GRAN PALAIS, GALERIES NATIONALES EXHIBIT: Aimé Césaire & Lam “Nous nous sommes trouvés”
Aimé Césaire, Lam, Picasso “Nous nous sommes trouvés”
Grand Palais, Galeries nationales
16 March 2011 – 6 June 2011
An exhibition organised by the Rmn-Grand Palais as part of 2011 Année des Outre-mer.
It takes place under the patronage of Monsieur Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic.
It will subsequently be shown in Martinique and Guadeloupe.
The exhibition, organised as part of 2011 Année des Outre-mer, celebrates the 70th anniversary of the seminal meeting between poet Aimé Césaire (1913-2008) and painter Wifredo Lam (1902-1982), who were “instantly taken in by each other” as the poet said and “two brother artists” in the words of the painter. Alongside the canvases, etchings and drawings by Lam, the exhibition features engravings and a painting by Picasso, a painting and drawings by André Masson (musée Cantini, Marseille), as well as works and documents by Jean Pons, Henri Guédon and Daniel Buren inspired by Césaire’s poems and writing. 2011 is also the beginning of UNESCO’s four-year tribute to three great twentieth century poets who symbolise the “reconciled universal”: Aimé Césaire, Pablo Neruda and Rabindranath Tagore. A plaque laid down on 6 April, 2011, during a national hommage to Aimé Césaire, will mark the poet’s entry into the French Pantheon.
Césaire / Lam
During the second World War, Lam found refuge in Marseilles along with many other intellectuals and artists fleeing the Nazis, including André Breton, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anna Seghers and Victor Serge. On March 25, 1941, the Emergency Rescue Committee and its representative Varian Fry succeeded in securing their passage to America. Upon the ship’s arrival in Martinique, the French authorities loyal to the Vichy government confined the passengers to house arrest on the island Les Trois-Ilets. Some of them were later given permission to leave the camp and went to Fort-de-France, André Breton among them. It was there that Breton made the discovery of the review Tropiques, and met its founders Suzanne and Aimé Césaire. He experienced Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, published in 1939, as a true shock and proclaimed it was “the greatest lyrical monument of his time”. Lam, who shared Breton’s enthusiasm, would develop a creative, lifelong friendship with Césaire. He continued his journey until he reached his native Cuba, which he had left in 1923. Inspired by his meeting with Césaire and his experience of Absalon forest in Martinique, Lam painted his masterpiece The Jungle in 1943, now a part of MOMA’s permanent collection in New York.
During the year 1981, Lam, too weak to paint, asked Césaire to resume work on Annonciation, a series of etchings that he had started in 1969. Responding to the painter’s request, Césaire wrote a poem for each one. The etchings were finally published in 1982, in Italy. Shortly after, Césaire’s poems inspired by Lam’s work were published by “Le Seuil” in Moi, Laminaire. One of the primary aims of this exhibition is to bring these powerful engravings in colour together with the ten poems. It is also to present some of the major works Lam created after his return to Cuba, including masterpieces from the Musée national d’Art Moderne-Centre Pompidou, the Musée Cantini in Marseille, and private collections including Lumière de la forêt(1942), Le Bruit (1943) and La Réunion, I (1942). This exhibition will also be an opportunity to discover an unpublished work by Césaire (1941-45), contemporaneous with The Jungle and his first meeting with Lam.
Césaire / Picasso
Aimé Césaire and Picasso (1881-1973) met for the first time at the Peace Congress in Wroclaw in 1948. In 1950, a collection of ten poems by Césaire, illustrated by thirty-two etchings by Picasso, was published as Corps perdu. The frontispiece is of a black man wearing a laurel wreath in profile, entitled “Crowned Poet”, a symbolic reference to Césaire himself. It was used for the poster for the first congress of black writers and artists that Présence africaine organised at the Sorbonne in September 1956. The unbound volume, published by Fragrance, was printed in 207 copies. The etchings were produced by Roger Lacourière.
Picasso / Lam
“I have never been wrong about you. You’re a painter. That is why the first time we met I said you reminded me of someone: me” (Picasso to Lam).
When Wifredo Lam left Spain in 1938, he was welcomed in Paris by Pablo Picasso who introduced him to Mirò, Breton, Eluard, Zervos, Kahnweiler, Pierre Loeb and others. It was a fruitful encounter and the two shared a language in common, prompting Picasso to say: “Lam, I think that you have my blood in you, you must be one of my relations, a primo, a cousin.”
- Eskil Lam, in charge of the Wifredo Lam archives
- Daniel Maximin, writer. Curator of 2011 Année des Outre-mer
in collaboration with Sylvie Poujade
Exhibition design: Hubert Le Gall
from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays to Mondays, until 10 p.m. on Wednesdays, closed on Tuesdays
special opening for La Nuit des musées
métro Champs-Elysées Clemenceau
concession € 4
Nature et Idéal and Aimé Césaire, Lam, Picasso « nous nous sommes trouvés » : € 15, concession € 12
Odilon Redon, Nature et Idéal and Aimé Césaire, Lam, Picasso « nous nous sommes trouvés »: €23, concession €20
- Césaire et Lam, Insolites bâtisseurs, by Daniel Maximin coédition H.C.éditions/ éditions de la Rmn-Grand Palais 22,50 €
- Césaire et Picasso, corps perdu, histoire d’une rencontre coédition H.C.éditions/éditions de la Rmn-Grand Palais 22,50 €
Le Bruit, Wifredo Lam, 1943. Centre Pompidou – Musée national d’art moderne / Centre de création industrielle, Paris. En dépôt au Musée Cantini, Marseille
© ADAGP, Paris 2011. Crédit photographique : Centre Pompidou, Mnam-Cci, Paris / Dist. Rmn-GP