In the eye of the Vauclair gallery : Triptych representing a theater scene

During the Flea Festival, the Galerie Vauclair presents a superb triptych representing a theater scene, French School, dated 1920

This large triptych painted in the 1920s represents a happy theater scene, in the gallant spirit of the 18th century In this festive setting, the painter has hidden many small comical and tendentious details, which are worth looking at them with attention

A tasty iconography:

The central panel presents an assembly of gentlemen and noble ladies, taking their place on the steps of an open-air theater, surrounded by architectures overgrown with vegetation A spectator even climbed on a tree branch so as not to miss a thing of the event They watch with attention the play that takes place on the stage to the right of the composition, where Harlequin courts a woman with reddened cheeks and the white dress: Colombine Arlequin is a typical character of the commedia dell'arte, appeared in the 16th century in Italy He is recognizable by his colorful costume covered with diamonds, which would symbolize the many facets of his personality, as well as his poverty In the theater, Harlequin embodies the role of the comic valet and shows buffoonery He is often staged in love of Colombine, the beautiful mischievous woman who leads him by the tip of her nose And thus places herself as a rival of Pierrot, who on this canvas, watches the gallant parade from the wings, passing his head Through the stage curtain Pierrot is recognizable thanks to his strawberry and his white make-up wood In these wings, other actors change, ready to take over Finally, on the right is the orchestra playing at the foot of the stage

This gallant and joyful atmosphere continues on the right panel, which shows a greasy pole whose top is cut At the top of the pole stands a man dressed in a yellow doublet, who reaches out to catch an object that comes out of the pole. frame of the painting At the foot of this pole, in a charming flower garden, a man tenderly kisses the shoulder of a young woman, both paying no attention to the feat of their fellow climber The pole of plenty is a traditional game popular practice of climbing up a pole to grab one or more of the objects hanging from it.The pole is usually as smooth as possible, and almost always coated with grease or soap, to make climbing more difficult. top is equipped with a cart wheel on which the prizes to be won are suspended: sweets, sausages, toys, various objects

Finally, the left panel depicts an equally tasty scene, which competes in acrobatics with the previous one A man and a woman have developed an incredible installation to take a look at the other side of a high wall, which certainly blocks their view of the scene unfolding on the central panel. roof of the vehicle The lady climbs to the top first to enjoy a better view But her companion, mounted on the ladder after her, enjoys an equally pleasant view under the skirts of her beautiful One last figure is present in the foreground: it is about a hunter mounted on horseback and armed with a blunderbuss, who takes a look at the adventure that unfolds behind him

The contrasts of the composition:

The three panels of this triptych respond to each other by their iconography and their symbolism, but also by their composition.. On the two additional scenes, it features characters ascending to the top of the canvases, standing out against a large blue sky wide open, which reinforces the impression of monumentality that emerges from the triptych This feeling is accentuated by the fact that the composition cuts the scene in both cases: the mast of plenty is incomplete and we do not know with certainty why the couple climbs over the wall The painter thus keeps the interpretations open, leaving the spectator's imagination to complete the scenes and giving the impression of an infinite composition Conversely, the artist represents on the central panel a scene where the perspectives are closed by architectures, where the vegetation gains the space of the sky, and where the crowd gives a feeling of isolation This choice of composition makes it possible to immerse the spectator in the heart of the event and to share the celebration with the characters

A style marked by numerous references to the History of Art:

At first glance, it may seem surprising to find such a representation very inspired by the pastoral work and the gallant festivals of Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), at the beginning of the 20th century, while the avant-gardes are in full swing on the stage. artistic Indeed, the painter Watteau invented in the eighteenth century the pictorial genre of the "fête galante" This genre features playful outdoor meetings organized by wealthy aristocrats from 1715 until the 1770s After the death of Louis XIV in 1715, the French aristocracy abandons the splendours of the court of Versailles for the follies and the more intimate townhouses of Paris where its members, elegantly dressed, can indulge in playing, courting and staging themselves in 'after the Italian commedia dell'arte This light, romantic and sometimes comical genre spread in the 18th century through the works of Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806)

A second influence of the eighteenth century is perceptible in the treatment of architectures invaded by vegetation, in the background This way of representing characters in the middle of ancient or Renaissance architectures, sometimes in ruins, and always taken over by flora, is typical of the style of Hubert Robert (1733-1808), who was also very close to Fragonard

However, the artist also draws his references from the art of the nineteenth century The rapid brushstroke with the use of large flat areas of matt colors, the choice of making figures in silhouettes without marked details especially at the level of the faces, and the palette dominated by a fairly neutral background in shades of green and beige, enhanced with brightly colored tips, recalls the manner of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Indeed, Toulouse-Lautrec is also interested in festive scenes - but rather of the contemporary Parisian nightlife - which he represents on unprepared canvases with very little mixed pure colors

But our triptych testifies to a decorative taste that one finds more in the Nabis painters at the end of the 19th century The Nabi current is characterized by the meticulousness of the representation of fabrics and clothing, with always very ornamental motifs. scene of richly dressed characters, in gardens or pretty interiors The nabis use the vertical format a lot for their works, influenced by Japan (screens and kakemonos) We find in this triptych a marked attention in the representation of the costumes, whose colors vivid and varied patterns stand out against the neutral background We also find the vertical format, with which the painter plays. Great artists of the historical avant-garde represent portraits of this emblematic character, such as Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) or Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) We can therefore imagine that the artist, still unidentified, who signs this triptych possessed a remarkable visual culture, to disseminate in his work as many quotations to the History of Past Art