Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Herbin, Auguste

Landscape in Ceret
oil on canvas
size unknown
Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France

Auguste Herbin (1882-1960), the son of a workman, was born in a small village near the Belgian border. This background is reflected in the northern French artist's painting with its rational approach and explicit working class character. Before settling in Paris, where he first joined the Impressionists and later the Fauves, Herbin attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Lille from 1900 onwards. His studio was situated directly next to Braque's and Picasso's, allowing a close study of Cubism, which resulted in first Cubist paintings in 1913. In 1917 he moved on to an abstract, geometric phase before gradually discovering Constructivism.

Herbin's radical reliefs of simple geometric forms in painted wood, challenged not only the status of the easel painting but also traditional figure-ground relationships. The incomprehension that greeted these reliefs and related furniture designs, even from those critics most favorably disposed towards Cubism, was such that until 1926 or 1927 he followed Leonce Rosenberg's advice to return to a representational style. Herbin himself later disowned landscapes, still lifes and genre scenes of this period, in which the objects were depicted as schematized volumes. From 1938 his interest in the Italian Trecento led Herbin to a more concrete, strictly two-dimensional painting style with simple geometric forms.

A lateral paralysis in 1953 forced the artist to learn painting with his left hand. His typical architectural approach and his color effects made his pre-war work widely known in the international art world - a success which continued after the war. Herbin died in Paris on 31 January 1960. One painting remained unfinished - it was called "Fin".