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Jean-Gabriel Chauvin biography

Jean-Gabriel Chauvin (1889-1976) was one of the most talented sculptors of his generation; that of Arp (1886-1966), Laurens (1885-1954), Pevsner (1884-1962), which succeeded that of Brancusi (1876-1957) and preceded that of Giacometti (1901-1966).

Their works, sometimes exhibited collectively, testify to the vitality and diversity of this sculpture, described as abstract.

Jean-Gabriel Chauvin, born in 1889 in Rochefort, was the only survivor of his parents' six children. His twin brother died a week after his birth.

His father, who owned some property, was a gas inspector and his mother had no profession. There was no question of art in the family, so much so that he kept secret his first sculpture, the well-named Metamorphosis, made at the age of 17, sculpted with a simple knife.

Little is known about Chauvin, exactly as he wanted. He has methodically effaced himself in front of his work. The result is a posterity centered on his work and so little on his person.

Here are the few milestones that we know certainty. After the death of his father, the young man began his apprenticeship in Paris. He entered in 1908 at the School of Decorative Arts and then at the School of Fine Arts in 1909. He attended two workshops: that of Antonin Mercié and especially that of Joseph Bernard, an important master for Chauvin, whose practitioner he was until 1914. Bernard was one of the main promoters of the revival of direct carving. This confirms Chauvin's approach, which consists of an artist sculpting his works himself, contrary to a widespread practice in the 19th century where the realization of the work was often entrusted to a practitioner, the best known example being Rodin, who conceived his works by creating models in clay and entrusted their transposition into marble to other artists.

Working in wood and stone with equal talent, Chauvin produced his first so-called abstract sculpture: L'Essor in 191. L’Essor does not describe a real object but a process, an impulse.

More than abstraction, we prefer to speak of conceptualization or better still materialization, the incarnation of a concept in material and by material. The material, here bronze, one of the most complex and noble materials of sculpture since ancient Greece, is significant in itself by its complexity and ultimately its mystery. In Essor, Chauvin mixes organic forms reminiscent of a living, carnal human body with geometric elements. Symmetry is fundamental in the construction of the Chauvin’s work, as it often is in the artist's works. Symmetry is an element shared by the organic, human beings are symmetrical and by geometry. Chauvin does not make a distinction between the human and geometric kingdoms. Generally speaking, even if he moves away from the realist trend - which he masters perfectly as his first works prove (CR 5 and 6, respectively Tête de jeune fille and Faune, between 1913 and 1920) - he keeps the essential, he purifies reality to convert it into a sculpture that condenses it, and gives it a more universal dimension and force, thanks to the power of the material, without which, it must be said, nothing exists.

In 1928, the gallery Au Sacre du Printemps organized his first solo exhibition. Later, the gallery was run by Jeanne Bucher, who continued to show Chauvin's sculptures regularly, collected by personalities with discerning taste such as his friend the sculptor François Pompon or the couturier Jacques Doucet, one of the main promoters of the Art Deco style, after having sold his collection of 18th century works.

Chauvin's works are unforgettable. The artist has the same requirement for the surface of his sculptures, which offer the light a wonderful opportunity to exist.

Chauvin divides his year into two seasons and two places: in Malakoff, in the near suburbs of Paris, in the winter and from May to December in Port-des-Barques in the Charente-Maritime where he has a small house. There he creates all his wooden sculptures in the garden, keeping the practice of drawing and modeling for his house in Malakoff.

The 30's are important for Chauvin: the architect Pierre Patout, great master of the Art Deco style, orders him a luminous basin for the mythical cruise ship Normandie.

Patout commissioned him to create a monumental concrete sculpture over 394 inches high (destroyed) for the 1937 International Exhibition, a sculpture that was placed in front of the Pavilion of the Society of Artists. The decade ends with the first purchase of the State: Le tombeau d'Eve (Centre Pompidou)

Ten years later, the Maeght Gallery organized an exhibition, considered the first retrospective of the artist's work; forty-one sculptures and drawings, it was a success.

During this period, Chauvin gave a new direction to his work by creating plaster casts featuring fantastic architectures, explosions of rhythm.

in a nutshell:

Jean-Gabriel Chauvin:

- One of the first sculptors of abstraction and one of the best representatives of "Art Deco"

- A fierce loner who dedicates himself to his work

- A freedom of thought and conception of his work

- Unique compositions mixing the geometric and the organic

- Perfectly polished surfaces that bring light into existence

The drawings of Jean-Gabriel Chauvin :

- Virtuosity of the charcoal

- Dynamics and rhythm of the compositions

- Impression of volume and movement

- Audacity of the compositions

- Sensuality of volumes

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