1999 · Paris
Large folio. 13 3/4" x 20" Unbound as issued with printed text and etchings and two original lithographsfor the covers. Wrappers, sleeve and, folding cloth case. Text printed by Pierre Jean Mathan & PascalDuriez; etchings printed at L’atelier Lacouričre et Frélaut; Lithographs printed by Jean-Michel Machet;Folding case designed and printed Dermont-Duval. Text Translated into French by Ernest Renan.
Included are three printed documents by Les Amis du Livre Contemporain plus a menu for thepublication dinner L'Ecclésiaste bearing a double-page original lithograph by Debré. One of the documents is a typed announcement of about 8 March 1999 by Yves Benoit-Catting, President of LesAmis du Livre Contemporain, who states the “page de justification” with the name of the Club memberand number of the edition are not included “en raison d’un incident de santé. These were never issued asDebré died . 1 June 1999
A master of “Lyrical Abstraction,” Olivier Debré was a major painter of color fields of the Post-Warperiod. His art has been exhibited in many countries. Also he is well know for his stage sets and curtainsdone for the Comédie Française (1987), for the Hong Kong Opera (1989) and for the new ShanghaiOpera House. He also did the décor for a contemporary ballet: Signes. presented at the Bastille Opera inParis in 1997 and performed again in July 2013.
Debré developed his avant-garde exploration of abstraction further by creating increasingly minimalgestural compositions in a style he termed “L’Abstraction Fervent.”
Instead of using colors the etchings for L'Ecclésiaste are printed on thick Arches paper, richly inked inshades of black and grays, with the etching plate worked heavily with gouge tools. The laborious etchingprocess shows a paper surface cratered with pockmarks and thick with ink piled on the surface. Theintention undoubtedly is for the artist to show the basic elements of creation, life, death, the theme ofKohelet (Ecclesiastes).
For those unfamiliar with Debré’s career, excerpts from two obituaries will undoubtedly be revealing:
Obituary: Olivier Debre by James Kirkup* Wednesday 09 June 1999. The Independent
Olivier Debre, painter: born Paris 14 April 1920; married (one son, one daughter); died Paris 1 June 1999.He was the grandson of the Chief Rabbi, Simon Debre. His father, Robert Debre, was a renownedpaediatrician, Membre de l'Institut, who is remembered in the children's hospital that was named afterhim. Olivier's elder brother Michel became a great statesman, an intimate of President Charles de Gaulle,and Prime Minister of France from 1959 to 1962. He was also a writer and scholar, and a member of theAcademie Francaise. At first, inspired by Le Corbusier, whom he got to know well, he wanted to be anarchitect, but at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, which he entered in 1938, he eventuallychanged to the painting course.
Unlike Giacometti's sculptures and paintings of the human figure, Debre's beings have no representationalforce at all, and have no human or humanist connotations. They are simply gorgeously coloured verticals,impressively immobile, icons of utter solitude. At this point, his work displayed something like theabstract aesthetics of Gerard Schneider, Andre Lanskoy or Hans Hartung.
It was Debre who created the monumental sculpture we see in front of the parking lot at the entrance tothe Channel Tunnel. In 1995, he had a truly magnificent retrospective in Paris at the Jeu de Paume, wherehis gigantic spreads of pensive, articulate colour found their ideal frame, along with other large-scaleartists like Pierre Alechinsky, Jean-Michel Atlan and Simon Hantal.
Obituary: Olivier Debre, 79, a Leader Of France's Abstract Artists
By ALAN RIDING*2 in the New York Times.
Published: June 6, 1999
PARIS, June 2— Olivier Debre, one of France's best-known abstract painters of the postwar era, whoselarge-format works include the stage curtain at the Comedie Francaise, died here on Tuesday. He was 79and lived in Paris…President Jacques Chirac, Culture Minister Catherine Trautmann and former CultureMinister Jack Lang were among those paying homage to Mr. Debre today. ''Rigorous, passionate,demanding, he paved the way toward abstraction,'' Mr. Chirac said. ''His desire to convey his messagemade him a great teacher.''
Eager to evoke emotion through abstraction, he created what he called ''signes-personnages'' (figurativesigns) and ''signes-paysages'' (landscape signs) that seemed to hint at recognizable forms. He used thisapproach in the monumental works for which he became most celebrated, starting with the vastornamental paintings he did for the French pavilions at World's Fairs in Montreal in 1967 and in Osaka,Japan, in 1970.
*1 James Falconer Kirkup, [1918-2009] was a prolific English poet, translator and travel writer. He wroteover 30 books, including autobiographies, novels and plays. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society ofLiterature in 1962
*2 Alan Riding (born 8 December 1943, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) is a British author and journalist. He wasa long-time foreign correspondent for The New York Times, most recently as the paper’s EuropeanCultural Correspondent based in Paris. His latest book is And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-OccupiedParis
Numerous museum retrospectives have also celebrated Debré’s work, including: 1968 Musée deBordeaux; 1969 Musée de Brest; Musée Saint-Etienne; 1975 Musée d’Art Moderne de Ville de Paris;1977 National Museum of Wales, Cardiff; 1978 Musée d’Aalborg, Denmark, and Lyngby Kunstforening,Copenhagen; 1979 Maison de la Culture Montbéliard; 1980 Strasburg, 1986 Metz; 1988 Montauban;1990 Saint Denis; 1995 Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris (Inventory #: 1325)