The discreet eroticism of Carpentier
About the Fine Arts Paris exhibition from 6 to 11 November 2021
We were already on the verge of grumbling once more. One too many times. But it is true that this article by Connaissances des Arts on the Fine Arts Paris fair did not start off under the best of auspices. The name of the fair itself may already contain something off-putting. Fine Arts. Wouldn't all art be fine? Even raw, even primitive? Oh, sorry. We're talking about classical art here. Real art, you know. As if modern art as a whole had been nothing but a vast joke fomented by vile surrealist saboteurs. But now that the clowns are out of the picture, we're back to serious business. Even if we forget that 20th century art, over time, has also become classic.
The counterculture forged its own canonical forms. The opposition between classicism and modernity can no longer be based on this structural difference. Contemporary art itself now innovates within a predefined framework. And here, from the mass of works presented in frames that are obviously gilded and moulded in a very appropriate way, emerges. Here, out of nowhere, is A painter in his studio giving advice to his young pupil of Paul-Claude-Michel Carpentier. It sounds like the title of a Peter Greenaway film! This inevitably makes the object sympathetic from the start. It is just as delightfully suspicious as Murder in an English Garden.
The composition of the painting is tightly drawn. The painter and his pupil fit wisely into the left half of the canvas. And all the surrounding decorum has no other reason to exist than to signify, or even over-signify, that we are not in a painter's studio, but in the world of painting itself. This is a major difference from the model of the genre that Rembrandt's immortalised studio naturally constitutes. To stay with the classics.
Here, the setting is talkative. The painting obviously has something to tell us. The half-open door at the back is not content to trap the eye by inviting it to think that it might have something better to see in this hidden room promising mystery and hidden secrets. Carpentier, who is not above overloading his deceptively neat layout, goes so far as to nail a portrait born under X on the door itself, which stares at us. Who is it? A false lead? False question?
The fact remains that a third party's gaze is weighing in here, perhaps ensuring the moral correctness of the perfectly stilted attitudes of the painter, or rather of a painter, and his pupil caught up in the very conventional study of a technical detail. We don't claim to be famous. But we are not in the studio of Van Gogh or Utrillo either. All the paintings hung here are framed in gold. Phew! The Fine Arts dress code is respected in advance.
The official position of the world of sculpture in the face of this irreproachable scene is also noteworthy. She sketches a mischievous smile of complicit bas-relief on the left in the window frame and she turns away from it at the back on the right, showing us her buttocks in passing. Is this a sign that we are being mocked? And that this ostensibly tilted window casement in fact functions as a frame in which, seen from the house opposite, two characters engage in a pantomime that is too polite not to be polite in the part of the studio exposed to outside view. Whereas in the back room, glimpsed by daylight... But no. It's not possible. Not in the gilded setting of Fine Arts Paris. And not the 19th century French school! Let's see.
Courbet's Origin of the World was painted in 1866. To stay with the classics. The classics of modernity.
Captions for the illustration:
A painter in his studio giving advice to his young student - 1825