Jean Ipoustéguy


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French sculptor, born at Dun‐sur‐Meuse. In 1938 he moved to Paris, where he studied art at evening classes. He initially worked mainly as a painter, and in 1947 he created frescos and stained‐glass windows for the church of St Jacques at Montrouge. However, after he settled in the Parisian suburb of Choisy‐le‐Roi in 1948 he turned exclusively to sculpture. In that year he adopted the name Ipoustéguy: Jean Robert was too common. His working place and home was a disused ceramics factory, described by James Kirkup as ‘an immense studio on a sort of treasure island, which he and his family had allowed to grow wild until it resembled one of the jungles of the Douanier Rousseau.’ He worked in various materials, including marble, but his most characteristic works are in bronze, usually carefully finished in a dark patina but with the surface riven and ravaged. H. H. Arnason compared the effect to being as though ‘the impregnable material has been torn apart by some cosmic explosion’ (A History of Modern Art, 1969). In his early years as a sculptor he was much influenced by Brancusi and, as with the Romanian's sculpture, even the most simplified geometric forms bear signs of life. As the poet John Ashbery put it, introducing a 1964 London exhibition, ‘Ipoustéguy's work is not abstract because it is breathing’. A visit to Greece in 1962 inspired the creation of large‐scale figures such as La Terre (1962, Tate). This is a distinguished addition to that tradition of French sculpture which includes work by Maillol, Richier, and César, in which the living body and the earth become imaginatively fused. Ipoustéguy made numerous public monuments, for example that to the poet Rimbaud in the Place de l'Arsenal, Paris (1984). From the mid‐1970s he also worked as a printmaker.

Further Reading

J Kirkup, ‘Ipoustéguy, Sculptor of Total Originality’, The Independent (11 February 2006)

Subjects: Art.

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