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The Sculpted Line

Léon-Georges Dorignac, the French painter, left a rich legacy of undeniably nuanced works. Rodin, his contemporary, upon seeing his artwork is said to have declared, “Dorignac sculpts his drawings.”

Léon-Georges Dorignac art story is one that finds poignancy across the world. A painter of rare talent, a passionate pursuer of art, enriched by the support of his local museums, galleries, patrons and yet his legacy in the world of art somehow gets lost in the annals of time. Sitting outside France, it would be difficult to know of him, more importantly, his art, if not for the news of his exhibition at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts. It’s a startling scale of work, his portraits of women and men confront you with its breathtaking mastery.

TITLE: Étude de tête de profil ou (Un) Profil
YEAR: 1913
MEDIUM: fusain sur papier
IMAGE COURTESY:Collection particulière

At first look, the imagery, like fine silhouettes, beckon you, until your eyes accustom to its dark density and it is at that point that his art reveals its true genius. He captures light amidst dark strokes. They unveil deep shadows and a consistent melancholy In his portraits. Your eyes travel across the image marveling at the familiarity of skin, muscle, emotion. One imagines the artist’s experienced hand, toiling over the minutest detail, making clear definitions, smoothing over the hues, challenging himself to push his limits to capture the truth of his subject.

Born in 1879, it wasn’t until 1911 that he left the multicoloured impressionist and pointillist inspirations and turned to drawing with an austere palette. He used charcoal or sanguine chalk and captured the energies of the human form and flesh. His portraits, their faces, nude bodies all were cast in a shadow of a seductive and unsettling sadness. They lay bare the rigors of their life on his paper, their spirit defeated, suspended from hope, painted in the colours of their agony. It is truly poetic in its depiction.

Completely forgotten after his premature death in 1925, at the age 46, he was rediscovered in the 1990s by art collectors. The museums of Roubaix and Bordeaux presented a monographic exhibition devoted to Léon-Georges Dorignac. We hope he finds his rightful place in the history of art and such exhibitions mark a new beginning in celebrating more unsung masters in the art world.

TITLE: Femme nue
YEAR: 1914
MEDIUM: crayon noir sur carton contrecollé sur papier
IMAGE COURTESY:© Paris, Centre national des arts plastiques
– Fonds national d’art contemporain
Dépôt au Musée de Grenoble depuis 1920

TITLE: Chouette
YEAR: non daté
MEDIUM: fusain sur papier
IMAGE COURTESY:Collection particulière

TITLE: Portrait de femme au chignon, vers 1913
YEAR: 1913
MEDIUM: fusain sur papier
IMAGE COURTESY:Collection particulière

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