For Réquichot, who died in 1961 at the age of 32, writing goes along with painting, making collages, assembling, while remaining genuinely autonomous. His writings are not mere comments or considerations on his art.
Neither are they manifestoes meant to assert his place in the art world, to situate his practice in relation with that of his contemporaries. His writing took on a variety of forms and unfolded at the same time as his artistic activity: an unfinished novel, Faustus, poems, an undated journal and scattered texts.
Did the urge or necessity not to settle for one medium in favor of the other, to maintain balance and genuine autonomy in writing and painting, express the artist’s inability to choose, leading him to veer towards one or the other according to his needs at the time? Or did it express his lesser interest in the ultimate form of his work than in the energy invested and the aims to be achieved?
His work as an artist has earned him a prominent place in the abstract art of the 50s. It can be used as a starting point to question the articulation between painting and writing: beyond his own achievements, Réquichot’s research leads us to question the work of other artists/writers who were his contemporaries, who might have crossed paths with him and influenced him:
Michaux, Artaud, Unica Zürn, Christian Dotremont, Joan Brossa… But also a generation of younger artists who also played on a double, literary and artistic practice: Dominique Angel, Alain Fleisher, Titus Carmel, Henri Cueco, Paul Armand-Gette, Jean le Gac, Garouste, Valérie Mrejen, Edouard Levé…
Gestural, spontaneous and sometimes abrupt, Réquichot’s depiction of the world is all the more vibrant for it. His spiders, traces of graphite on paper, seem as though they were coming alive with an animal spirit, the spirit of the world.
Bernard Réquichot is shown at the Galerie Alain Margaron since 1999.
Main exhibitions: Lucien Durand, Daniel Cordier, Krugier, Baudouin Lebon, Alain Margaron galleries; Château de Tanlay, Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou.
Hommages à Bernard Réquichot, foreword by Roland Barthes (Chemin de la création, Château de Tanlay, 1992).
Bernard Réquichot, texts by Roland Barthes, Marcel Billot, Alfred Pacquement (La connaissance, 1973).
1929: Born on October 10th in Vègre.
1941: Starts painting, producing a series inspired by religion, dominated by the theme of Christ.
1945-1947: Joins the Atelier d’Art Sacré of the rue de Fürstenberg, then the Atelier Corlin, also in Paris.
1947-1951: Attends various art schools: the Académie Charpentier in 1947 and 1948, where he meets the young painter Jean Criton, the Métiers d’Art in 1949, and the Beaux-Arts in 1950. He also goes frequently to the Grande Chaumière to draw, and it is there he meets Daniel Cordier in 1951.
Paints a series of fat ladies and produces soft-lead pencil and charcoal drawings (nudes, fabric folds, shoes, skulls, poultry). During this period he also starts to write.
1952: Paints his first Cubist-inspired studies of steers.
This is the year of his military service in Nancy, which curtails his artistic activity at first. He is later granted a studio.
1951-1954: After meeting Jacques Villon, his painting veers towards abstraction. From 1953 to 1956, he takes part in restoring the mural paintings of the Romanesque church of Asnières-sur-Vègre with Miss Pré, the museum curator.
1955: In March, he has his first solo exhibition at the Lucien Durand gallery in Paris. His preferred technique is oil painting on canvas, cardboard or paper: scraping thick drips of paint, the collage of painted bits of canvas, knife painting, paint projection. Rather than brushes, he sometimes uses a coal shovel or a butcher’s knife dipped in paint.
Réquichot also produces his first boxes, reliquaries for the future filled with earth, bones and aggregates of painted canvasses.
1956: First spiral drawing, in ink pen on paper. He integrates the collage of bits of paper in some oil paintings.
1957: In March, solo exhibition at the Daniel Cordier gallery in Paris.
The spiral becomes systematic; it sometimes ends with illegible printed writing.
He develops his collage technique, which he calls “papiers choisis”: bits of illustrations cut out or torn from cooking recipe or animal life magazines.
1957-1958: A highly prolific period, using a variety of techniques. Réquichot continues his series of spiral drawing in ink, with gouache highlights; he also continues his reliquary series, including one in a large format (reliquary with steer skull).
The series “La Guerre des nerfs” brings together all three techniques: spirals, painting and papiers choisis.
During this period, according to Daniel Cordier, “he made a few large paintings, whose white background was scratched with almost imperceptible black traces. He used an original technique: the vibrations of a knife sweeping the surface of the canvas.”
1958: Meets the painter Dado at the Daniel Cordier gallery.
1959: Discovers polystyrene rings which, when assembled by dissolving them, enable him to express his spiral drawings in space. He finds these polystyrene curtain rings at Le Printemps or the BHV with the artist Yolande Fièvre.
On Sundays, he often visits Dado in Courcelles-Les-Gisors and together, they fetch bones at the slaughterhouse. “The slaughterhouse, that was the high point of our friendship.” (Dado)
He produces new reliquaries filled with various objects (shoes, roots, snail shells, painted and folded canvasses).
Réquichot stays for a few months in a clinic in Meudon-Bellevue following a nervous breakdown.
1960: First painted canvas, glued on paper and shaped, to be suspended in space.
Réquichot’s spiral drawings gradually take on a new form: spirals coil upon themselves and “animate the surface through a reading that is indifferently and alternately in relief or counter-relief. This uncertainty gives his figures an energy that invigorates their compact center, from which haunting gazes spring.” (Daniel Cordier).
Réquichot steps up his writing, with several poems.
1961: Papiers choisis shrines: Réquichot glues bits of pictures from magazines to make reliefs in a box.
He completes his ring sculptures, only three of which have been listed.
In November, he starts on a series of seven letters, in fake writing, each of which bears a title. They are meant to present his upcoming exhibition at the Daniel Cordier gallery.
On the night of December 4th 1961, forty-eight hours before the private view of his exhibition at the Daniel Cordier gallery, Bernard Réquichot jumps from the window of his studio and home.