The French Expressionist
A masterpiece by Gen Paul is eagerly awaited at Saint-Brieuc: a 1928 painting from the finest Expressionist period of this gifted but little-known artist.
Gen Paul (1895-1975), Violinist, 1928, signed oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm.
Twenty years after Gen Paul's death in 1995, an exhibition was staged in his honour at the Couvent des Cordeliers in Paris covering the second period of his career, from 1923 to 1929. This period, which includes this 1928 Violinist, is held to be the finest work of his career. Also in 1928, the famous dealer Samuel Bing bought his entire corpus of work. Yet the painter found it difficult to collaborate with players in the art market. The artist's alcoholism and Bohemian life in the Butte Montmartre – he was a regular visitor to brothels – ruined a large part of his career and led to him being overlooked. This Violinist sheds fresh light on the work of this artist, who began to paint when he was 13, before being wounded during the First World War, which resulted in the amputation of his right leg. From 1923, his paintings of flowers and cityscapes gave way to portraits of clowns, musicians and violinists. He developed a very different artistic language from his acolytes Utrillo, Leprin and Génin, and became a "great Expressionist, the only one in France at that time," according to specialist Patrick Offenstadt. His immensely energetic style mingles tragic expression with a tension that can be sensed in all his works. His pictorial material brought him close to the Russian artist Chaïm Soutine, and also inspired the work of later artists like the American Willem de Kooning. In 1929, a damaging attack of delirium tremens forced him to learn how to paint again. A new, more gestural style emerged in the period between 1930 and 1960.