Lot 8
  • 8

Jean Fautrier

200,000 - 300,000 EUR
bidding is closed


  • Jean Fautrier
  • Tête de sanglier 
  • signed
  • oil on canvas
  • 81 x 100 cm; 31 7/8 x 39 3/8 in.
  • Executed in 1926.


Galerie Jeanne Castel, Paris
Private collection, France (acquired circa 1960)


Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Jean Fautrier, 3 - 15 November 1928
Paris, Jeanne Castel, Fautrier, oeuvres anciennes 1922-1935, April - May 1965
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Jean Fautrier, 1925-1935 , 10 January - 2 March 1985; catalogue, p. 40, no. 24, illustrated 
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Jean Fautrier, 14 March - 4 May 1986


Yves Peyré, Fautrier, Paris, 1990, p. 54, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

CAPTION: Rembrandt, Le Boeuf écorché, 1655, Musée du Louvre, Paris 
CAPTION: Tête de sanglier dans l'exposition, Jean Fautrier, 1925-1935 au Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1985 © Photo: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam © ADAGP, Paris 2018 "In front of his best paintings, I think of Goya's etchings. Austere tone, lyricism, anxiety, intensity, grandeur."

André Malraux, February 1933

Jean Fautrier denotes himself from any other 20th century artist. Unclassifiable and mysterious, he was the first painter of the "informel" movement. Well before Dubuffet, at a time when abstract art deprived the object of its form, he gave it a new one, endowing the material aspect of art with unprecedented importance.

Enlisted in 1917 when his career as a painter had already begun in London where he had been living since the age of ten – he followed his mother there in 1908 – Fautrier never forgot "the horror and disorder of war, raging against the inhumanity of its slaughter", as he later wrote to Jean Paulhan. Victim of a gas attack in the Somme, he was withdrawn in 1921. After three years of fighting, freed from service, he moved to Paris where he began working again with relentless dedication until he had what the historians call his first flash of genius: the "black period" as captivating as it is unique, disturbing as it is fascinating.

During several months, Fautrier drew the contours of figures scratched in matter. Crudely realistic, expressionist figures that fade into misty backgrounds. The artist conjured the ghosts of the past from the abyss, omens of his future Tête d'Otages from 1943 – 1945.

As Marcel Zahar wrote, Fautrier's talent "finds its strength in the deepest obscurity". In this barely discernible Tête de Sanglier, reduced to its very essentials, dramatic tension reaches a peak. With its sinuous and nervous lines, imprinted with gravity, the both ruptured and continuous motif, the incantatory, mystical and bewitching subject, this powerful painting takes us back to the times of heroic painting, of ancient and tragic resonance.

Matched with the painting Sanglier écorché at the Salon d'automne in 1927, purchased by the State in 1938 and today kept in the collections of the Musée national d'art moderne/Centre Pompidou, this chromatically strong work thus refers to the great paintings, as Marcel-André Stalter, a specialist of the artist's work, explains in the catalogue of the Jean Fautrier exhibition held at the Fondation Gianadda in 2005: "Fautrier's butchered animals offer a variation on a theme in fashion during the 17th and 18th centuries with modern extensions in the works of Corot, Monet and Renoir;  in particular, they are just posterior to Soutine's paintings, notably the Boeufs écorchés shown at the Marcel Bernheim gallery in 1925."

Here, the blood grapples with the scratched technique, patently recalling the somber tones of Northern French and Flanders painting. Fautrier's singularity stems from this, as he preferred to join a long tradition rather than the art schools of his time and in particular the Cubists and Surrealists in vogue in the 1920s. This made the poet Francis Ponge say that Fautrier was indeed the painter of ambiguity and the father of "art informel", representing not an imitation of nature but rather "the living life of nature."

This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné for Jean Fautrier, currently in preparation by Marie-José Lefort, Geneva.