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Alechinsky on the paper wheel

Pierre Alechinsky (Brussels, 1927)
Composition, 1975
Work on China paper
Circular motif engraved in etching
Watercolor painting for the second motif and the borders of the frame
99 cm x 59 cm
Inv. BA.AMC.23A.1977.000771
Acquired by the City of Liege in 1976
Photo Musée des Beaux-Arts/Ville de Liège


Pierre Alechinsky was born on October 19, 1927 in Brussels, the only son of doctor parents. The artist, whose reputation has been international for several decades, lives and works in Bougival, near Paris. He has just celebrated his 95th birthday, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Liège wanted to pay tribute to him on this occasion.

The museum's collection includes several works by Alechinsky, from different periods and techniques. One of the earliest, an oil on canvas entitled Paysage calciné, with abstract and almost expressionist features, dates back to 1953, two years after the last group exhibition of the CoBrA group, organized by Alechinsky - Dotremont and Jorn were hospitalized - which took place in the same Musée des Beaux-Arts in 1951. The artist was also interested in engraving, in the studio of S. W. Hayter, as well as in calligraphy, on the occasion of a trip to Tokyo and Kyoto in 1955, where he made a film on Japanese calligraphy with the operator Ferenk Haar.

In 1965, Alechinsky opened a new stage in his artistic career by abandoning oil painting to practice acrylic painting, often on canvas or paper, then mounted on canvas: Central Park, with its main motif and its "marginal remarks", or predella (small boxes of elements, sometimes abstract, sometimes figurative, surrounding the central motif and relating to it), constitutes the manifesto of this major orientation. Acrylics became practically the artist's exclusive medium for over twenty years. The collection of the Beaux-Arts de Liège includes a painting on canvas from 1968, The Sad Dragon, which has no predella, but is representative of the fluidity of gesture that the painter brought to bear with acrylics during this period.

Alechinsky, who exhibited with Karel Appel in 1983 at the Salle Saint-Georges, as well as at the Liège gallery of the Cirque Divers, whose turbulent and irreverent spirit he appreciated, produced from that year onwards, and in several cities (New York, Rome, Arles, Brussels...) several series of Indian ink prints on paper: manhole covers, "manholes", "manhole stamps", cast iron mouths and grates, also spotted in Boussu (in Hainaut) or in Cité ardente. The Ville de Liège - Egout, a print dated 1984, acquired by the City in 2000 from the Friends of the Circus Divers, bears witness to this. The graphic work takes on a significant scope over the years and experiments with different printers, and the artist multiplies the practices on the same medium by intertwining them, thus thwarting the too strict categories of artistic work.

The work currently exhibited at La Boverie, a Composition from 1975, combines and unites two distinct techniques: painting and the use of engraving. Here, an etching on paper, circular in shape (recurrent in the artist's work), which can represent a wheel, a propeller, an umbrella or a snail shell seen from above. Below, the artist has painted in watercolor a character with a blue head, resting on broad shoulders. Behind him, a large yellow halo that could remind us of a field of wheat, a green background of foliage, and, on the left side, the beginning of a snake's head (another motif often present), which encircles the whole scene in brown. Small brushstrokes of different colors surround the two main motifs and form a sort of frame for the work. It illustrates both the technical mastery (the etching) and the spontaneity of the thoughtful gesture (the painting). Alechinsky has often defined himself as "a painter who came from the printing industry", in memory of his (relatively brief) stay at the Ecole de La Cambre in Brussels, where he studied book illustration, engraving and typography just after the Second World War.

Alain Delaunois
Scientific Attaché

La Boverie - Museum of Fine Arts