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Jean Fautrier

Dépouille

1945

One translation of Dépouille is “human remains.” This painting is from Jean Fautrier’s series Otages (or, “Hostages”), a response to the horrors inflicted by Nazi soldiers in German-occupied France during World War II. Born in Paris, Fautrier was educated in London but served in the French army during World War I. Returning to Paris in 1940 but unable to serve because of injuries sustained during that war, Fautrier was temporarily detained by the Gestapo because of his involvement in the resistance. He subsequently fled to a sanatorium in the Parisian suburb of Châtenay-Malabry, where he painted within earshot of the woods where German forces conducted massacres at night. The artist developed a technique of gluing layers of paper to canvas to create an absorbent skin-like surface on which he applied a thick impasto to render a form that may resemble a brutalized or half-buried head; in this way, Fautrier used relief painting to evoke the desecration of the body.

Jean Fautrier (b. 1898, Paris; d. 1964, Châtenay-Malabry, France)
Dépouille, 1945
Mixed media on paper mounted on linen
45 x 57 in.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
The Panza Collection

Painting is something that can only destroy itself, that must destroy itself in order to reinvent itself. —Jean Fautrier

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