"During a period of little known or informal baroque art, Yves Brayer remained simply a painter concerned
with expressing his personal vision of Life, light, nature."
A. Dunoyer de Segonzac, 1965.
An accident on horseback and long hours of forced immobility spent sketching led Yves Brayer to discover his artistic vocation. With the backing of Jean-Louis Forain and Maurice Denis, training at Montparnasse and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts followed, as well as participation in the Autumn Salon, the Grand Prix de Rome in 1930, individual exhibitions at the Charpentier Gallery, and collaboration with the Paris Opera. A painter with a powerful original temperament, who was openly and unrelentingly figurative, Brayer remained attached to reality and the diversity in the world around him throughout his life, regardless of whether he was in an urban or wild setting.
An enthusiastic indefatigable traveller, he discovered Provence after the war and was captivated by the diversity and purity of nature there. From then on, he returned every year and drew inspiration from the bright coloring of the limestone folds in the Alpilles mountains or along the marshy shores of the Petit-Rhône. The vast expanse of the Carmargue populated by horses and bulls, as well as the row boats stranded on the sandy beaches of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer remained the artist’s favorite subjects until the end of his life.
Many of these Mediterranean landscapes were done in watercolor, a medium which Brayer only practiced on exceptional occasions until 1952, as he preferred ink and pure bodycolor. That year, Raymond Subes, President of the Tuileries Salon, invited several painter friends to spend vacation at his house in the Lot. Seeing the others describe the plateaux and surrounding valleys in watercolor, Brayer started working in the medium in which he found the lightness and transparency which marvellously corresponded to his graphic style. The artist was profoundly attached to line - the drawing’s dynamic - as well as to a supple graphism which was all movement, and to the rapidity of a simple glance. He painted with the tip of the brush charged with watercolor pigments. The medium spread out in strokes and streams in perfect harmony with line and color in constant play with the white of dry paper.
"Oil painting sometimes retains the verve, the enthusiasm. It is like a knowledgeable kitchen where mixtures, impastos, scraping and glazes can succeed each other. Nothing like watercolor which should remain direct, spontaneous, and be the expression of life itself," wrote Brayer.
Our drawing dates to the artist’s most creative years and proves to be a perfect example of Brayer’s refined art as a watercolorist. It is an unexpected blend between the view of a Camargue beach flooded in sunlight and two nude protagonists from monotypes created at the Medici Villa in 1932 – the models who came to pose for the students had inspired a series of nudes which otherwise are rare in Brayer’s art.
The two young women, one on her back, the other, turned blonde, on her belly, relax in the shade of the small boats of fishermen from Saintes-Maries. Their bodies melt into a landscape symphony dominated by sand, water, and sky. All is silence, calm, whiteness, balance between negative and positive space. The pencil is visibly light and precise, transposed through transparency from another drawing so as not to weigh down the colors with an excess of graphite. Characteristic of Brayer, the palette is simple and reduced, dominated by Sienna and cobalt blue. The tones are rarely pure, but reflect off of each other in beautiful consonance: "There are always two or three jars of water on my table, including one containing dirty water which has already been used to rince my brushes. I use it to break up my shades," explained the painter in 1978.
General Literature (Unpublished Work)
Pierre MAZARS, Yves Brayer Aquarelliste, Neuchâtel, Ides et Calendes, 1978.
Jean GIONO et Yves DENTAN, Yves Brayer, Paris, Bibliothèque des Arts, 1990.
Lydia HARAMBOURG, Hermione, Corinne et Olivier BRAYER, Yves Brayer, Catalogue Raisonné de l’œuvre peint, 2 vol., Lausanne, 1999-2008.
Dominique LEBRUN, Yves Brayer, Peintre et Voyageur, Toulouse, private ed. 2007.