Jean Lurçat was a painter and designer of modernist tapestries whose work was in close dialogue with the Cubism of Picasso and Georges Braque. Early in his career, Lurçat painted in a style inspired by Fauvism and founded the journal Les feuilles de Mai
(The leaves of May), which published poetry and artworks by figures such as Elie Faure and Rainer Maria Rilke. Excused from serving in World War I due to health issues, he had his first exhibition in Zürich in 1915 and in 1917 exhibited his first tapestries, made in collaboration with the weaver Marthe Hennebert. For the remainder of his life, he worked primarily in tapestry, and he was celebrated for his modernization of the French tradition in the medium.
Testifying to Lurçat’s desire to place his work in dialogue with Cubism, the Surrealist Philippe Soupault argued in 1928, “the ‘singular virtue’ of [Picasso’s] cubism... prohibited artists from pursuing his investigations...The strange novelty of Lurçat permitted him, after cubism, to find a new route and continue on.” His interest in Cubism was such that, according to the recollections of the Dadaist Tristan Tzara, Lurçat was among those young artists who took advantage of the Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler sequestration sales between 1921 and 1923 to purchase works by Picasso and Braque at extremely low prices. This fact can be confirmed by the presence of Lurçat’s name among the list of buyers at these legendary sales.
Lurçat began exhibiting regularly at the important gallery of Jeanne Bucher in Paris in 1925 alongside artists such as Hans Arp, Braque, Max Ernst, Jacques Lipchitz, and Picasso, and Bucher gave him three solo exhibitions between 1930 and 1936. During these years, his international reputation continued to grow, with solo exhibitions at the Flechtheim Gallery in Berlin (1931) and the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York (1933). In 1932, Lurçat traveled to the United States, where in Philadelphia he met Albert Barnes (who bought two of his paintings) and participated in an exhibition at the Valentine Gallery in New York titled Selection, alongside Braque, André Derain, Matisse, and Picasso. After many years abroad in Africa, the Middle East, and the Soviet Union, Lurçat returned to France in 1944 and fought in the French Resistance alongside Tzara. After the war, Lurçat’s reputation was secure as one of the great modernist tapestry designers of the twentieth century.
For more information, see
Denizeau, Gérard. Jean Lurçat (1892-1966)
. Montreuil-sous-Bois: Lienart Editions, 2013.
Jean Lurçat et la renaissance de la tapisserie à Aubusson. Aubusson: Musée Départmental de la Tapisserie, 1992.
Soupault, Philippe. Jean Lurçat. Paris: Cahiers d’Art, 1928.
Tzara, Tristan. “LE CUBISME ET SON TEMPS, entrevue avec Paule Chavasse.” In Oeuvres Complètes. Edited by Henri Béhar. 5 vols. Paris: Flammarion, 1975–1991.