Jean Fautrier

Sunset in Alabama

Fautrier Sunset In Alabama Musée D Art Moderne De La Ville De Paris 1500 - © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016 © Musée d'Art Moderne/Roger-Viollet
  • Jean Fautrier
  • Sunset in Alabama
  • 1957
  • oil on paper mounted on canvas
  • 60 x 81 cm
  • Musée d´Art moderne de la Ville de Paris - © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016 © Musée d'Art Moderne/Roger-Viollet

Jean Fautrier’s painting Sunset in Alabama (1957) exemplifies European postwar abstraction and art informel. Rejecting the traditional painterly process, Fautrier combined various techniques such as scumbling (scrubbing the paint onto the canvas) and haute pâte (high paste) to create his tableaux à quatre côtés (pictures with four sides). For Sunset in Alabama, he applied white paint as a thick paste (impasto) onto the paper, pressed it with a painting knife, and shaped it into a roughly rectangular field. Then, over the cracked and grooved impasto, he scattered powdery blue and pink-red paint to create six broad stripes. By forming the raw surface and adding the blue and red pigments on the rectangular field with hasty brushstrokes, Fautrier rejected a purely geometrical composition. As a result, this painting is highly suggestive, inviting the viewer to distinguish in its horizontal composition a landscape with a blue sky and an intensely shining sunset on a bright sea or grassland. Although the work’s title suggests a landscape in the southeastern United States, its compact impasto and rough, random shapes, remain self-referential and therefore nonrepresentational.

Petronela Soltész

Biography of Jean Fautrier

  • Born 1898 in Paris, France
  • Died 1964 in Châtenay-Malabry, France
Jean Fautrier was a painter, printmaker, and sculptor who is best remembered for his work in tachisme, a non-geometric abstract style that emphasizes spontaneous brushwork, drips and scribble-like marks. His father and grandmother raised Fautrier in Paris until 1908, when he moved to London with his mother. He began his artistic training at London’s Royal Academy of Arts in 1912, briefly transferring to the Slade School of Fine Art in search of a less conventional, more experimental practice. He then began to paint independently in the galleries and museums of London, particularly from the work of the romantic landscapist J.M.W. Turner (1775–1851). He returned to France in 1917 to serve in the French Army. Fautrier struggled as an artist in the 1930s, working as a ski instructor and running a jazz club in the French Alps between 1934 and 1939, during which time he painted very little. During and after World War II, Fautrier illustrated books by Georges Bataille (1897–1962) and Paul Éluard (1895–1952). The Gestapo briefly detained Fautrier in 1943; later, while in hiding, he completed his “Otages” (Hostages) series, which attracted critical attention. The Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris hosted a retrospective of Fautrier’s work in 1989.