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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Clovis Trouille, l’érotisme sans peur et sans reproche

by Ixchel Delaporte

Clovis Trouille: The Erotic Without Fear or Reproach

Translated Monday 27 August 2007, by Natasha Dowd

Art. The Picardie Museum introduces a retrospective look at this moderately known artist admired by surrealists such as André Breton, Aragon and Eluard.

Half naked, a crown of thorns on his head, his eyes gazing towards the sky, he is of rosy complexion, with red lips and gleaming white teeth, laughing so hard he cries. His low-pitched laugh rises in the nave of Amiens’ immense cathedral, with its stained-glass windows and gothic archways. Jeering at all those honours and all those many splendors… He alone dares, the Christ. [The cathedral] is the Great Poem of Amiens. In the same cathedral, on another canvas, a couple languishingly embraces. "The Kiss of the Confessor", she with lipstick red as blood, mascara and a beauty mark at the corner of her mouth. He with shoulder length hair, red lips, a look of love in his eyes as he leans over her, his hand on her breast. Their bodies intertwine below the stained-glass gazes of kings. A nun and a priest stand out against a somber background. The contrast is striking.

The artist Clovis Trouille goes against the current, with lightness, irony and obstinacy. He has continued to paddle upstream in a river of Christian morality, military patriotism and bourgeois ostentation. The Picardie Museum is currently paying homage to this artist. With a name worthy of a pseudonym (to have "la trouille" means to be afraid in French) this painter, from the Picardie region (1889-1975), topples deeply enrooted myths. His erotic and gaudy work delivers a slap in the face to both religion and war (Trouille considered war to be an "infamy". One which had permanently traumatised him.) After his studies at the Ecole de beaux-arts in Amiens from 1905-1910 and having worked in illustration in Paris, he was drafted on 2 August 1914. The war made him an "anarchist" and his painting followed suit.

"Remembrance’s" figurative violence makes the painting impelling. It features two dead soldiers, one German the other French, in their hands they hold two white rabbits and two wooden crosses. On the battlefield a white-haired cardinal cloaked in red with a robe and garter belt bestows his blessing upon a military commander. A nude woman, her body contorted, wears a red, white and blue garter and leaves a trail of military medals behind her. This piece of work, presented at the Revolutionary Artists Show, caused a sensation with surrealists such as Aragon, Eluard and Breton.

Was Trouille a surrealist? "Anarchist, surrealist… I don’t know. I paint what I love, I paint feminine beauty. For me everything is erotic. It is the most wonderful feeling" explains Trouille in a documentary featured during the museum visit. Clovis Trouille, a non conformist, was able to peel away the layers and reveal the defects of the right-wing western society of the time. For example "Bikini " depicts a French colony. In the distance in the middle of a field of wheat there is a French soldier leading a group of spahis soldiers. On the side of the road a priest with his head in his hands contemplates a skull and crossbones. Barely hidden behind a few stalks of wheat three white women sunbathe in bikinis. The hypocrisy of their mission to "civilize" is thereby unmasked.

In his work obscenity is exemplified in the bodies of those who supposedly uphold moral values. On the other hand eroticism envelops the generous flesh of free, beautiful, sadomasochist women. In "Oh! Calcutta! Calcutta!" the woman lying with her back facing us exhibits one thing: " The ass of Oh! Calcutta forms a perfect circle designed to suggest the conquest of the moon," writes Clovis Trouille. Some of his pieces have some of the same attributes as English Pop Art. In "Souvenir without Suite" a female face straight out of a 1950s ad campaign stares out at the spectators revealing three very yellow bananas. In the background three nuns with covered faces piously read the bible. The dichotomy between the two images is arresting.

Fascinated or amused by his own mortality Clovis Trouille painted a triptych of paintings entitled: "My funeral", (1940), "My Burial", (1945) and "My Grave", (1947-1962). The first painting displays a magnificent carriage passing through the streets of Paris followed by a parade of bishops, soldiers and dogs. The second reveals three distraught nude women dressed in black stockings. One of the women faces the coffin while displaying her buttocks. In "My Grave " ghostly women lurk around the cemetery wearing bats as loin cloths, on the gravestone we can read "Here lies the artist who lost his life while earning it." At the top of the vault the face of Jesus Christ appears. Clovis Trouille laughs to the very end.

Clovis Trouille “A Free and Iconoclastic Artist” until the 26 August.
At the Picardie Museum.
48, rue de la République,
80000 Amiens.
Info: 03 22 97 14 00.

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