In the land of monsters by Léopold Chauveau (1870-1940)
7 November 2020 – 7 February 2021
While fulfilling his duties as a doctor, as part of a family obligation
that he didn’t particularly enjoy, Léopold Chauveau sought refuge in a strange
and unique artistic world, learning his trade by himself. As a sculptor,
illustrator and author of books for adults and children, he has long remained
forgotten in the history of art.
An eccentric character, Chauveau was introduced to sculpture around
1905. From 1907, monsters became a leitmotif of his production, through his
sculptures as well as his drawings. His hybrid creatures are often endearing
and clumsy as if surprised by their own presence. Seeming to emerge from
Chauveau’s unconscious, these inhabitants from an imaginary world are his real
companions, in which he finds refuge. The artist’s unusual monsters nonetheless
draw inspiration from multiple sources, from medieval gargoyles to the
creatures of Japanese art, from biological imagery to the exaggerated features
of caricatures. From the 1920s, Chauveau imagined monstrous landscapes –
antediluvian desert expanses – that are home to biomorphous monsters engaged in
With a concise and incisive brush stroke, striking flat colour shades
and bold framing, Chauveau has also illustrated the classics, sometimes
introducing a fresh outlook to the text, and created fantastic stories of
animals and children whose sometimes tragic adventures often combine humour and
First presented at the Musée d’Orsay, the exhibition is an opportunity
to completely rediscover a body of work without equal in its time. At La
Piscine, it is divided up into three spaces devoted to Chauveau’s inventions in
storytelling and image-making, the monsters of his imagination and, finally,
the personal and historical echoes of his body of work.
Scientific curator: Ophélie Ferlier-Bouat and Leïla Jarbouai, curators at the Musée d’Orsay
General Curator: Alice Massé
Catalogue published for the exhibition
The exhibition design was completed thanks to generous support of the Couleurs de Tollens paints.
Learn more about Léopold Chauveau
Below is an English translation of three stories by Léopold Chauveau, which were recorded in French by the Musée d’Orsay and made available at https://www.petitsmo.fr/gazette/trois-histoires-de-leopold-chauveau.
The translator, Nat Paterson, and Alice Massé, curator of the exhibition at the Musée de la Piscine, would like to thank Marc and Sonya Chauveau for their invaluable support in making the translation and the entire exhibition possible.