Issue 222
July/August 2022

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Aug 15, 2022

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July/August 2022 (7.98MB)

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Secrets of a Ceret antique shop

SEVERAL YEARS ago, I visited an antique shop in the charming town of Ceret in south-west France where the owner, Alain Ribes, told me the story of the ill-fated artist Jean Pierre Garrigue. Jean Pierre was a promising young artist who passed away at the age of twenty-five and, although he was extremely talented, his work was largely unknown even though he left behind a legacy of over 500 paintings which he produced during his short lifetime (see ArtWork issue 196 - Winter 2016).

Just recently I visited Alain’s shop again and was interested to hear about another not too well-known artist whose story has a longer life span than Jean Pierre’s having lived to the age of ninety.

Nevertheless, both men shared a (short and long) lifetime passion for art and painting. The other artist in question is Rene Jouret (born 1911) who, like Jean Pierre, started painting accomplished works in his early teens. However, he received no support or encouragement from his father to pursue a career as an artist.

His father, who was a vet in Opoul in the Corbieres region of southern France, had a low opinion of artists viewing them as “good for nothing”.

Despite this, Rene rebelled and in his late teens he took himself off to Paris where he worked as a painter of buildings rather than a painter of pictures. He lived there for two years but had to return home to Opoul due to ill health brought on by a poor diet: he did not have enough money to eat well.

Back home he became restless and, on the advice of his father, he joined the army in 1931. Even so he did not forget the impact his years in Paris visiting museums and galleries had on him; discovering artists such as Georges de la Tour, Velasquez and Delacroix.

Although his life took a different career path he continued to paint prolifically throughout the rest of his life. While in the army he utilised his skills, having been asked to design the decoration for the officer’s mess and the regimental logo. He also painted portraits of his fellow soldiers.

As a trained draughtsman he was recruited in 1945 by the Geographic institute to work in north Africa, his job was to work with a team to draw the first map of the southern region of Morocco.

Consequently, Rene ended up living in Morocco for twenty years, where he continued to paint in a workshop he built in his family garden in Rabat. He painted with oils and lacquers scenes inspired by the landscape, people and colours of Morocco.

Looking at the paintings of north Africa in Alain’s shop, it is clear that his life there was a great inspiration to him, they shine like jewels in the sun. When he returned to France in 1965, the family settled in Perpignan where he continued to create many paintings and also tried his hand at sculpture.

This was a period of rich production for him. He painted still lifes, nudes, street scenes and scenes of the Catalan landscape. He exhibited in France and won many prizes – exhibiting a large part of his works in Opoul in 1987, then in 1991 when he revealed the extent of his talent.

Even so, he was not market driven and, as a rather single-minded character with a taste for solitude he resisted following the artistic 20th century trends prevailing at the time such as Cubism, various abstractions and new figuration.

However, his paintings did veer towards abstraction and this can be seen in some of his later landscapes.

In the years from 1980 to 1990 more subtle shades of purple, pink and white appeared and his touch became lighter. He also painted in larger formats with darker tones of greys, black and dull blues with some bursts of almost fluorescent colours.

At the age of ninety he declared that: “No matter how hard I try, I don’t evolve anymore”. This was when he stopped painting, the year was 2001 and Rene Jouret passed away.

So, as can be seen, this was a man who dedicated a big part of his life to being an artist despite being put off at an early age. Many people, I am sure, can relate to this. It is a testament to human creativity that, for some people, the necessity to make art is like breathing air.



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