Wednesday, November 14, 2012


French Primitivism and the Ends of Empire, 1945-1975 by Daniel J. Sherman came out last year from University of Chicago Press with one of the best-designed dust jackets ever to be seen on an academic publication (though unfortunately the flap copy does not credit the designer by name). The cover sculpture – Totem Oiseau (1963) – introduced me to the work of Gaston Chaissac (1910-1964), an uneducated man from rural France who made a minor splash on the Paris art market of the 1940s and 50s with his "primitive" sculptures, paintings and collages. Sherman also devoted most of his color plates to selections from Chaissac's career, using them to discuss how the world of art registered the impact of France's disintegrating colonial empire in the middle of the 20th century.

 Bouquet with a Yellow Question Mark (1945)

 Totem (1961)

 Le Fumiste (1949-50)

Totem (1960)

Untitled (1955)

Untitled (1959)

Les Gémeaux (1961)

The artist photographed by Robert Doisneau in 1952