Manoeuvres off Brest, 1959.
Oil on canvas.
Signed and dated lower left.
81 x 100 cm.
Countersigned and titled on the back.
Mr Marc Métayer has confirmed the authenticity of our painting which will be represented in the next edition of the catalogue raisonné dedicated to the artist.
This work painted by Lapicque in 1959 is part of a series realized by the artist after he attended the maneuvers of the French Navy in the roadstead of Brest, having taken place on board an aviso in the fall of 1958. His presence on board the military ship was made possible by his official function as a painter for the Navy. Indeed, Lapicque requested it in 1948, certainly to satisfy his love for the sea and at the same time to experiment with new pictorial territories. However, it should be noted that Lapicque's attraction for warships had already been manifested in 1929 ("Le torpilleur" at MNAM).
He was an approved painter of the Navy until 1966, and since 1949 he has participated every year in the Salon des Peintres de la Marine. Having never been considered by the military body in charge of the arts as truly legitimate, the artist decided to leave this function. Indeed, if we compare Lapicque's taste for unconventional modernity with the works produced by all the official painters of the Navy, the margin is such that we can understand the more than lukewarm reception that was reserved for this Lapicqueian vision which does not show the veracity of the ships, nor of their environment (sea and sky), without forgetting the sailors represented melted into the scenery
There are still the works. Each of the paintings in this series offers us an absolutely new vision of the subject. Lapicque, on board the ship, took notes and made sketches which he later used in the studio to paint the canvases.
If one were to put all the paintings on this specific subject, dating from 1958-59, side by side, one could see in them the representation of snapshots of a manoeuvre in the time of a day and a night, with the stormy movement of the ship on which Lapicque was located, in the wake of another ship leaving on the port or starboard side according to a tactic known only to the command.
When we know the importance of the artist's plastic research on the way to show in the same work the duration linked to space*, we like to see in this series the fruit of the same interrogation by a demonstration spread over several works where the notions of space and duration are perfectly in tune.
An engineer from the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, Lapicque has made long studies on colour contrasts. In "Manoeuvres off the coast of Brest", the artist endeavours to show a different reality of nature: a sky with boreal hues falling from the top of the work in successive, more or less wide horizontals, brightly coloured rocks floating on water that rises to meet the sky in a patchwork of blues and greens linked by whites, split by a ship with an airy soul.
In the foreground, the characters are totally interwoven into the general treatment of the work, mimicking the anecdote. A semblance of perspective suddenly appears when we see the other characters with reduced dimensions.
Figuration and abstraction share the surface of the painting in a language peculiar to Charles Lapicque, who said he wanted to "make the abstract figurative", giving the work an autonomy as obvious as in a totally non-figurative work.
A precursor in the 1940s with his contribution of the grid as a present and visible structure in his works, influencing his contemporaries, such as Manessier or Le Moal, to name but a few, leader of the Young Painters of French Tradition, he is also the initiator of the return to figuration up to and including Figuration Libre. Hervé Di Rosa, still today, clearly acknowledges the heritage of Charles Lapicque.
Lapicque published Essais sur l'espace, l'art et la destinée (Essays on space, art and destiny) with Grasset in 1958.
Biographical elements :
1898 : born in Théizé, in the Rhône.
His father died before he was born and his mother entrusted him to his grandparents.
From an early age Lapicque spent his summer holidays with his uncle in Brittany.
1903: study of the piano (music, Lapicque's other passion).
His uncle Louis (a renowned physiologist) welcomes him to Paris to study.
1919 : Ecole Centrale, graduated two years later.
1920 : marries Aline, with whom he will have three sons.
Lapicque paints as an amateur.
1925 : participates in the Salon des Artistes Indépendants. His decisive painting: Homage to Palestrina,