presents... Henri Landier
A maritime world
The sea and the maritime world hold a central place in the abundant work of Henri Landier. "It was the school of the eye and of life. "He often insists. We are in December 1954 in the port of Rouen, where a young painter wanders the quays, amazed. The hazards of life have provided him with an opportunity to embark on a cargo ship as a pilot. But if this opportunity was supposed to take him away from the squalor in which he was surviving in Paris, it actually opened up a fantastic field of creation. As he wandered around in search of Marcel Schiaffino, the cranes lit by spotlights, the dark hulls of the ships, the noria of the dockers, everything inspired him. Henri Landier remembers: "I kept drawing, fascinated by the sea and the ports, while life on board, especially during the night watches, was conducive to meditation.
Henri Landier travels the world. After the North African line on a Schiaffino, he embarked on oil tankers which criss-crossed all the seas of the globe. The pilot became a lieutenant. Between the endless days in the tropical calms, the dangerous exoticism of the Maracaibo slums, a typhoon that made him fear shipwreck... the experiences followed one another. At any moment, at sea as well as at the port of call, he sketches: the gestures of sailors manoeuvring in the swell, the pipes in the engine rooms, a ship passed off shore... During his leave, he liked to visit the Normandy coast, which led him to paint the port and the blast furnaces of Caen, where he stayed with his collector and gallery friends Geneviève and Bernard Bedel.
This is the story of this beautiful marine adventure that is told in the illustrated book En mer avec Henri Landier. Six years after his first embarkation, the young lieutenant reached a turning point in his life: either he pursued a career as an officer or he devoted his life to art. On the one hand the comfort of the merchant navy, on the other the adventure of precariousness. By opting for art, Henri Landier did not break with the sea, which remained an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
His wife Romaine is from Brittany, originally from Lorient. In 1981, she made him discover the boat cemeteries of the Blavet and Trégunc from which he made large watercolours and oil paintings worked with a knife with flat areas of cold colours in green, grey and brown ochre tones; this was to be known as the kelp palette. The following year, he discovered the Côte Sauvage de Belle-Île, where the swell of the waves on the vertical cliffs was translated into abstract compositions of an irresistible evocative force. From then on, Brittany became the Landier family's favourite holiday destination. In Belle île, on the Ile aux Moines with the Montoriol friends in 1990, in Crozon in 1996, in Plozevet in the 2010s, and Saint Malo on several occasions... It was during these stays that the watercolours of his daughter Virginie were born among the rocks, such as The young Breton woman with a headdress; The reader in Brittany with Romaine; the Calvary of Plozevet with Bigouden; and this transposition of Gauguin's yellow Christ, which Landier installed in front of the sea. In Crozon, the theme of the cliffs is again imposed, inspiring a series of large, very geometric and stylised oil paintings moving towards a lively and colourful abstraction, mainly in reds, oranges, purples and greys. While in 2012 and 2015, in Plozevet, the imposing masses of the massive granite of the rocks overhanging the sea are translated into a more sober, simplified palette. As for the maritime universe of the ports, Henri Landier finds it again during the summer of 2003, in Imperia and Porto Maurizio where, under the implacable sun of the Italian Riviera, the ships display the rainbow flags of the pacifist Pace movement.
This is the beautiful human adventure that the exhibition At Sea with Henri Landier tells us about. 150 works - drawings, copper engravings, woodcuts, watercolours, oils on canvas - which illustrate the evolution of his maritime work; from his beginnings as a young painter who had become a pilot, to the maturity of the recognised artist. Nearly seventy years after his stroll along the quays of Rouen on a December evening in 1954, Henri Landier has lost none of the feverishness and creative energy that characterized the career of this great French painter and engraver. His work is, quite simply, colossal.
Dominique Le Brun