19 juli 2017

Eugène Galien-Laloue – flanörernas och boulevardernas målare


Om man ser en bild av ett konstverk i en bok och sedan får tillfälle att se konstverket i verkligheten, kan intrycket bli helt annorlunda även om man känner igen varje detalj. I boken måste alla avbildade konstverk få plats på boksidan, medan storleken i verkligheten kan skilja sig avsevärt. En bild som denna, med många minutiöst målade detaljer, borde väl kräva ganska stor yta för att komma till sin rätt? Men det är en liten målning, en goache i formatet 31x19 centimenter, alltså ungefär som en A4-sida. Och här är den något beskuren; på originalbilden finns hela kyrktornet med och lite mer av vagnen längst till höger.

Om jag skulle fråga några personer om var de tror motivet finns, är jag övertygad om att de flesta skulle svara Paris. Det finns en svårgripbar Parisstämning som ännu är närvarande i staden, även om trafikbullret som mångdubblats sedan målningen gjordes gör sitt för att förstöra den. Bilden kommer från en tid då bilar var en exklusiv raritet, början av 1900-talet, det som brukar kallas la belle epoque. En tid då borgerskapet i Paris hade det ganska gott ställt. Man hade råd att gå på krogen och teatern, man åkte droska, var välklädd och handlade av gatuförsäljarna.


Konstnären Eugène Galien-Laloue (1854­–1941) kom från Paris och var född i Montmartre. Han målade förvisso en del landskapsbilder från olika håll i Frankrike och hade under första världskriget ett uppdrag att skildra krigstiden i mindre franska samhällen. Men hans berömmelse vilar mest på de många bilder han gjorde av Parismiljöerna. De är små till formatet, och det Paris han visar upp är höstens med virvlande bruna löv eller, som ovan, vintern med snötäckt mark och flingor i luften. Oftast är bilderna komponerade som här: en gata, boulevard, öppen plats eller kaj, människor som flanerar, stabila byggnader, ofta gatustånd. Galien-Laloue är begränsad, men suverän på det han valde att skildra. Bilden ovan sitter på min vägg och heter L’Eglise Saint-Médard Rue Mouffetard.

Galien-Laloues målningar från Paris anses utöver sin konstnärliga halt också ha ett dokumentärt värde. Han visar hur Paris såg ut under la belle epoque. Men på den tiden var staden förmodligen mycket fotograferad, i Frankrike utvecklades fotografin tidigt. Och målningarna liknar, den omsorgsfulla kompositionen till trots, ett slags konstnärliga snapshots. Människorna poserar inte för målaren utan tycks fångade i flykten. Detaljerna är skarpa och omsorgsfullt tecknade, men i målningarna finns också suddigare avsnitt, som gatan till vänster som försvinner i fjärran i ett töcken av färgfläckar och några figurer som är oskarpt återgivna som i rörelse på gamla foton med lång exponeringstid.

Det är svårt att hitta personuppgifter om Eugène Galien-Laloue. Det verkar som om han ville undvika att sätta personbiografiska avtryck i konsthistorien. Inte blev det lättare av han satte myror i huvudet på historiker genom att arbeta under en rad pseudonymer. Jag har emellertid hittat en intressant artikel om Galien-Laloue av kulturjournalisten Peter Morrell som jag tillåter mig att citera några avsnitt ur. Bilder finns det däremot gott om på internet, och jag har lånat några för att illustrera Morrells ord. Artikeln finns här:

”To express what I like about Laloue’s art is that I adore his colours, his composition and the lightness of his touch. These aspects especially stand out. His pictures have a great lightness and delicacy about them, very soft colours, a beautiful sense of invading tragic autumn or winter impermanence: a summer is ending, the crowds are dispersing, the winter is coming; his pictures show a scene sketched in a few minutes, in a hurry and just for you. He tears the picture from its pad and with a smile presses it urgently into your hand, and then he is gone!”


