Jean Messagier, French (1920 - 1999)

Jean Messagier

Born in 1920 in Paris, the artist considered by some the leader of the “abstracted paysagism”, turns over to his roots while settling in Franche-Comté since 1962. He then does not cease creating for, with and within this area which he likes so much jusqu? with its death in 1999.

Jean Messagier shares his childhood, in the Twenties and Thirties, between the trees of the Monceau park in Paris and the meadows of his grandfather towards Mathay. During first half of its life, it will live between Paris and the Franche-Comté. It follows studies to the college of Large-Chênois to Montbeliard then connects with Arts déco in Paris. Its first tables are figurative: portraits, landscapes, the edge of the Seine. Then quickly, it launches out in the abstract, it finds its style. “It was a creator not a maker as he said it, underlines Denys Schwechlen, vice-president of the club cyclist of Etupes and faithful friend. For him, to recopy reality, it was not to be a painter”. At the end of the Forties, for the first time, it carries out landscapes by forgetting conventions to keep only the light. Stop the prospects, the proportions, the models… It keeps only the light. On series, one recognizes vaguely hills, a valley, a forest… This light which it fascine so much, it just discovers it after the Second world war by furrowing Italy and Kabylie. One will speak about him, many years after, like the leader of the “abstract paysagism”. It plays on the colors and slack of the coats of paint by full rollings up.

The “mill” of Dovecote-Fountain
The Sixties mark a turning at Messagier. In 1962, it represents France with the biennial 31e from Venice then in Sao Paulo. This same year, it inaugurates in large pumps its “Mill”, work of a pupil of Corbusier. This superb residence, located on the edges of Doubs at Dovecote-Fountain becomes from now on its foot with ground. It keeps all the same an apartment in Paris, which it uses at the time of the many exposures in which it takes part. It is touch-with-all. It attacks all the techniques: engraving with the dry point, etching, aquatinte, oil-base paint then acrylic, plaster sculptures, bronzes, thermoformings… The manufacture of the Goblins in Paris orders even tapestries to him. It exposes in the whole world: in Japan, in Denmark, in Israel… but savagely remains attached to the Franche-Comté and nature. In the Seventies, it assembles with fishermen a committee of defense of Doubs and painted “Betty Boop on the knees of Doubs”. It takes part even in the demonstrations against the large channel. Are these years they the years record? Always it is that, in Franche-Comté in general and in the Country of Montbeliard in particular, it is very present. In 1975, it organizes a great event with the royal saltworks of Arc-and-Senans for “the last quarter century”. One finds it with the carnivals of Montbeliard with astonishing tanks “the concrete monster”, “Doubs should not die”, “UFO for a carnival”.

Near to the public
It wants to be very near to the public: “It is necessary well to render comprehensible with the public that work was carried out by a man, an individual, said it in 1987. It is only this report/ratio of man with man who can reduce this distance between the public and the artist. I try to reduce it including by humour”. Some always do not include/understand it. Works, exposed in the permanent room Jean Messagier open to the museum of Montbeliard until the middle of the Eighties, are flooded spittles. The visitors' books are sometimes decorated of name of birds. What imports, in 1973, Jean Messagier assembles his “ZNUP”, an immense structure thermoformée in the middle of the ZUP of Small-Holland. The inhabitants were brought to take part in it and to meet there to forget the one moment space, the concrete of their daily newspaper. At the time of its Large procession, in 1987, ten museums distributed in all the Franche-Comté - MALS of Sochaux to the museums of Pontarlier, Dôle, Gray, Luxeuil, Besancon and until Freiburg in Germany - give white chart to Jean Messagier. Who today can prevail himself of such a unanimity? It ravels in the streets, bombards an inhabitant of Franche-Comté museum of an fried egg monumental, launches in Beaubourg its “RAVNI” (not-identified flying Radish)… That can shock.

Frosted painting
“I reproach the museums for not having humour, releases it. The public is accustomed while entering there to sacrilize the creator. I want to sow confusion in the creation of our time not to let the public be made influence by the labels and the comments of criticisms”. It organizes memorable festivals in its “Mill”. “It happened that one is obliged to go to seek sheep in the course of evening to satisfy all the guests”, Denys Schwelchen remembers. Jean Messagier tested, sought, tested new techniques as his series of “freezing” where it exposed his fresh paintings to the winter coldness. The result was surprising sometimes. “It had discovered the effect of freezing on its painting quite simply in full winter by chance in its workshop which was never heated. But attention, all was calculated except for the degree. A-5°c, that went. Towards
-10°c with -15°c, painting was degraded”, specifies Denys Schwelchen which returned visit to Jean Messagier two to three times per week.

Return to the figurative one
The Eighties mark a certain return to figurative with tables full with humour where mix Marsupilamis, devourers of rhubarbs, swans and pumpkins. It rocks in surrealism with its “Grognards of Napoleon transplanted in the jungle”. In 1981 and 1982, it organizes with the club cyclist of Etupes a race of pedal cars - “a foot of nose in the country of the car” -, makes take part the schoolboys in a contest of drawings and painted itself to the bomb the various panels marking out the circuit. At the end of its life, it will stop creating only at the time of one surgical operation with the knee. And still, it goes as far as claiming what to draw whereas it is immobilized on its bed
In September 1999, Jean Messagier dies out at the hospital of Montbeliard. He joined the “Four corners of the sky”, Betty Boop, Mister Magoo, his rhubarbs and his radishes whose range of the red to the white so much had intrigued it and inspired during years. Today what remains of Jean Messagier? Memories, much. Children, three. Mathieu (53 years), poet, Thomas (48 years), naturalist and Simon (45 years) who follows the traces of his father while becoming painter.
Works, thousands surely. Paradoxically, it would almost be necessary to take its plane ticket for the museum of modern art and Guggenhein of New York, Japan or Israel to contemplate the work of Messagier. The museum of Montbeliard preserves about fifty works but “for lack of place cannot all arise them”. Always it is that two of them will be visible at the time of the exposure of summer devoted to the flowers (to read on Animation pages). It is about a table never exposed “And why not still the flower of wild rose? ” and of more known: “Marcelle with the Wild rose”. The museum of the Art schools of Dijon, permanently exposes to him a score of works of Jean Messagier. The Center George Pompidou in Paris, also, delivers with the public work of the painter to him. Many works and other catalogues make it possible to have a glance on the work of Messagier. But for the moment no biography really made it tower of the life of the artist.

by Kamel Ayab

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