Though it is sometimes inhibiting to reference overarching traits that derive from a person’s cultural background, it is perhaps counterproductive not to acknowledge the elusive and indefinable beauty that seems to pervade the art from France. Whether by subconscious learning passed through parents early on, or an indelible and proud spirit that is forever pursuing where the beauty of life resides, French artists maintain somehow a very unique atmosphere that is both fresh and new, and deep with experience at the same time.
For Max Papart, who, born in 1911, began making art at the age of four, an art career spanning most of the way through the twentieth century shows little deadweight of the usual ties to a specific era. It is difficult to discern even the decade which birthed many of his roving and effortless compositions, which expand outward through play with interesting textures, intuitive colors, shading and shape and surprising assemblies of form. Each one feels to be an inspired narrative with a beguiling way of striking just the right chord, confirming a parallel and perhaps even universal intrinsic emotion. Some of Papart’s magic lies in perhaps his way of search— the dreaming that fledges from an uninfluenced perspective. This undoubtedly leads to the great sophistication evident, achieved through the rediscovery of innocence and wonder at the surrounding world, infusing itself in every mark. His background is perhaps another key into this nature, where he abandoned art school early for the preferred guidance from the outdoors, the great masters such as Rubens and Rembrandt, literature and poetry, psychology, socio-political resistance and prehistoric art.
Max Papart – Circle, SIGNED aquatint etching
This piece Circle (SOLD) is reminiscent of looking through a window, a portal into another world. It could be as large as a cross-section of cityscape or the objects on a table as seen through the keyhole in the door, or as minute as the way thoughts arrange themselves in the mind. Whether tactile or ephemeral, the possibility of shadows, surfaces and moods is what propels this piece into more than just what is on the page.
Max Papart – Untitled, SIGNED aquatint etching
It is clear to see that the aquatint printmaking medium serves Papart well, as he is able to conjure several personalities to arise out of its manipulation. In this Untitled piece he mixes flat shape with subtle tone and loose mark-making with bold structural design, resulting in a sort of ease and excitement that seem to be almost holding hands. Geometric patterns nod at the history of culture and stylized rendering elicits untried visions.
"Some of Papart’s magic lies in perhaps his way of search — the dreaming that fledges from an uninfluenced perspective."
Max Papart – Oval, SIGNED aquatint etching
Another mysterious vignette, Oval (SOLD) brushes elbows with the sensation of lucid dreaming— things that look clear become suddenly shrouded in veils when looked at directly, shifting shapes turn corners and meet abruptly with other objects, and events take place simultaneously very slowly and very quickly, fostering an air of otherworldliness.
Max Papart – Night Bird, SIGNED aquatint etching 1974
Papart entertained a veritable love affair with the form of a flying bird, creating numerous variations on the theme. His interest in rearranging shapes allows for an almost humorous composition, yet with a wry straight face. This is perhaps another enigma of a French allure that is as delightful as it is inexplicable. This piece Night Bird seems to check all of the right boxes.
Max Papart – Chromatic Composition, SIGNED aquatint etching
And with Chromatic Composition it is almost as if the piece could have been made today. With the perfect combination of idiosyncrasies, it is evocative of the kinds of odd and playful juxtapositions being touched on by some of today’s most interesting visual artists— a sure testament to the timelessness of great art.
These etchings of Papart’s are all signed and numbered and source from very limited editions. As their specific style is eclectic and yet unwavering, their potential for unfolding many layers of resonance is manifest. It is possible that placement alongside a Renaissance lamp would have a very different effect from proximity to an indigenous carpet or a neon sign.