Thursday, July 25, 2013

Modern Dibutades

Francine Van Hove  "Le Dessin de l'Ombre"  2007  private collection

In this painting entitled "Le Dessin de l'Ombre" ("Shadow Drawing") contemporary french artist Francine Van Hove addresses an ancient story concerning the origin of painting. The story has several variations, but essentially runs like this: in Ancient Corinth (an area of Greece, about 600 B.C.)  a young woman was heartbroken to learn that her beloved was heading to war. He visited the girl's family home to make his farewells the evening before he was due to leave, and tired out from the preparations of the day he fell asleep by the fire. The young woman noticed the fire casting a perfect silhouette of her beloved's profile on the wall. Inspiration struck and picking up a piece of cooled charcoal from the edge of the fireplace she traced the young man's silhouette on the wall, in order to have his likeness near her when he himself had departed. This young woman's father was named Butades (or in some versions of the tale, Dibutades.) He was a potter by trade, and inspired by his daughter's ground-breaking act, he copied the perfect silhouette she had drawn, only in clay, creating the world's first bas-relief.  For some reason it is he who often gets the credit as the founder of the visual arts, though in fact all stories agree it was his (nameless) daughter who made the actual first marks.  In any case, in this piece, Van Hove has set the scene in a contemporary studio, substituting a standard electric clamp-light for firelight, and both "the maid of Corinth" and her beloved are played by attractive young females.

Van Hove (b.1942) studied in Paris and originally got a fine arts degree aimed at qualifying her to teach the fine arts. After one year of full time teaching in Strasbourg she resigned her position and returned to Paris where she has lived and worked ever since. Her work consists of drawings and paintings that focus almost exclusively on lovely young women in enigmatic or dream-like poses. She has said of her work, "Plus j'essaie de capter la beauté, plus son mystère m'échappe, et je me suis prise de passion pour cette poursuite même " (my own rough translation: The more I try to capture the essence of beauty, the more its mystery escapes me, and I am left only with my passion for the pursuit.") Van Hove has had more than forty one person shows, and her work has been exhibited around the world. She is represented by Galerie Alain Blondel, Paris. Her website can be seen here.

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