Michel Ciry (1919 - 2018)
"Retour De L'Enfant Prodigue"
32" x 39.5" Image
40" x 48" Frame
Oil on Canvas
Childhood. Michel Ciry was born on August 31, 1919 in La Baule, into a cultured family that introduced him to the arts very early and allowed his talents to blossom rapidly. From the age of eight, while the family lived in Chatou, he took drawing lessons with a private teacher where he quickly showed excellent dispositions, then in 1934 he joined the Duperré School of Applied Arts. At the age of 16 Michel Ciry engraved his first copper and he was only 19 when he participated for the first time in the collective exhibition "Artists of this time" at the Petit Palais.
The 1940s. At that time, many painters-engravers recognized the young man as one of their peers and he received an increasing number of orders for works to be illustrated from publishers. In the middle of the Occupation, he was only 22 years old when in October 1941 he exhibited for the first time alone at the Galerie Le Garrec in Paris some twenty aquatints inspired by Goya's technique, echoed in the press. The following year, he became a member of the Society of French engraver painters at the same time as Marie Laurencin and Hermine David. Among the romantic and theatrical works he illustrates are plays by Camus, Les Justes, Caligula, Le Malentendu (1944); The Dead Queen by Montherland (1942), Madame Bovary by Flaubert (1949).
Alongside his activity as an illustrator for which he is much in demand, Michel Ciry pursues his personal artistic trajectory, "follows his compass" in his words, and participates in numerous group exhibitions in Europe, the United States and Latin America. . A prolific and regular artist, he organizes his working days by alternating the practice of drawing, engraving and then, little by little, painting. A former student of Nadia Boulanger, he also devotes part of his day to musical composition. In 1949, the thirty-year-old artist made a decisive trip to Assisi, to meet the Franciscan monks, following which he engraved a “Head of Christ” which marked a turning point in his work. According to Jean Adhemar, curator of the cabinet of prints of the BNF who prefaces a volume of the engraved work (1971) of the artist, "Ciry says that there is not then in him a religious crisis but an artistic shock without external reason, a kind of revelation. An analysis extended by Roger Passeron, publisher close to Michel Ciry, who also notes that this 1949 Christ marks a break in the artistic quest of Michel Ciry who “from now on (…) will be passionate about the human face. »
At the turn of the 50s, Michel Ciry is going through an iconoclastic phase where he destroys a large number of his works, notably the copperplates and the plates he had engraved between 1939 and 1944, which he denies or finds too far removed from his present research. The irrevocable self-criticisms of his youthful works punctuate his daily diary, which began in 1943 and has never been interrupted since. The refocusing of the artist around the human face is accompanied by an intense creative phase where he declines and multiplies the proofs of his subjects often taken from the New Testament, such as the Deposition from the Cross, the Virgin and Child, the Baptism of Christ, the Entombment. For Roger Passeron, “Never had a spirituality, such a high, such a serious emotion been conveyed by him before. While digging into these subjects in drawing and engraving,
In 1955 his first painting exhibition took place. Michel Ciry paints faces, hands, questioning bodies, in search. In parallel with his travels through Europe where he nourishes his fascination for the works of Rembrandt, Memling, Holbein, and the Italian masters, Michel Ciry continues his work in the house of Chatou where he anchors his work in a rhythm of life. intense and regular, a peaceful tempo that he chose, established, and where painting gradually takes the place of musical composition that he ends up abandoning. Against the current of his time, all his painting centers around the figure of his characters, their hands, which according to him are in themselves a portrait.
The 60s . Installed in Varengeville-sur-Mer in 1964, it is in a chosen artistic solitude, nourished by many trips across Europe, encounters and supported by numerous correspondence that Michel Ciry continues his journey with a claimed independence vis-à-vis against the fashions of the time. “No need for a compass, I know that there and only there is the road. We don't rush there” he wrote in 1968, in the first volume of his diary published in 1971, entitled a posteriori “The time of refusal”.
Michel Ciry continues from the 70s to paint and exhibit in galleries and museums in Europe and America, his work is enriched by numerous paintings and watercolors, a technique he favors during his travels where he painted in his notebooks.
From the 1980s , many retrospective exhibitions of his work took place, particularly in France, Switzerland and Italy. Michel Ciry was made a knight and then an officer of the Legion of Honor in 1974 and then in 1992 and he received painting and engraving prizes for the entirety of his work. He stopped painting in 2008 at the age of 89.
Concerned with the idea of transmission, in 2012 he supervised the construction of his museum in the extension of the Bergerie and fixed the scenography. Michel Ciry died in his 100th birthday in December 2018. He bequeathed a serious body of work, marked by a luminous presence, made up of faces that challenge and question humanity in its relationship to the Other, "this strange dreamy, worried humanity, beggar, adoring (…)” he wrote in his diary in 1968, and whose depth he never ceased to probe.