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05/02/12

Jacques POIRIER (1928-2002)

"La cultura è una cosa lodevole.
Ma di tanto in tanto
meglio ricordare che nulla
che valga la pena sapere
può essere insegnato."

~ Oscar Wilde ~






























Jacques Poirier (1928-2002) was a French master painter who lived in Paris near St Germain-des-Pres. His paintings were done in the realist "Trompe l'Oeil" style with a mastery and a poetry rarely seen in this genre.
He came to painting quite late after a successful career as an illustrator. Poirier was a contemplative and although his subjects included a bric-a-brac of objects, antiques and other improbable unusable curiosities displayed in ever complex settings, the true subject of his art was natural light and the contemplation of its magical glow. His canvas included riddles and humour -sometimes self-deriding- was often present. He was arguably the best artist in the genre.
Many of his riddles are rebuses, and the simplest are transliterated in the title (e.g. "Pourquoi Faire Simple", "Le Discours De La Méthode", "Petit Hommage A Ce Beau Sexe Tant Chéri" etc.). Others are significantly more complex and long. "Histoire D'H" would be a good example of such an elaborate painting. Starting with the title, we can note on the humoristic side that the capital letter "H" can be interpreted as standing for "Histoire avec un grand H" –History, spelled with a capital H- the expression French speakers use when they want to signify that a given story is significant historically. The title "Histoire D’H" can therefore be seen as humoristic when it is appraciated in a self-referring sense. Naturally, in addition, capital "H" in the title is also a direct reference to Hélène of Troy (Helen of Troy) since this painting re-tells at great length her story, in block letters, starting with L-N-N-É-O-P-Y, translating "Hélène was born in Greek land", ending with blocks showing L-Y-E-D-C and a dice (sounding "D" in French), the end translating "she died there" (see alphabet parlant), as a conclusion to the story (with many more details in between). Another of his painting, "Chanson D'Automne", is the transliteration of a famous poem by Paul Verlaine (same title).
Poirier's rebuses come often witty with multiple levels of translation and understanding. His work "Artnica" (a play on Arnica) is a prime example. It is a life size crossword puzzle grid, where words are spelled with objects arranged in wooden boxes. Poirier included a dictionary titled "La Rousse & Le Robert" illustrated by the famous Gabrielle d'Estrée a bare breasted redhead woman. The dictionary's cover page translates pictorially "La Rousse & Le Robert" since "la rousse" means redhead woman (Gabrielle D'Estrée) and "roberts" is old fashioned French slang for breast. Further, the title itself is a joke that associates the names of the two most common rival French language dictionaries "Larousse" and "Robert".

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