Paris, France — Strange staircases, surprising studios, fantastical foliage. The themes of Sam Szafran’s canvases are intriguing, eye-catching and embody the same pervasive themes, yet each one offers a different form of expression. The Musée de l’Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens is offering the first posthumous retrospective of the artist’s work. The French painter died in 2019. His works are atypical, figurative, poetic and fantasy filled. Perhaps a reflection of a difficult childhood. He was born in Paris in 1934 to a family of Jewish-Polish origins. His childhood was marked by World War II — he escaped the Vel d’Hiv roundup of Jews in Paris and hid in the countryside — and experienced the traumatic loss of family members. From the early 1960s he would turn to a world of artistic solitude.
The show, entitled Obsessions of a Painter, brings together over 60 pastels, watercolors and charcoal drawings focusing on the three main themes that have spanned his paintings: workshops, staircases and foliage, abundant foliage. In the spring of 1966, Sam Szafran discovered a philodendron in the Paris studio lent to him by the Chinese painter Zao Wou-Ki. « I was totally incapable of working there: I was fascinated by a magnificent philodendron gleaming under the skylight, which I found impossible to draw. This impotence became an obsession, » commented Szafran. And so for half a century, he returned tirelessly to depicting a few plants, the Philodendron or Monstera deliciosa, a tropical plant that can grow to dizzying dimensions and the ample and abundant aralias. These works embodied proliferation and were mostly large-format watercolors.
The exhibition is an invitation to explore the painter’s work through the myriad variations within his various themes – the rue de Crussol workshop (1969-1972), the greenhouses and foliage (1968-2014/16), the Bellini printing house (1972-1976), the staircases (1974-2005) and the urban landscapes (1997-2014) – focusing, for the first time, on the work’s development processes. Notebooks, polaroid albums, photographic montages and a short film produced at the workshop shed new light on the creation of his fascinating and mysterious images. The exhibition is running until January 16th. ©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette. https://www.musee-orangerie.fr/en
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