Why Olivier Masmonteil trains emerging artists in his Paris studio – ARTnews.com

In a line that includes artists like Tintoretto, Titian and Rubens, artists have long maintained large studios, in which assistants – formerly known as apprentices and students – helped execute major commissions from these famous old masters to meet Requirement.

With a team of nearly 10 people, the Parisian artist Olivier Masmonteil follows this example, as one of the last studio painters in France. The impetus stems primarily from his adoration and respect for old masters, but is also pragmatic as it has allowed him to keep up with an increasing number of commissions since 2016. But most important to Masmonteil is the hands-on experience of emerging artists that ‘he employs. get while working in the studio.

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After growing up in the central department of Corrèze and studying at the École des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux in the late 90s, Masmonteil left France to spend a year at the former Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei cotton mill in Germany, where he came into contact with artists. Neo Rauch, Tim Eitel, Tilo Baumgartel, standard bearers of the New Leipzig School. He quickly returned to his home country before touring the world twice between 2008 and 2012. These trips resulted in thousands of small landscape paintings which first brought attention to the artist .

Also in 2012, Masmonteil launched a series of tributes to Titian, Vermeer, Courbet and other old masters, copying their works and adding various layers to them to create a series called “La Mémoire de la Peinture”. ), like a flamboyant version of the already exuberant Entry of Alexander into Babylon (Alexander entering Babylon) by Charles Le Brun, the first painter to the king (First Painter to the King), which Masmonteil transformed into a triptych.

A triptych of three canvases showing slightly abstract paintings that show Alexander entering Babylon below and have different layers on top.  The three works are installed in a gallery with a concrete floor.

Olivier Masmonteil, Alexander in Babylon I, II and III2018–22, installation view, at the Fernet-Branca Foundation, Saint-Louis, Switzerland.

Photo: Pierre Doaire

Some of these personalized copies, including Masmonteil Alexander in Babylon I, II and III, are currently on view at the Fondation Fernet-Branca in Saint-Louis, Switzerland, which is hosting the artist’s first institutional solo exhibition in 20 years. At the pre-Art Basel press conference, Masmonteil proudly paid tribute to those who have helped him along his journey, beginning with master printer Emmanuel Mattazzi, who found a way to create screen prints using oil rather than ink especially for Masmonteil. Together they worked on a series called The found ladies (Les Jeunes Dames Retrouvées), which stages female figures gracefully melted into or out of a furnished background, sometimes juxtaposed with a landscape, all as a way of “recovering [the canvas with various layers] to unveil.”

“When I walk around the Louvre, I want to be part of the history that hangs on the walls,” said Masmonteil, who always bears in mind that Rubens had around 250 people helping him out. The enthusiast studio painter calls his assistants collaborators.

Masmonteil’s first assistant, Nicolas Marciano, landed in his studio in Saint-Ouen, north of Paris, in 2017. His arrival coincided with Masmonteil’s first commission from chef Yannick Alléno to help design the Pavillon Ledoyen, a three-Michelin starred restaurant located next to the Petit Palais in Paris. “At first, I didn’t know how much his presence would bother me. There is something so sacred in art in France, that it should be the work of one person,” said Masmonteil. “After letting Nicolas square the canvases, prepare the backgrounds, apply the first layers – tasks that I normally appreciate – I quickly realized that they would be more useful to him. This is how our collaboration began.

A painting by Rubens of nude figures in a pastoral landscape which has been abstracted by a repeating pattern over it.

Olivier Masmonteil, Rubens in a river2022.

Photo: Aurelien Mole

By the time a commission came from the St. Regis Venice for Masmonteil to create his own interpretations of Tintoretto’s masterpieces in the Palazzo Ducale, Nicolas was already on his feet, ready to take the lead in the paint fabrications. . Former art teacher Lara Bloy, who now oversees the studio, soon joined. She was closely followed by Alexandre Lichtblau, a painter who can now only afford to work twice a week as a dentist. (Masmonteil was so struck by his application that it seemed impossible to refuse the budding artist.) Finally, the group was joined by Agathe Chebassier, 24, the youngest of the group, who was to enter the ‘School of Fine Arts. -Arts in Marseille but decides instead to study under the aegis of a confirmed artist like Masmonteil.

With the responsibility of mature talent on his shoulders, Masmonteil had to stock up on supplies (academic plasters, extra paint, brushes) and create a detailed but balanced schedule with time slots for his projects and free time for them to find. their creative voice. On Thursday mornings, the whole studio is invited to draw nude models. “They’ve all been female so far, but we’ll also have male models coming into the studio starting in September,” said Masmonteil, determined to give his students the best possible education. These classes were established thanks to Lichtblau, who draws on his contacts since his time at the Académie de La Grand Chaumière from 2017.

“Of course, the more of us there are, the faster we can work, but most of all I love teaching, sharing my experience with a younger generation, helping them get rid of the stereotypes that were passed on to me when I started there. is 20,” Masmonteil said. “When I was their age, I was told that painting was dead. There were no painting lessons at the Beaux Arts in Bordeaux. I had to teach myself how to use a brush, by reading, by observing, by assisting restorers and by copying old masters, which I still do.

A painting that shows a composite of three naked women, a house of modern architecture and a body of water superimposed in a translucent way.

Olivier Masmonteil, Bathers on the fountain2017.

Courtesy of Olivier Masmonteil Studio

By choosing Masmonsteil over seemingly more prestigious schools, his collaborators say they deliberately enrolled in the university of life. “We learn from the old masters that he makes us copy but also from him while working on his projects. And I have time to develop my own figurative technique on the side,” said Bloy, who also has a studio in the same building as Masmonteil.

“Not only do we learn how to stretch a canvas, but also how to deal with galleries, put on an exhibition, issue an invoice,” Chebassier said. “There is no one else more educational than him.”

If Masmonteil’s studio were to ever adopt a motto, as other art schools have, it would probably be “Unity is strength,” he said.

Chebassier added, “I know art students who complain about being on their own while we, on the other hand, are always helping each other. This type of synergy is, I believe, quite unique in France.

“These art students, relying on local authorities and the FRAC [public regional collections of contemporary art], remain rather isolated,” Lara said. “We, on the contrary, work as a collective, always showing a united front. I grew up in the south of France where art was not considered a career material. I’m glad I didn’t listen. Earlier this year, she sold a painting to real estate and finance mogul Paul Talbourdet, one of Masmonteil’s most regular buyers.

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