In the land of monsters by Léopold Chauveau (1870-1940)
Until March 28, 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 curious activities.
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 cruel irony.
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.