from an aircraft perspective. The pilot during these investigation flights is Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the creator of the world-famous story "The Little Prince". After the war, the artist devotes himself exclusively to painting. Inspired by his knowledge as a physicist, Lapicque was concerned with measuring methods of visible light and colour perception, with the translucency of blue and red tones or with the problem of near and far vision.
Science and Painting
A look at the artist's long creative career shows that his style was always subject to change and numerous innovations. One constant in his work is his interest in the effects of colour and the scientific research associated with it. Lapicuqe delved more and more into the secrets of colours, especially red and blue. Based on his studies of optics and light, he finds, for example, that red, orange and yellow are colours that convey the perception of distance in a picture plane, while blue conveys the feeling of closeness, solidity and foreground. This innovative approach to colour, poses a challenge to traditional figurative painting, where blue is the colour of the distant, far-reaching sky.
Rare, intimate drawings from an unknown private collection
Christian Herren is looking forward to showing in his exhibition, in addition to some coloured paintings and gouaches - among them the main work "L'embarquement pour cythère" - mainly lesser-known monochrome drawings. These spirited works, which have often been torn up when Lapicque found them to be bad, are very rare in private and public collections, which gives this exhibition a special value to this exhibition.
Charles Lapicque - a "contemporary" painter
For years, the art market and art museum exhibitions have been dominated by abstract and conceptual art. Since the beginning of the 2000s at the latest, however, figurative painting has come to the fore again; at the moment, this centuries-old art form is even experiencing a real upswing. Styles, approaches and images vary greatly. However, some dominant themes can be identified: For example, the preoccupation with contemporary identity - questions of origin, culture and ideologies, or the playful, neo-pop approach to bright colours and flat patterns. The latter, these colourful universes inspired by pop culture and art history, build an exciting bridge to Charles Lapicque: as a co-founder of the "Ecole de Paris", his works between 1939 and 1943 were first decisive for the development of non-representational painting. Returning to representationalism, however, the artist quickly cultivated an avant-garde, masterful approach to colour, often used purely and directly from the tube, thus providing essential impulses for later trends such as Pop Art. During his 60-year creative period, he translated themes such as landscape, art history and architecture into drawing and painting. Always close to the post-war "New Figuration" movement, Lapicque's style is difficult to define. It is precisely this incessant search for new modes of representation and his proximity to science that evoke a closeness to the approaches of post-modern art and bad painting.