Artwork Analysis > To the discovery of a work by Aurel Cojan

To the discovery of a work by Aurel Cojan

Aurel Cojan, « Saint Paul », 1998, charcoal on paper, 75 x 110


In this charcoal drawing, Aurel Cojan symbolizes the tumultuous agitation of a Paris street. It might be a market day or simply the scene of men and women mixing daily in the tumult of a busy street.

The title “Saint Paul” guides us.  It might be the Paris Metro station on line 1, located on Rue Saint-Antoine in the fourth district which gets in name from the church which is located at its exit.  It’s a vibrant area, thousands of people cross each other every day. One can imagine passengers waiting for the train, or, have they already left the station?

The women are recognizable because of the way they are dressed:  we see skirts and high-heeled shoes on some of the silhouettes. In spite of the anonymous nature the artist grants to his subjects, we can try to guess their occupations: the woman almost in the center of the composition, has a mischievous, joyful face while the woman to the right is more concentrated. It might be an active woman coming home from work.  At the left of the composition a woman with a softer expression might be accompanying her children to school.

All are people that we see every day on the street, strangers that crowd the sidewalks of Parisian streets and provide the artist with a vast field of pictorial experimentation. Cojan is all at once the spectator and the actor, he lives this scene as much as he composes it.

His lines are strong and fast, he transcribes the movement of the crowd, as well as the noise of the street that we can almost hear escaping from the paper. He doesn’t seek verisimilitude, but rather to recreate a sensation, that of a Paris street in daytime. The subjects are all in profile accentuating the anonymous character of each of them.

In spite of the agitation of the crowd, a sensation of lightness comes forth giving the drawing an aerial aspect.  The silhouettes seem to flat.  Full of life, this street scene presents a Paris that the artist particularly likes since his arrival in France. His plastic style unites figurative elements which seem to explode, leaning then towards abstract forms…

Born in Rumania in 1914, Cojan died at 91 in Paris, the city where he came to live in 1969 after requesting political asylum.  Graduate of the academy of fine arts in Bucharest, the artist’s career was determined at the age of 20. He would be a painter. After the being recognized in Rumania where his work was shown in galleries, several art shows and institutions, it was in Paris where he was to encounter curious spirits favorable to his art to the point of being awarded the Young Painter Prize in 1996…at 81 years old!  Several institutions in Paris conserve his work, and his native country recognizing his importance, consecrated a major retrospective in 1999 at the Rumanian Cultural Center in Paris, followed by a tribute in a big museum on Bucharest in 2004 for his 90th birthday.