A BIG, BOLD NEW BOOK: FRANÇOIS JAUVION’S TRIBUTE TO ART BRUT AND OUTSIDER ART MASTERS

A FRENCH ARTIST EXPANDS HIS COLORFUL BILLET-DOUX TO SELF-TAUGHT ICONS



L’imagier Singulier de François Jauvion, Tome 2
illustrations by François Jauvion; preface by Michel Thévoz; introduction by Christian Berst; artists’ portraits by Marie Sün; entries about artists by various contributors
Paris: Les éditions lelivredart, 2024
ISBN: 978-2-35532-413-0 50
50 euros

The cover of the new book, L’imagier Singulier de François Jauvion, Tome 2, which has been published in France by lelivredart. Photo courtesy of François Jauvion


by Edward M. Gómez


François Jauvion is a French artist based in the Paris region who for many years made his living primarily as a model-maker. He had long been interested in unusual art forms when, eventually, he learned about and started exploring the world of art brut.

In 2020, Les éditions lelivredart published the first volume of L’imagier Singulier de François Jauvion, in which the artist paid tribute to some very well-known and, to non-European admirers of art brut, some less well-known creators in this art-historical field, whose name the French modern artist Jean Dubuffet coined in 1945.

Looking back at how his ambitious, two-volume project developed, Jauvion recently told brutjournal, “After many years working three-dimensionally, I wanted to explore drawing. Everything began with a white sheet of paper, on which I wanted to tell a story.” At first, Jauvion drew nude figures in the center of each sheet of paper, surrounding each one with images of his or her respective personal belongings and garments.

The entry about the American outsider artist Bill Traylor (circa 1853-1949) in L’imagier Singulier de François Jauvion, Tome 2. Photo courtesy of François Jauvion

He recalled, “a bum, a prostitute, a politician, a farmer, a researcher —  I executed about 50 portraits and then I wanted to draw an artist. I began by drawing [the French art brut creator] André Robillard, and that was a revelation. Peeling away the layers of an artist’s identity like that allowed me to better to go back and immerse myself in his or her universe. I liked this very much, so I decided to draw more artists just for pleasure.”

That enjoyable activity soon developed a momentum and purpose of its own. Jauvion explained, “After producing about a dozen such portraits, I told myself that it would be interesting to assemble them together into a book. The art dealer Hervé Courtaigne liked this project and allowed me to carry it out by purchasing one artist drawing each month over a period of two years, thereby affording me the time I needed to produce the first volume of L’imagier Singulier.”

With the help of his friend Françoise Monnin, the editor of the French art magazine Artension, who has authored several books about art brut, Jauvion reached out to some of the world’s best-known art historians specializing in this field and invited them to contribute texts about the various artists whose portraits he was creating.

The entry about Anna Zemánková (1908-1986), a Moravian-born, Czech maker of lush drawings she created while in a trance. From L’imagier Singulier de François Jauvion, Tome 2. Photo courtesy of François Jauvion

In deciding which art brut and outsider art creators to feature in what would become two volumes of his big art-and-research project, he chose those whose works and life stories especially touched him; he also made a point of including many of the main historical figures in the two related art categories. “The list of artists whose portraits I’d like to draw is limitless,” Jauvion observed. He said, “I discover more every day, thanks to my impassioned contacts and collectors, and also with help from social-media networks.”

Jauvion’s drawing style suggests affinities with such varied sources as cartoons and how-to guides, underground comics, and illuminated manuscripts. In this new volume of L’imagier Singulier, each full-page, color image pays homage to a different figure in the canon of art brut and outsider art, along with some so-called singulier artists who are probably better known in France and Europe than they are in the United States. Jauvion noted that he spent up to 70 hours working on a single artist’s portrait.

In the new book, Jauvion turns his attention — and his fine line and colors — to such subjects as Bill Traylor (circa 1853-1949), filling a page with that iconic outsider artist from the American South’s iconic, silhouetted farm animals and top-hatted gentlemen, and to Anna Zemánková (1908-1986), the Moravian-born, Czech maker of abstract drawings filled with beautifully shaded colors and lush, organic forms.

Jauvion’s portrait of Shinichi Sawada (born 1982), a contemporary, Japanese creator of art brut ceramics. From L’imagier Singulier de François Jauvion, Tome 2. Photo courtesy of François Jauvion

The contemporary Japanese art brut creator Shinichi Sawada (born 1982) is depicted, too, with his spikey, unglazed-clay, spooky-monster sculptures, and so is Reinaldo Eckenberger (1938-2017), an Argentine artist who, as a young boy, watched attentively whenever a couturière visited his mother to do fittings for custom-made clothes. Eckenberger went on to make elaborate, theatrical-feeling fabric dolls.

Other artists portrayed by Jauvion in his new book include the French painter Séraphine de Senlis (1864-1942), the French painter and maker of mixed-media works Alain Lacoste (1935-2022), and Isaiah Henry Robertson (1947-2020), who transformed his residence in Niagara Falls into a “Second Coming House.” Many more distinctive artists, each with his or her own unusual story, are represented in Jauvion’s book.

Jauvion’s portrait of Isaiah Henry Robertson (1947-2020), who transformed his residence in Niagara Falls into a “Second Coming House.” From L’imagier Singulier de François Jauvion, Tome 2. Photo courtesy of François Jauvion

L’imagier Singulier de François Jauvion, Tome 2 may be purchased from its publisher’s website, here. Ordering instructions appear in French. Click on “Acheter en ligne” (“Purchase online”) and follow the prompts allowing you to order and pay for the book using PayPal.

An option also appears on that website page allowing a customer to send a message to Jauvion asking him to sign a copy of the book with a customized dedication. In that case, place a book order using that website-based e-mail-message option, asking the artist to process the order.

Jauvion’s project is far from finished. He told us, “I’m deeply grateful to the art dealers, journalists, writers, collectors, passionate aficionados, artists, and the team at Les éditions lelivredart who have supported this effort. The third volume in the series will be published in 2026-2027.”

Jauvion’s portrait of the French painter Séraphine de Senlis (1864-1942). From L’imagier Singulier de François Jauvion, Tome 2. Photo courtesy of François Jauvion
Jauvion’s portrait of Reinaldo Eckenberger (1938-2017), an Argentine maker of elaborate fabric dolls. From L’imagier Singulier de François Jauvion, Tome 2. Photo courtesy of François Jauvion