Christian Hugues Caillard

Post-impressionist French Painter

Christian Hugues Caillard was a post-impressionist French painter, born in the municipality of Clichy, Paris northeast, in 1899. Although showing drawing talent and skills since early in his life, he starts his student career by enrolling on a sciences path, which he would later quit to embrace artistic studies. After returning from military service in 1921, he enters the Académie Biloul in paris, where he would make his first acquaintances with important names in the art world, such as Eugène Dabit, Georges-André Klein and, most importantly, Maurice Albert Loutreuil, who would be his mentor and have a considerable influence in his work. Caillard had grown up in the post-impressionist environment, and gained a particular interest in the Fauvist movement, something that would be reflected in his work by the use of vibrant and strong colours, like a continuation of the work of Fauvist painters, of whom Henri Matisse was the artistic pinnacle.

Eager to further experiment with this inherited thrilling palette, a still young Christian Caillard decides to perform his first series of travels around the world from 1927, starting with Morocco, then the Southeast Asia, and then the French Polynesia, all places where he could find the most colourful myriad of sensorial images and exotic light, somehow following the footsteps of the Fauvist master. These travels reflected the nearly obsessive passion that Caillard had for his work and for the use of colour, and lasted for several years, only returning to Europe by the mid 1930’s; he got so immersed and connected with his quest for this “native-coloured” reality, that during a long stay in Tahiti he would have a child. A few years after his return to Paris in 1935, he gets mobilised to the war in 1939 and is made a prisoner from 1940 to 1941, a reality that he also pictured in many watercolours and pencilled sketches. 

In art history, Christian Caillard is famous for having founded, together with other seven renowned painters, the Poetic Reality Painters movement, a name that started to be used from 1949, when the eight painters realised some characteristics and values that were common to their work as a whole. The problems of light in painting were deeply addressed by the group, in the sequence of historical development of complementarities between subject and light; in fact, despite they were coming together in the middle of the 20th century, their conceptual roots went back almost 100 years, just when Orientalism became a popular theme in painting, and retaining it up until the early 20th century. For painters of the poetic reality, Orientalism must be regarded as an important shifting point in the history of art, inasmuch the light and colours that need to be addressed for an accurate representation require completely different and new painting techniques. In this regard they defended that nature emanates poetry, which also needs to be recorded by brushstrokes, therefore implicating a diverse ideal of beauty and the true appreciation of simple things. Of course, this conception came as opposed to the, at the time, still dominant conceptuality of analytical Cubism, as developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, which valued abstraction in place of the real. The poetic reality movement had its greatest moment with the praise received at the exhibition Peintres de la Réalité Poétique, performed in Vevey, Switzerland, in 1957.

As a painter deeply involved with the complex unwinding of 20th century art, Christian Caillard has had many appearances in catalogues, and has won several prizes. Of these, two of the most notable are the Blumenthal Prize in 1934 and the North African Prize in 1936. His presence as a relevant artist to collectors and amateurs has been noted even since his death in 1985; his works have been present in numerous solo or group exhibitions across the world, from 1924 to 2019. He is represented in a number of important museums, such as the National Museum of Wales, the Tampere Art Museum or the Warwick Art Collection. If you’re looking for a good investment in a relevant artist, and without spending a fortune, we would say, this is definitely one to watch.

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