Jean Fautrier
Alchemy in printmaking

Fautrier was an alchemist of painting and printmaking. It could be argued that his far-reaching experimental printmaking informed his oeuvre as a painter. His prints celebrate obsessive layering and an incisive line that often cuts right through the underlying ground.

“Otages Fond Noir”, “Les Massacrés” and “Les Fusillés” circle around his famous painting series of the “Otages”. They are fed by the outcry against brutality, as witnessed in WW2 and later in the Algerian War of Independence (1954–62), but they also exhibit an analytical sang froid in examining the writer’s / painter’s possibilities in defining a mental image. “Otages Fond Noir” has the feel of graffiti scratched into a blackboard, whereas “Les Fusillés” gives the impression of scraps of scribbled paper that threaten to disappear into the night. The crossing lines deeply cut into the image and give a visceral impression of the act of elimination. In that sense “Les Massacrés” stands out even more as a visionary print: here the artist embodied his thumbprints into the picture plane and thereby symbolically brought the victim/offender cycle to full closure. Decades later Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, among others, would each follow suit and enter fingerprint or footprint into the picture plane, too.

The lyrical side of Fautrier is best expressed in the large print “Femme dans la nuit”, where the blue ground literally glows like an evening sky, shifting the lying figure into a realm of dreaminess and sensuality. Here the lines caress the figure with tenderness, all the while teasing out traces of movement. One could call this print a magisterial exercise in line and texture.

Fautrier, Jean
Orage violet
Etching, aquatint printed partly with oil paint.
Size of sheet: 50.2 x 64.6 cm.
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Fautrier, Jean
Etude de nus
Etching.
Size of sheet: 56.5 x 76 cm.
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Fautrier, Jean
Femme étendue IV
Etching and aquatint.
Size of sheet: 39 x 57.5 cm.
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Fautrier, Jean
Les Fusillés
Etching.
Size of sheet: 66 x 50.5 cm.
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Fautrier, Jean
Otages Fond Noir
Etching.
Size of sheet: 38 x 56 cm.
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Fautrier, Jean
Les Massacrés
Etching and aquatint.
Size of sheet: 55.5 x 33.5 cm.
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Fautrier, Jean
Femme dans la nuit
Etching printed partly with oil paint.
Size of sheet: 63.5 x 89.6 cm.
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Fautrier, Jean
L’Orage
Colour aquatint printed partly with oil paint.
Size of sheet: 65 x 50.7 cm.
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