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L' Homme-Témoin


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A group of predominantly young French painters formed in Paris in 1948 to promote a style of expressive Social Realism in opposition to the prevailing taste for abstraction. A manifesto drawn up for them by the critic Jean Bouret affirmed that ‘Painting exists to bear witness, and nothing human can remain foreign to it.’ The original group had five members, including Bernard Lorjou (1908–86) and Paul Rebeyrolle, and first exhibited at the Galerie du Bac, Paris, in 1948. In 1949 they exhibited at the Galerie Claude, augmented by other artists including Bernard Buffet and André Minaux (1923–86). Their paintings depicted everyday life in a gloomy, pessimistic manner. Werner Haftmann (Painting in the Twentieth Century, 1965) describes their work as ‘the pictorial equivalent of existentialism’ and says ‘what these painters bore witness to was the emptiness of the world, the desolation of things deserted in the ghost-like barrenness of space, man's vulnerability’. This despairing outlook was for a time very fashionable, and the work of the group—particularly that of Buffet—proved highly popular with collectors. The success of the group led to imitators and the creation of the Salon des Peintres Témoins de leur Temps in 1951.

Subjects: Art.


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