Whilst Abstract Expressionism in America was celebrated by critics such as Clement Greenberg for its autonomous self-referentiality, the European equivalent “Abstraction Lyrique” can often be distinguished for being outwardly referential, even to the extent of being termed “Abstract Impressionism” in parts.
The prevailing atmosphere in war-torn Europe was one of trauma, where doubt threatened to obscure faith, and existentialism erode belief. Rather than use abstraction to champion man’s transcension of nature, in Europe abstraction was often conversely applied to landscape during the early post-war years, in an atavistic urge to draw succour from the infallibility and relative permanence of nature. Not necessarily to depict landscape, but to express and distil the sensation that it evokes. Christine Boumeester wrote that “nature seemed to me to be the principal thing of which all was a part”. For many artists, through history, nature represented the ideal, and Arcadia, since classical Greece, has been an Edenic aspiration of man within nature.
This exhibition presents a selection of works encapsulating this trait in European art, such as Marie Raymond’s large gestural expressionistic work “Montagne” from 1961; Jean Le Moal’s lyrical “Les Arbres” 1954; Jean Chevolleau’s vibrant kaleidoscopic “Rue Ocre à Tolèdo”, and Christine Boumeester’s mystical composition “Paysage aux Chevaux” 1953; as well as Jean Piaubert’s earthy mix media relief suggestive more of a martian landscape “Monde Auroral” 1965.
Other artists include Henri-George Adam, René Duvilier, Emile Gilioli, Jacques Lagrange, James Pichette, Léon Zack.