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‘Look at how Bonnard, Giacometti, Morandi draw: they barely trace a line. It’s more like a caress. Holding the pencil with the tips of their fingers, they touch the paper whilst they dream that they are stroking the world. Like blind people that seek to understand the granulation of things.
The pencil lead seems ductile, closely linked to the emotion that seizes them. The hand seeks, as if not knowing what, it touches and reveals.
Bonnard doesn’t even seem to be holding the pencil; the weightlessness he holds it with means it slips out of his hands, refusing to guide it so that he can be the person guiding it. In the midst of this domestic drama, the pencil muses, that is its function, but what do you expect? It’s lost, so completely lost. Its line is eaten away like the air surrounding it. Living volumes: a knife, a fork, an upside down cup on a saucer, a fruit bowl with indeterminate fruit – Apple? Pear? But with a line that strays off, as if inebriated, slurring, stammering, not wanting to be fixed, avoiding the outline, the eloquence of the outline. I am talking about a drawing that I possess, that I bought over thirty years ago that I thought I’d lost (it was in a drawer). I found it yesterday when I was thinking about Bonnard, writing about Bonnard. A drawing that is here before my eyes, quivering, powerless and virgin...
The passage is part of one of the chapters of Jean Frémon’s most recent book, published this year. Within its pages the multi-talented writer and art critic, president of the Lelong Gallery, uncovers features – some real, some imagined – of some of the world’s most emblematic artists, taking the gaze that transforms the image and turns it into something fascinating as a reference. And he does this with a clean lyrical prose that he uses to tell stories, fables or anecdotes, all woven together with skill and huge amounts of knowledge. Jean Frémon (Paris, 1946) is also the author of over fifty books including novels, short stories, theatre, poetry and essays on contemporary artists.