Apollo Magazine (UK)
Salon du Dessin Preview
Jo Lawson-Tancred selects her highlights of the fair
Jo Lawson-Tancred selects her highlights of the fair
Come the end of March, a familiar set of drawing devotees will assemble in Paris for the 29th edition of Salon du Dessin. The tight-knit fair is staying true to its traditions by admitting just 39 participants, only four of them newcomers, into the longcherished venue of Palais Brongniart in the Place de la Bourse. The Salon’s president, Louis de Bayser, enjoys the convivial atmosphere of the fair, the compactness and specialist focus of which he believes makes for an ‘intimate and sensitive exhibition space’, one in which even small-scale sketches can be seen to advantage.
At his own booth, De Bayser is particularly excited to introduce visitors to a double-sided sheet by Giovanni Antonio de Sacchis, or Il Pordenone, which features a powerful male torso in black chalk at the recto’s centre (Fig. 2) and a seemingly more impromptu figure sketch and study for a left arm in red on the verso. ‘Whether it’s from the 16th or the 20th century, a drawing is often an artist’s first thought, the creative part in the process of making a painting or sculpture,’ he says. In Pordenone’s case, the sketches were dress rehearsals for the dramatic scenes that would later unfold in his multi-storey Passion frescoes at Cremona cathedral.
Newcomer to the fair Kiyomaru Taménaga is putting forward an alternative perspective on drawing. ‘People sometimes think works on paper are worth less than paintings, but in Asia there is a long history of using ink on paper and treating it as a finished piece,’ he says. ‘The Salon is an opportunity to showcase this concept to the Western world.’ His presentation mixes contemporary and modern artists, including four works by the Japanese-French painter and printmaker Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886–1968), who met the gallery’s founder, Taménaga’s grandfather, as a fellow Japanese expat in Paris. His drawings will stand out here for their incisive and assured lines, with relatively spare shading.
A contrasting effect is achieved in a dark crayon sketch by Seurat, La pluie (1882–83), which travels from New York with W.M. Brady & Co. Densely worked and blearily out of focus, the drawing feels far removed from the clarity of composition achieved by the artist’s usual pointillist technique. We can make out a man to the lower left but, as the work’s title suggests, its principal subject is the surrounding torrent of rain. Those more interested in the figure and the face will prefer a strikingly intimate portrait by Vigée Le Brun of her chambermaid, Adélaïde Landry, courtesy of Galerie Eric Coatalem (Fig. 3). The sitter shoots us a mincing but meaningful glance as one hand prevents her robe from falling any further off her shoulder. Two women in a redchalk study by Watteau are, by comparison,
generously enveloped by their dress. The loose-fitting coats fall in a cascade of creases, in a manner familiar from the artist’s bestknown works.
Galerie de la Présidence brings to the Salon a series of works by Marcel Gromaire, in which statuesque figures inhabiting flat, colourful seaside scenes from the 1920s and beyond are visibly indebted to Cézanne and the cubist artists who came after him. A similar rigidity enters the poses of his later female nudes, the spirited subjects of which face the viewer with their peculiar combination of burly physiques and bouffant hairstyles. A cartoon from 1970 by Picasso finds the artist musing on the relationship between artist and model, a theme that he returned to almost obsessively in the final decades of his life. The artist’s hand looms large over a reclining woman while his own contorted body is rendered in a dizzying mass of swirling lines so that he almost becomes one with the wallpaper. Found in the booth of first-time exhibitor Galerie Boulakia, it is a startling glimpse of the act of creation.
The Salon’s annual symposium makes public the research of museum curators and academics, who gather this year to discuss ‘The Art of Gardens on Paper: Designing, Projecting, Representing’. Alberta Campitelli, head of Rome’s artistic cultural heritage department, will speak on ‘Francesco Bettini and the diffusion of the Anglo-Chinese garden’, while a 15th-century book illustrating medicinal plants will be presented by manuscript specialists Alexandre Leducq and Julie Tyrlik. The botanical theme can be found in full bloom throughout the fair, with 40 nature-inspired works travelling there from the Musées de Marseille, from the beginning of the 17th to the end of the 19th centuries, with works by Puget, Fragonard and Corot among the highlights.
Martin Moeller, a Salon veteran, finds it the ideal place to meet not just collectors but also curators of works on paper from across Europe and America. ‘It gives them a place to come together, and even to organise future exhibitions with their colleagues,’ he says. Moeller this year brings from his Hamburg gallery a series of portraits and French impressions of Roman architecture. Taking some inspiration from this year’s theme, a few works will speak to the richly varied interpretations that the natural world can often prompt. Compared to a serenely conventional forest scene by the landscape artist Walter Leistikow from around 1890, Dream of the Little Bird (1929), a Surrealist-inspired multicoloured vision by Hans Reichel, is nothing short of wacky.
In a more subdued untitled watercolour by Sam Szafran, the elegant fan leaves of a shrub from his atelier become weightless and stylised against a blank background (Fig. 1). The work is brought to the Salon by Galerie Berès as a tribute to the artist, who died in 2019. It will be exhibited alongside a silverpoint study typical of its creator, Victor Koulbak, whose Renaissance-inspired technique allows for a near photographic level of detail and tonal depth. This depiction of a squirrel from 2014 might be easily overlooked in the company of grander compositions, yet rewards the lingering eye. With each individual strand of its fur made visible, the subject gives the impression of being about to scamper off the page. Ⓐ
Salon du Dessin takes place at Palais Brongniart, Paris, from 25–30 March. For more information, go to www.salondudessin.com.