”Above all, his pictures glow with a gorgeous light; light pours out of them; they are luminous like cathedral windows on a very bright sunny day. The light is soft, golden, otherworldly. It is an autumnal and evening light, never a morning or summer light. Compositionally, they are even more perfect than an actual Parisian street. Every form and shape hangs together nicely with its neighbours. This delicacy, this luminosity combines so softly with the compositional perfectness to make them an utter joy on the eyes. We do not so much look at a Laloue painting, as enter it. Our eyes are drawn in to embrace a Laloue picture; the eye weaves pleasantly in and out of the parts of the picture, glides smoothly over the soft surface, lovingly caresses every detail, every colour, every tone, savouring every shape, never tiring of the minutest joy and pleasure this encounter induces.”

”Looking at Laloue’s fine output, we tap straight into his bright and delicate mind; his pictures invite us into his world of inner vision. This is the assumption we make. In which case, his mind must have been light, delicate, agile, luminous and essentially a bright, optimistic and joyous place to be; that of a person in love with life, happy with himself and permeated by a great sense of symmetry, balance and harmony that touches every particle of his being. Such is the strong impression his pictures create upon our senses. Such must be the impression he himself would make on us were we to meet him. It is the quality of his particular soul.”

”For his sense of balance and delicacy, he reminds me slightly of Vermeer or Leonardo, though in a more cavalier, throwaway, amateur way. It is as if he did not even care about his pictures; as if he just did them for himself, or for street people; as if they were done in a hurry and then he moved on, uncaring about them; absorbed in the joy of his being, getting on with his other life. As if the art was merely an excretion, a pastime, something he did for others, before dinner, something that he had to do for cash, but which was not a big deal to him. He seems very relaxed about his pictures. He is not very serious about them. He does not cling to them or labour over them because he does not care; he is unconcerned. They are not precious to him. Unlike so many artists, he has no ego-identification with his work. That is another beautiful aspect about his art – there is no sense of ego. He is invisible. Few details about his life are known. In this, he also resembles Vermeer and Leonardo. He himself is something of a mystery. All three are hazy and transparent figures whose art reveals very little about the lives they lived. This borders on innocence and egolessness. Such are the assumptions we make about him as we try to view the man through his art.”

”His pictures do not look as though he laboured very long over them; they look as if they poured out of him very quickly, probably in minutes. They contain great symmetry, formal or organised lines of the streets and buildings. We know he originally trained as an architect, but declined to become an architect because he felt it was too bourgeois. He was uncomfortable about wealth, preferred to stay poor, and wanted to be with poor people on the streets. He probably lived rough or in some cheap house in a rough area of Paris. He probably mixed with very ordinary street people who cared as little for appearances as he did. My guess is that he despised pomposity and the rich. It is almost implicit in his art and the life he led. Perhaps he felt stifled by the stiff formality of it.”


”These are the enduring impressions Laloue fills me with. Such are the impressions his art has upon me. I find his pictures wonderful, transporting, an unending delight. They are treasure-troves of visual beauty. To me, they are some of the finest art my eyes have ever seen. I love them most dearly and have never tired of gazing at them since I first discovered them quite by accident some four or five years ago. They are delightful, pleasing, open and loose. They seem rapturous, lovingly created and reflecting a kind and humane but humble person, a person who lived very simply and in spite of his education preferred to live an uncomplicated life among poor and very ordinary people. The pictures are fragile and soft, filled brimful with joy and light. They are entrancing, dream-like visions of Paris as it was in the 1920s. They seem to show a luminous sense of the divine, of the mystical, even in the most mundane street scenes. They are also silky smooth composed in pastel shades dribbled onto the canvas like ice-cream. They are all quick sketches done in gouache or oil on board or canvas. Their softness, their delicacy and their naturalness are especially appealing qualities. There is a timelessness to his work that transcends their actual historical location. Such is surely the hallmark of artistic greatness, of true genius.”


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