Artwork Analysis > To the discovery of a work by Michel Macréau

To the discovery of a work by Michel Macréau

Michel Macréau, « The woman in the foyer », 1962, oil on canvas, 160 x 115 cm


“The first impulse is reality:  The body, me, what I see…”

This complex painting, which at first seems impenetrable, is constructed like a chess board with four squares that resemble a stained-glass window.

Thick black lines, like a wrought iron fence, cover almost the whole painting.  They divide the space giving the impression of a forward area and a backward area behind a grate.

Three heads in three different squares enhance the notion of interior-exterior:  a woman, subject of the title, takes up all the right part in front of the fence, which we might call the “foyer”.  Her uplifted arm surrounds the left part of her face, distressed.  She waves a knife above her head.  Her eye is wide open with pointed, hard, angular rings, the cheek is bristled with thorns. A cask and a muzzle, both made of mesh, protect and close her in.

Ambiguity is also seen in the portrait, pink, diametrically opposed to that of the woman.  The teeth seem ready to bite, but the eyes look on with tenderness, one is crying.

Half angel with childish eyes, half devil hidden behind a thick black drawing, the third subject spies from above. The round face and some thorns recall the figure of the woman.

“Then abstract signs, symbols arrive… I don’t know their significance.  I feel that they are necessary, like it’s necessary to draw an eye when I want to represent a face.”

These symbols, be they round, diamond-shaped, in the form of a medallion, a serpent or a ladder, subject the painting to a restless rhythm.  They match each other, underlining an element of the figure, creating other figures like the face at the lower center of the painting which seems to look through a key hole.

“Very quickly, I go from reality to symbols, then to colors, to lines, then I go back to reality.  We go back and forth permanently between these different styles.”

The woman in the foyer wears a military uniform.  Unless it is a child dressed as an insect, which serves as armor?

The light which comes from behind colors the complex work in pink punctuated with green and orange, tones coming from the vocabulary of the stained-glass windows that are not of little significance and contribute to the story.

At the center of the painting, a neutral point between interior and exterior,  merges the body of the woman, or a child, or perhaps another silhouette, elegantly bending towards the face of a man with a long gray cape under a yellow hat.