Maurice Brianchon (1899-1979)
Maurice Brianchon was born in Fresnay-sur-Sarthe in 1899. Trained classically in his youth, Brianchon consequently attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux for a short period before settling into the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs in Paris in 1917. He gained fame at an early age-at 23 he was chosen as a committee member of the Salon d’Automne and at 24 he won the Prix Blumenthal, allowing him to move to Spain to study Velasquez and the Spanish Masters.
Brianchon’s career took off in 1927 with his first solo show at Galerie Le Portique in Paris. Over the next decade, Brianchon’s success continued with solo shows in different galleries throughout Paris; his inclusion in an exhibition entitled “Artistes de ce Temps” at the Musee du Petit-Palais in 1924; his representation of France in the Venice Biennale; and finally his return to the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs in 1937, as a professor. Following this appointment, Brianchon also began to take on other artistic endeavors, apart from solely paintings on canvas-set design, large murals, book illustrations, and cartoons for tapestries.
In 1949, Brianchon was appointed the Painting Chair at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris. The following decade brought Brianchon both increasing national and international recognition– a retrospective at the Palais du Louvre organized by the Musee des Arts Decoratifs; a solo exhibition at London’s Wildenstein Gallery; a request to document through paintings, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II; and closing off the decade, with his first American exhibit at David Findlay Gallery. The last two decades of Brianchon’s life saw him spending more time at his country home, Les Truffiers, in Perigord. Brianchon died on March 1st, 1979.
Brianchon did not put forward any new theories, nor noisily associated himself with those popular in his youth, yet it is clear he had complete mastery of himself and an awareness of his aims. His work is not provocative, nor does it seek to surprise. At times, he even carried his discretion to extremes, with an exceedingly reduced color palette. On the other hand, there is no hesitation to offer more violent contrasts, such as resonant reds splashed against large black surfaces; however he avoids extreme violence through his refinement and his astonishing sense of balance. In his work, Brianchon did not seek easy effects through either the material used or flashy brushwork; however they do play an important role in his art. No surface is completely flat or inert, no color smooth. Everything vibrates. This art gives one the feeling of intimacy when a picture is hung in a room, but it can also adapt itself to large areas. Brianchon’s art is calm, but it is also without constraint. That calm is not one of indifference but instead lends a human quality to even the slightest of his works.