100 years without Georgette Agutte: fury and softness of a forgotten artist

His “Self-Portrait” in front of “Cactus”

Georgette Agutte Y Marcel sembat walk shrunk at the end of the European summer. The calendar reads: September 6, 1922. There is snow on the trail, but there is more up the mountain, much more. It is daytime and the sun creates a delicious effect on the white of the landscape. A few years ago they bought a house in Chamonix, at the foot of Monte Bianco. A late hobby, mountain climbing, keeps them enthused. She is an artist at 57, he a political leader at 59. They have been married for half a century and have not separated since. Now they walk in warmth, occasionally looking at the mountain to feel the beauty through their eyes. The breathing is deep and consistent and blends with the sound of the wind. Suddenly he collapses: falls on the snow, faints. Hours later, a doctor would confirm that yes, he was dead. Brain hemorrhage, he says. Perhaps due to chronic high blood pressure, he adds. The only certainty is death.

She returns home with a fixed, irrevocable idea. He looks through the pictures he has drawn over the last few days, looks them over carefully, finds nothing. Look out the window: the sky is extremely dark. Take a sheet. Move like the world has stopped, stopped. He has no children, but has a nephew; She thinks of this boy as a close and yet universal reader, as if he spoke to the world, as if he spoke to himself. He wrote: “My life ended with him. Through him I have had happiness, I have had him in spades, nothing to complain of, but without him the light is dead. Bye”. Leave space as if thinking for a few seconds. He finishes: “It’s been twelve hours since you left. I’m late”. He leaves the letter on the table, goes to the module; He takes out a revolver from the drawer. He sat back on the sofa and put the gun in his mouth. One or two tears fall. A half-smile appears on his face, determined. Pull the trigger. No one hears the shot.

“In the Drawing Room” (1912)

“Why did he fall into oblivion very shortly after his death?” Karin Schichero in an extensive article published in the French magazine diacritical marks in August last year. But first, the principle: Georgette Agutte She was born on May 17, 1867, in Paris, France, the daughter of a married couple of artists. his mother called Marie Debladysstudy with Charles Camoni, and paints and makes portraits. His father was Georges Agutesformed with Felix-Joseph Barrias Y Camille Corot, who had done some other exhibition and was part of the Barbizon School. Georgette was in the womb when her mother received the news: the death of her husband, father of the unborn baby. It was day by day. She was born without a father. Soon after, her aunt, her mother’s sister, died: this fact is relevant because tragedies unite: her mother married her sister’s widowed husband, Nicola Hervioa state councilor who was in good public standing. Georgette Agutte he grew up in a mixed bourgeois family full of half-siblings.

Hereditary logic would say that the obvious is that he devoted himself to drawing—father and mother, both draftsmen, both painters—but something in childhood rebellion moved the axis a few inches. Maybe he didn’t want to repeat patterns. He then began studying sculpture with Louis Schroeder in a completely academic style. At the age of twenty, in 1887, she thought she was ready and presented two plaster busts at the Salon of French Artists. At that time, only one out of every ten works was made by a woman; gender equality was a long way off, but she glimpsed something on the horizon. In that artistic scene, which he approached with a certain shyness and curiosity, he met Paul Fletta young art critic who, fascinated by the work of Eugene Delacroix. Delacroix died almost 25 years ago, leaving a diary full of annotations with comments about travels, friendships, loves, but also about art and the evolution of his work. A diary written for forty years. Paul Flatt meticulously read the manuscripts to which he gained access with the artist’s help Rene Piot.

One evening, when the artist and the critic are already dating and probably already engaged, he introduces her to Piot. They talk for hours about Delacroix, about breaking the academic paradigm, and he invites her to meetings with other artists. Peau, as Delacroix’s representative in his inner circle, not only “introduced her to color,” as Cichereau says, but also pulled the strings so that she entered the National School of Fine Arts to participate in classes in de Gustave Moreau, “the greatest fine arts professor of the 19th century.” This is something much bigger than a simple service. One can imagine it Georgette Aguttecheerful and at the same time attentive, curious and at the same time modest, at the end of the room, behind everything, alone, dressed, taking notes, drawing, with the fascination of children who enter a toy store for the first time and tries to hide an outburst of emotions There it meets Henri Matisse, who spoke to him about freedom — Matisse always spoke about freedom — they are only two years apart, they are practically equal, they become friends. He can no longer return to sculpture; now the painting is a fire prism.

