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Jean Lurcat / Contemporary Tapestry Museum Presents Tapestries (1940 - 1965) Exhibition
Tropiques, 1956, Atelier Picaud, Aubusson, 320 x 675 cm. Collection AcadÈmie des Beaux-Arts, © Adagp, Paris 2008, photo Thierry Malty.

ANGERS.- The Jean Lurçat / Contemporary Tapestry Museum presents Jean Lurçat - Tapestries (1940 - 1965), on view through May 17, 2009. This exhibition is part of an EU cultural project initiated by the Académie des Beaux-Arts at the Institut de France and focusing on tapestry and textile art in Europe.

The project is in three parts: artists' residencies; a colloquium in Paris on 1–2 December, which will provide an overview of contemporary tapestry and textile art in Europe; and a travelling exhibition of tapestries by Jean Lurçat.

The Jean Lurçat/Contemporary Tapestry Museum in Angers will have the pleasure of welcoming the exhibition after showings at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Riga, Latvia and the Textile Museum in Lodz, in Poland.

The exhibition comprises some thirty tapestries, fourteen of which are part of the donation made by Simone Lurçat, the artist's widow, to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 2001. It is rounded off by five more tapestries loaned by Simone Lurçat and ten more from the Musées d'Angers collection.

This group of works covers thirty years of Jean Lurçat's career as a tapestry maker, from the 1940s through to the 1960s, and highlights his major themes: animals, the sun as the source of all life, and the vegetable and mineral kingdoms. Human beings sometimes figure in the oeuvre, as do real or imaginary products of their architectural imagination. In the exhibition the works are grouped in thematic cycles, on tables, in cupboards and in checkerboard arrangements.

Much has been made of Lurçat's attachment to writing – we think of Mes Domaines, the volume of poetry he wrote and illustrated – and especially the work of the poet friends whose texts he used in his tapestries: the most famous example is Liberté, based on a poem by Paul Eluard, but he also drew on the writings of Pierre Seghers and Jean Marcenac.

A man who had lived through two World Wars – and seen the horrors of the First in close-up – Lurçat was a militant and a résistant, denouncing violence and stupidity, yet never losing his faith in humanity. The Surrealist spirit lives on in tapestries in which he inserted poems and "mirror-image" texts: these works seem simple and self-evident – the stately sun, delightful animals, the beauties of nature – but danger is often seen to be lurking as the meaning missed at first glance comes to the surface.

Jean Lurçat (July 1892–January 1966) began as a talented painter in 1912, but it was not until 1936 that he received his first official commission for a tapestry, The Illusions of Icarus, to be woven at the Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins. In 1939 he was charged with giving a new impetus to the famous tapestry workshops in Aubusson, but in 1940 he joined the Resistance in the Lot département, where he would set up his own tapestry cartoon studio after the War. Ultimately he provided contemporary tapestry with real meaning and a language of its own, drawing an entire generation of younger artists in his wake and creating an oeuvre now known all over the world. The largest of his creations is The Song of the World, a group of ten monumental tapestries totalling 347 square metres; this epically poetic, symbolically humanist vision of the twentieth century is on display in the John Lurçat/Contemporary Tapestry museum in Angers.

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