The Galerie Maeght continues to investiage the relationship between painting, literature and poetry by presenting an exhibition of work by Jean Cortot from the 2nd of October to the 18th of November.
« The words are so precious that their lovers craft them into poems and beautiful prose so that they cannot fly away. But it can be done even better; as Jean Cortot dares to do, one can walk them on long chromatic staves where they breathe fresh air and taste freedom »
Michel Déon from the Académie Française, Maeght Editeur, 1995.
From writing to painting, from the paintbrushe to the quill
Painter, passionate reader, poet and writer, Jean Cortot first defines himself as a « text predator », the texts being in the literary, poetic or philosophical vein, and he covers his canvasses as well as his bibliophilic books with them. As early as the fifties, Jean Cortot began a dialogue with writing. His paintings welcomed words, then quotes, before being filled with entire poems. « To paint what can be found in books » is at the core of his artistic process. He gives tribute to contemporary poets, his long-term companions, as well as former inspirations and recent friendships alike. Jean Giono, Louise Labé, Goethe and James Joyce cohabitate in his personal Pantheon. Connoisseur of phrases , man of letters, Jean Cortot uses the words as material, a plastic element. As Jean Tardieu said about him: « By painting my texts with his paintbrush, it was as if he added a new meaning and charm. »
« Painting is a design, writing is the design »
The exhibition displays nearly 80 artworks of Jean Cortot dating back to the last twenty years. A gifted literary scholar, Jean Cortot offers us compositions in homage to Paul Valéry, Dante, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Michel Déon, as well as Peter Ackroyd and Paul Morand. Quills or paintbrushes join in an allegorical process. His works are polyphonic and a meeting place between painting and poetry. The exhibition will furthermore present original lithographs and etchings as well as biographical books issued by Maeght Editeur.
Maeght – Cortot: a friendship of fifty years through words and writings.
A friend of André Frénaud, Jorge Semprun, Michel Butor, Fernando Arrabal, Michel Déon, Kenneth White, Jean-Michel Ribes, Guillevic, Michel Sicard as well as Jacques Busse, Jean Cortot held his first exhibition at the Galerie Maeght in 1947 where his work has been regularly displayed since.
In 1965, Jean Cortot published his first book in collaboration with an author, in which Jean Giono invited him to illustrate in etching an accompaniemtn to his text. La Charge du roi, published by Adrien Maeght in 1965, traces the major events of the Battle of Pavia. Signs appear in the inextricable fray of the fights. Jean Cortot either throws the sign into the page or the canvas, or to use this sign in order to fill them.
Conceived as series, his paintings are entitled: Painting-poems, Diverse poems, Dedicated paintings, Homage, Graves, Eulogies. Jean Cortot maintains an intense dialog with the poets, as if by moving the verses onto canvas he could elucidate or bring them under a tangential light that would reveal them; that sometimes the colours let the spectator catch sight of what the poet himself had imprisoned or submerged in the thickness of the language. Guillevic wrote: “Jean Cortot turns every poem into a composition that sings according to its own rhythm, confident and secret.”
In 2002, Jean Cortot and Maeght Editeur began a series of original etchings still in development today. Articulating the correspondences between written and visual arts, his uncompleted anthology remains an ode to creators. In his gallery of portraits “as resembling as memories can be resembling”, the artist pays tribute to Guillaume Apollinaire, Jacques Audiberti and Pierre-Jean Jouve , as well as Charles Baudelaire, Mallarmé and James Joyce.
In 2007, Maeght connected him with the Pleyel Pianos for whom he conceived a grand piano. The Galerie Maeght has been printing his original lithographs and his bibliophilic books for more than sixty years.
“It is therefore in your capacity as a conversant reader that you accept to become the copyist of sections chosen by yourself, in order to produce paintings that are real graphic flowers of the text, where poetry can not only bloom, but also reach an intensity that you immediately recognise in it, even though poetry does not prevent from the artistic action of a renewal coming from your own writing.”
Extract from the speech by Guy de Rougemont on the 11st of December 2002, during the public audience held by the Académie des Beaux-Arts for the election of Jean Cortot as a member of the Painting section.