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Robert Droulers (1920-1994): A New Start

18 February – 21 May 2023

A self-taught artist, born in 1920, into a middle-class family in Lille, Robert Droulers began painting during his adolescence, initially depicting scenes in the Lille region and Belgium and later, from the 1950s, primarily in his studio. Moving towards abstract painting at that time, Droulers exhibited at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles and frequented artists who would later be described as the Roubaix Group, as well as members of the Atelier de la Monnaie in Lille. Eugène Leroy became a friend and loyal supporter. Living in Lambersart with his family between 1954 and 1964, Robert Droulers was employed as a manager in the family textile firm. After a day’s work, he would paint in the evenings, exploring Expressionism, Cubism and Orphism. His works were exhibited in galleries in Lille, Brussels and Roubaix. In 1964, following an expropriation process, Droulers stopped working in the textile industry and left northern France for good, heading to Provence where the radically new light and frequenting a number of poets had a profound effect on his art. The house that he purchased and restored in Murs – even going so far as to design the furniture – became his new project. Between 1973 and 1980, Droulers lived in Aix-en-Provence, before moving to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

The Estrine and La Piscine museums have come together to produce a large-scale exhibition in two interrelated parts, exploring the different media used by this versatile artist: drawings (ink, watercolour, gouache) as well as collages and prints (monotypes, linocuts, drypoints), paintings (on wood or canvas), as well as three-dimensional works (sculptures, textiles, furniture and architecture).

In doing so, we retrace this paradoxical artist’s voluntarily fluctuating path, light and lively, infused with both tenacity and fantasy and guided by a form of spirituality. From the subtle, ever-changing light in the skies of his native North to the white and blinding brightness of his adopted Provence. From his early works, inspired by Goya, Le Greco, Flemish Expressionism and the formal experimentation of the New School of Paris, to his mature works, inspired by the Italian masters. From the often dense and dark materials used in Lambersart to more fluid and subtle materials chosen in south-eastern France, seeking transparency and evanescence in a bid to almost dazzle with light.

“As a painter, Robert Droulers aims to capture dreamed or experienced visions, while at the same time, he strives to allow room for living things to flourish. It is hardly surprising then, that windows are one of his favourite subjects. A man “of the wind and air”, defender of the incomplete, he recognises himself as an angel of the dual realm. In our midst, loving us and appealing to us, yet unbeknown to us, he has forged a path that is capable of continually introducing the infinite within the finite, the invisible within the visible, a desire for beauty in death, transfigured by the flame ignited in the innermost sanctum of our hearts. »

François Cheng

The exhibition is co-produced with the Musée Estrine in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence which will present the second part, featuring works created in Murs, Aix and Saint-Rémy, between 4 March and 4 June.

Curators: Alice Massé and Bruno Gaudichon

Catalogue published for the exhibition

The design was made possible thanks to generous support from the paints distributed by Tollens.

See also