Artist Olivier Masmonteil Is Reviving France’s ‘Peintre d’Atelier’ to Practice the Subsequent Technology

In a lineage that features the likes of Tintoretto, Titian, and Rubens, artists have lengthy maintained giant studios, during which assistants—beforehand known as apprentices and college students—helped execute these famed Outdated Masters’ main commissions with the intention to sustain with demand.

With a group of almost 10 individuals, Paris-based artist Olivier Masmonteil is following that instance, as one of many final peintres d’atelier in France. The impulse stems primarily from his adoration and respect for Outdated Masters, however can be pragmatic because it permits him to maintain up with an rising quantity of commissions since 2016. However most necessary to Masmonteil is the hands-on expertise that the rising artists he employs get whereas working within the studio.

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After rising up in France’s central Corrèze division and finding out on the École des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux within the late ’90s, Masmonteil left France to spend a yr on the former cotton-mill Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei in Germany, the place he got here into contact with artists Neo Rauch, Tim Eitel, Tilo Baumgartel, commonplace bearers for the New Leipzig College. He quickly returned to his residence nation earlier than touring world wide twice between 2008 and 2012. These travels gave rise to hundreds of small panorama work that first introduced consideration to the artist.

Additionally in 2012, Masmonteil began a collection of homages to the likes of Titian, Vermeer, Courbet, and different Outdated Masters, copying their works and including varied layers to them to create a collection known as “La Mémoire de la Peinture” (Reminiscence of Portray), like a flamboyant model of the already exuberant Entrée d’Alexandre dans Babylone (Alexander Getting into Babylon) by Charles Le Brun, the premier peintre du roi (First Painter to the King), that Masmonteil has became a triptych.

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

Olivier Masmonteil, Alexandre à Babylone I, II, and III, 2018–22, set up view, at Fernet-Branca Foundation, Saint-Louis, Switzerland. Photograph: Pierre Douaire

A few of these personalised copies, together with  Masmonteil Alexandre à Babylone I, II and III, are at the moment on view on the Fernet-Branca Basis in Saint-Louis, Switzerland, which is answerable for the artist’s first institutional solo present in 20 years. In the course of the press view forward of Artwork Basel, Masmonteil proudly gave credit score to those that have helped him alongside the best way, beginning with grasp printer Emmanuel Mattazzi, who has discovered a method to create serigraphs with oil reasonably than ink particularly for Masmonteil. Collectively they labored on a collection titled Les Demoiselles retrouvées (The Rediscovered Younger Girls), which options female figures gracefully fading into or out of a furnished background, typically juxtaposed onto a panorama, all as a means of “recovering [the canvas with various layers] to unveil.”

“Once I wander in regards to the Louvre, I need to be a part of the historical past that hangs on the partitions”, mentioned Masmonteil, who all the time retains in thoughts that Rubens had about 250 individuals lending him a hand. The passionate peintre d’atelier refers to his assistants as collaborators.

Masmonteil’s first assistant, Nicolas Marciano, landed in his studio in Saint-Ouen, to the north of Paris, in 2017. His arrival coincided with Masmonteil’s first fee from chef Yannick Alléno to contribute to the design of the Pavillon Ledoyen, a three-Michelin-star restaurant positioned subsequent to the Petit Palais in Paris. “At first I used to be unsure how a lot his presence would trouble me. There’s something so sacred about artwork in France, that it ought to be the work of 1 individual,” Masmonteil mentioned. “After letting Nicolas sq. the canvases up, put together the backgrounds, apply the primary layers—duties I usually take pleasure in—I quickly realized they’d profit him extra. That’s how our collaboration started.”

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

Olivier Masmonteil, Rubens dans une-rivière, 2022. Photograph: Aurélien Mole

By the point a fee got here from the St. Regis Venice for Masmonteil to create his personal interpretations of Tintoretto’s masterpieces within the Palazzo Ducale, Nicolas was already standing on his personal two ft, able to take the lead within the work’ fabrications. Former artwork trainer Lara Bloy, who now oversees the studio, quickly joined. She was adopted intently by Alexandre Lichtblau, a painter who can now afford to work solely twice every week as a dentist. (Masmonteil was so struck by his utility that he felt it unattainable to show the budding artist down.) And eventually the group was joined by 24-year-old Agathe Chebassier, the youngest of the group, who was to enter the École des Beaux-Arts in Marseille however determined to review underneath the aegis of a longtime artist like Masmonteil as a substitute.

With the duty of ripe skills on his shoulders, Masmonteil needed to fill up on provides (educational plasters, further paint, brushes) and create an in depth however balanced schedule with slots dedicated to his tasks and free time for them to search out their inventive voice. On Thursday mornings your entire studio is invited to attract nude fashions. “They’ve all been feminine up to now however we may also have male sitters coming into the studio from September onward,” mentioned Masmonteil, who is decided to present his pupils the most effective schooling there may be. These courses have been established because of Lichtblau, who faucets into his contacts from his time on the Académie de La Grand Chaumière starting in 2017.

“Certain, the extra we’re, the quicker we are able to work however I principally love instructing, sharing my expertise with a youthful era, serving to them eliminate the stereotypes that have been imparted to me after I began 20 years in the past,” Masmonteil mentioned. “Once I was their age, I used to be informed that portray was lifeless. There have been no portray courses on the Beaux Arts in Bordeaux. I needed to train myself the right way to use a brush, by studying, observing, aiding restorers and copying previous masters, which I nonetheless do.”

A painting that shows a composite of three nude women, a modern architecture house, and a body of water that are layered on top of each other in a translucent way.

Olivier Masmonteil, Baigneuses sur la fontaine river, 2017. Courtesy Olivier Masmonteil Studio

By choosing Masmonsteil over seemingly extra prestigious colleges, his collaborators say they’ve intentionally signed up for the college of life. “We’re studying from the previous masters he has us copy but additionally from him whereas engaged on his tasks. And I’ve time to develop my very own figurative approach on the facet,” mentioned Bloy, who additionally maintains a studio in the identical constructing as Masmonteil’s.

“Not solely can we learn to stretch a canvas, but additionally the right way to take care of galleries, mount an exhibition, challenge an bill,” Chebassier mentioned. “There isn’t a one else extra pedagogical than he’s.”

If Masmonteil’s studio have been ever to undertake a motto, as different artwork colleges have, it will most likely be “There may be power in unity,” he mentioned.

Added Chebassier, “I do know artwork college students who complain about being left to their very own units whereas we, however, are all the time serving to one another out. This type of synergy is, I imagine, fairly distinctive in France.”

“These artwork college students, counting on regional authorities and FRACs [public regional collections of contemporary art], stay reasonably remoted,” Lara mentioned. “We, quite the opposite, work as a collective, all the time exhibiting a united entrance. I grew up within the South of France the place artwork was not thought-about profession materials. I’m glad I didn’t hear.” Earlier this yr, she bought a portray to actual property and finance tycoon Paul Talbourdet, considered one of Masmonteil’s most common patrons.

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