“Women with Oranges” (undated)

When they divorced in 1894, six years after they were married, it was a sacrilege for both families. There was more to her than a matrimonial question. “The artistic emancipation of Georgette Agutte This also corresponds to an emancipation of her condition as a woman. Legalized again ten years earlier, this act of breaking with bourgeois and religious tradition is still a real scandal, especially in the milieu from which it came,” writes Chicherau. This is when you meet Marcel Sembat; Actually I already knew him, he was a neighbor of his aunt in Bonnières-sur Seine, as a girl she often went to that house, they played together on the sidewalk with the other boys from the neighborhood. This gathering of adults tugs at the strings of the past, at least in her, because he, as he writes in his diary, has always been in love.

He was an intellectual socialist, as they called it at the time, because he supported women’s suffrage, the expansion of abortion rights, and was a man committed to the working class, even though he wasn’t exactly from there. They got married in 1997 and have never been apart since. They formed a combo: he was devoted to politics, she to art, but everywhere they went together, one thought of the other, they got involved. Sembat joined his wife’s discipline so much that they not only organized dinners to which they invited artists Georges Rouault, Edouard Vuillard or Auguste RodinHe also became an art critic and published several books on the subject. After all, they said in unison, art and politics are not so far apart. Agute and Sembat consider the aesthetic avant-garde to be a profoundly revolutionary expression. They said it at all those meetings right before they raised their toast.

“Coffee in the Garden” (undated)

When the Salon d’Autumn was created in October 1903 as an alternative for younger and emerging artists who could not find a place at the Salon of French Artists, Agutte made the transfer. He bet and he was not wrong. Fauvism and Cubism were born at the Autumn Salon. There too Frantisek Kupka he was the first to present abstract paintings. He then participated in the Hall of Independents and the Hall of Orientalists. For specialists, this is the moment when it matures the most and goes from a certain softness to a stronger, more powerful, more captivating aesthetic. There is something in the strokes, in the shapes, in the way the color is treated. Francis Carco he spoke of masculinity and “signs of strength” in his portraits. There is a letter from Rene Piot a Marcel Sembat. The subject of the correspondence is different, but at one point Piot says, as if in passing, in a kind of inside joke: “I will work with the anger of Georgette!” Behind the peaceful appearance of his work: strength, power, fury.

Another letter. She writes to Matisse. They argue, as before, about the reception, about the press. Until recently, no one saw anything original in Agutte. Many even succumbed to Sembat’s wife, as if painting meant a hobby for him. He wrote to Matisse, who at the time was far from considered a genius—he was not famous, at most someone of moderate talent—“You must work without blinking, close your ears and produce what you feel.” . In another letter dated October 1, 1911, highly revealing of his character, he wrote: “Press? But what does that mean? Why bother if war is a hundred times better than indifference. You must dare to prove everything.” His individual samples arrived from 1908. He made five in total. All in respectable galleries. She is praised in newspapers as Figaro, l’Humanite Y Mercure de France. for this moment, Georgette Agutte It now has the prestige it deserved. At least the one I needed.

When World War I ended, the couple bought a house in Chamonix. Georgette discovers mountaineering and dedicates himself to watercolor gouache painting. They are landscapes full of expressiveness, although minimalist in composition: level, stones, sky. Detail recedes and expressionism explodes in aggression. It is as if the power of nature has been reduced to a maelstrom of colors. There is an “aesthetic language that is all his own, where he abandons the perspective inherited from the Renaissance, the treatment of the object in realistic perspective, to transform it through color,” he wrote. Karin Schichero. It is at this peak of creativity, at this moment of brilliance and sharpness, that the end of the road unravels: the death of her husband, the return to the empty house, the silence of the night, a farewell letter, digging in the mouth, two tears, a determined half-smile, the finger of the trigger, the shot, his orphan works.


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