Fauvist painters Jean Puy


"Colours ! Engaging, captivating, bewitching,
coaxing, entrancing, ravishing colours !
It seems we'll never stop feasting our eyes on them…"
Jean Puy.

Born in 1876 in Roanne (Loire) from a family of manufacture-owners, Jean Puy joins the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (fine arts school) in Lyon at the age of 19, where he attends Tony Tollet's drawing and painting lessons. He moves to Paris in 1898, has a deceiving first experience at the Académie Jullian and registers at the Académie Camillo, joining Eugène Carrière's work-shop.

There, Jean Puy meets Derain, Marquet and Matisse, with whom he becomes friends. Between 1899 and 1905, they work together in either Biette's, Manguin's or Jean Puy's studio. With them (and Camoin, met in 1903), Jean Puy begins to expose at the Salon des Artistes Indépendants (starting in 1900), at the Berthe Weill's gallery and at the Salon d'Automne (starting in 1904).

During the same years, he discovers Brittany. It will remain a place of stay all through his life, and a favorite subject of his paintings; he learns sailing from Paul Signac and purchases his first boat.

The Fauvists and the Salon d'Automne

At the Salon d'Automne in 1905, the group formed around Matisse –"the cheering element who united our impulses", as Jean Puy defined him– suddenly becomes notorious, for paintings whose colours, lines and simplified forms create scandal.
The art-critic Vauxelles stamps the term, calling them "Fauves". Later on, he will write : "Contemporary-art historians disagree on who composed the actual Fauvist group. The only names we are absolutely sure of, are those of Vlaminck, Derain, Matisse, Marquet, Puy, Manguin, Friesz, Dufy and Camoin."

L'Illustration relates the "scandal" and publishes reproductions of a few exposed paintings, among which Jean Puy's Flânerie sous les pins ("Strolling through pine woods"), together with Vauxelles's comment : "Mr. Puy, whose nude at the seashore reminds us of Cézanne's wide schematism, is presenting outdoor scenes where the volumes of things and beings are strongly established."

"The attribute "Fauve", write Henri Matisse, in Ecrits et propos sur l'art (1952),  was never accepted by the so-called Fauvist painters. (…) It was Vauxelles who invented the word. We were exposing at the Salon d'Automne : Derain, Manguin, Marquet, Puy and a few others were exposed together in one of the large galleries. (…) A whole group was working with the same ideas in mind (…). Later on, every one, according to his own personality, disavowed the part of Fauvism which he thought excessive, in order to follow his own path."

Following the Salon, Ambroise Vollard –the first art-seller to believe in Cézanne,Gauguin and Picasso– makes a verbal deal with Jean Puy : as of 1905, he will acquire  Jean Puy's work-shop at a much higher price than offered to Derain, Vlaminck, Van Dongen or Picasso and year after year a large part of his production. This agreement will last until 1926 when Jean Puy recovers his freedom "without losing courteous relationships".

Vollard himself, as he did with Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck and Rouault, urges Puy to learn ceramics from André Metthey; and later on, asks him to illustrate books (Le Père Ubu à la guerre, Le Pot de fleurs de la mère Ubu, Le Déjeuner de l'évêque, Candide).

After 1908, Jean Puy alternates between exhibitions of his own work (Vollard's, Eugène Blot's, Bernheim-Jeune's galleries) and participations in exhibitions throughout the world (Vienna, Berlin, Chicago, Rome, Boston and Gand in 1913…). He is considered as a master. Writers such as Apollinaire, Carco or Klingsor, critics such as Arsène Alexandre, Coquiot, Morice or Mermillon follow and admire his work.

During World War I, although discharged for health, Jean Puy signs up. He comes out battered and bruised : "I was eager to fight for the Country, and I have had my fill (…). If I had been told it was to be four years of prison and hard labor, I wouldn't have believed it (…) The ignominous stupidity of military discipline is beyond dreams."

"He never stops at the outside of an object or model, but penetrates their inner emotion."

During the 20's and 30's, Jean Puy lives and works in Paris, and also in Brittany where he spends summers, as well as in the Midi and in the Roanne region where his family is settled. After his break-up with Vollard, he signs contracts with Bernheim's and with Dru's galleries. He also exposes at Druet's, Eugène Blot's, Berthe Weill's, Charpentier's, as well as in the Salon d'Automne, the Grand Palais "Trente ans d'art indépendant", the Musée des Arts décoratifs, the Petit Palais "Les Maîtres de l'art indépendant", and also in Venice "Fine Arts International Exhibition", Stockholm, Bristol "French Modern Exhibition", Prague…

His brother Michel –an art-critic who, in 1907 in La Phalange, wrote the first study paper on the Fauvists– publishes a monography on Jean Puy at the NRF in 1920 (1), where he writes : "One would think this man joyful but he is tormented. (…) His subjects, as captured from reality as they seem, enter in a composition that has been meditated at great length. He never stops at the outside of an object or model, but penetrates their inner emotion."[5]

In 1939 –Jean Puy is 63 years old– the war declaration incites him to accept an invitation from his sister, Madeleine Vindrier, to settle in Roanne, where he resides until his death, working in his studio during part of the year, and spending the other part mostly in Brittany.

He continues to pay regular visits to Paris and his friends, with whom he also keeps in touch through an abundant mail. He exposes at Charpentier's, Le Garrec-Cordier's, at the Galerie de France and the Salon d'Automne. His paintings are presented in New York, Algiers, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Dallas, Berlin, Toronto, New Delhi, Torino, and finally London (with Marquet), the year before his death.

He dies on March 6, 1960, three months after his brother Michel. "A distressing mishap happened to Jean Puy, critic Jean-Paul Crespelle wrote the day after Puy's death. Appreciated by the greatest painters, praised by the best critics, cuddled by his contract with Vollard -the water-diviner of modern ar- his whole work has vanished from sight. It has now become an underground asset."

Almost half a century later, Jean Puy works are beginning to come out in bright light again. Recent expositions, such as the Lodève museum's and the Palazzo Bricherasio's in Torino "Fauvists and the critics" in 1999, or, in 2000, the Barcelona exhibition "The Fauvist Years" or the Musée Déchelette's in Roanne "Jean Puy, l'après-midi d'un Fauve" and the retrospective at the Marmottan-Monet Museum (Paris, 2004-2005) first event celebrating the 100th anniversary of fauvism's birth, the exhibition "Jean Puy, une amitié artistique (1900-1930) : Matisse, Marquet, Manguin, camoin" at the museum Paul Dini in Villefranche-sur-Saône in 2007 and "Jean Puy et la Méditerranée" in 2009 and 2010 (museum l'Annonciade in Saint-Tropez and museum Joseph Déchelette in Roanne) have enabled Jean Puy to regain his place among his peers.

Meanwhile, the research work initiated half a century earlier by Suzanne Limouzi and Louis Fressonnet-Puy has led to the publication, in 2000 and 2001 of a complete monography, and the first volume of th paintaings (catalogue raisonné). The second volume (designs, pastels, charcoal designs, ceramics, illustrations) and a addition to the 1rst volume (150 new canvas paintings have been discovered in the mean time) should be published in 2014.[6].



[1] La monographie de Michel Puy a été rééditée en 2005 - Fonds Jean et Michel Puy / Thoba’s Editions.
[2] Nièce et filleule de Jean Puy, décédée en 2007.
[3] Les Amis de Jean Puy / Thoba’s Editions.
[4] Pour toute information : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
[5] Michel Puy's monography of Jean Puy was re-published in 2005 by Thoba's Editions and the Fonds Jean and Michel Puy.
[6] Les Amis de Jean Puy / Thoba's Editions.