Jean-Pierre Cassigneul, the unpopular one in France

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Its rating peaked but it is invariable. His work combines over fifty years using the same grammar. Against the tide without trying to be, it can be laughed at in the sulking French museums because abroad it has been successful for a long time. Jean-Pierre Cassigneul is a contemporary classicist, who celebrates France without it reflecting well on him. Focus on the work of a great French painter.

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His painting “In the Rose Garden” sold for $893,000 last November at Sotheby’s, seven times more than its lowest estimate, crowning the painter with a new record, and ranking him among the five best-selling French artists in the world. He is represented by the Tamenaga gallery and exhibited in Paris, but also in Japan and the United States. Why does his name remain so unknown?

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The answer is simple: he is anything but a contemporary artist in the strictest sense of the word. His classical training in the Fine Arts, his inspiration from the currents of the late nineteenth century make him suspect. No conceptual art, no excessive marketing, none of the outrageousness of Hirst: one can easily imagine the painter, brush in hand, in his workshop. Here he borrows from the palette of the Fauves, the flatness of the Nabis, and all their sensitivity to transfigure mundane scenes of idleness. There is nothing morbid, no large spectacle, nothing more than a middle-class daily newspaper.

Cassigneul is neither a man of fashion, nor a lady’s man. He is not famous for anything but this: Elegance. A secret Parisian with a milk-white complexion, who pulls from his hat the scenes of the side-walks of Foch Avenue, or the Bois de Boulogne to the Hippodrome of Longchamp. He often surprises with his walks in the woods, romantic subjects and the excellence of worldly theater to the pastoral scenes preceding World War I unless it doesn’t grasp a far off look made from a balcony or from a Norman holiday. More flirtatious than the mere lady of the house, teh Parisian girl seems inaccessible and imperturbable, at once dreamy and melancholic. Oblong eyes that are practically slanted, the make-up of a Geisha: one can understand the infatuation of the Japanese with this artist who subtly disorients his model..

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There is of course the violence: flowers compete against elegant beauty and color. There is even indecency: when the worldly are rather long solitary stems, the flowers are fleshy and rendered without the least restraint in gardens or large bouquets. The rest is poetry, that is really all there is to say.

Jourdain Vannier Thanks for this article!

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