Obituary: Eugene Baboulene

Eugene Baboulene, painter; born Toulon 18 August 1905; died Toulon 15 July 1994.

THE FRENCH are careful to distinguish between two kinds of 'painter' - the house-painter and decorator (peintre en batiment, peintre decorateur) and the artiste- peintre, a term that explains itself.

Eugene Baboulene might be said to be a product of both these crafts. Though he left his native Toulon to study in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs, where he mastered all the creative painter's techniques, he did not really think of himself as an artiste-peintre until he left Paris in 1931 and returned to the radiant light he loved in Provence and along the Mediterranean coast. There he began making drawings and gouaches but these were not sufficient to provide an income, so he got a job at the theatre in Toulon painting scenery for plays and decors for opera and ballet. At the same time, he was giving classes on interior decoration at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts , also in Toulon, that great port city which was to provide the subjects for many of his paintings.

One of his painter friends was Alfred Courmes, who was born near Toulon and became known as 'the angel of bad taste' because of his egregious send-ups of religious and mythological subjects, including the notorious Saint Sebastien in the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Baboulene - however much he admired Courmes's audacity and subversive wit - had no desire to shock the delighted Parisian public. He explored the lovely beaches of Provence, with its dazzling light, so strong sometimes that it almost seemed to drain even the most vivid colours from the landscape and diminish them to faded pastels. Such delicately subdued tints became a feature of Baboulene's best work, combined with a vigorously applied impasto or effets de pate.

Baboulene loved port scenes, and in the Thirties the beaches and harbours and little fishing villages of the Mediterranean were quite unspoilt. He often visited L'Estaque, in a beautiful region south of Marseilles, today unfortunately desecrated by industrial zones. It might be said that L'Estaque was the birthplace of modern French landscape painting. It was a sleepy fishing port set on one of the calanques, or rocky creeks, for which that part of the coast is noted. Cezanne worked there, as did Derain, creating a kind of fusion between Fauvism and Cubism. Braque painted an almost representational view of the viaduct at L'Estaque soaring over the rectangular jumble of red village roofs, and Dufy began his brief Cubist period there with unusually adventurous canvases whose mood and techniques were far removed from his more facile later watercolours. The drawings Cezanne made there are miracles of sensitivity and acuity. Baboulene was part of this wonderful surge of artistic invention which had its source in the brilliance of the light. He developed his art and his dazzled vision of the seas and landscapes of Provence here, and eventually had enough paintings for his first appearance at the Salon d'Automne in Paris in 1939. These were mostly nudes and landscapes painted in a figurative style inherited from the Fauves.

The triumph of Franco's troops in Spain brought many Spanish painters to exile in France, among them Antoni Clave and Antoni Tapies. Clave had also been a painter and decorator, working in publicity and the cinema in his native Barcelona. He gave Baboulene encouragement, and became one of his friends. After the war, on Clave's advice, Baboulene devoted himself entirely to painting. In 1948, his other great Catalan friend, Tapies, founded the review Dau al Set in Barcelona, as a magazine for both writers and artists, and Baboulene was one of this group, though a minor figure still. In 1955, he won the Prix Esso, followed in 1957 by the Prix Biennale de Menton. In 1962, he had a large one-man exhibition in Paris which was very successful both critically and financially, though his prices, like the man, were modest and discreet. In Emmanuel Benezit's Dictionnaire Critique et Documentaire des Peintres, Graveurs et Dessinateurs, Baboulene's first London sale in 1962 is recorded, bringing the painter pounds 70. Later sales in Geneva and Aix brought him substantially higher sums, but his work never fetched the inflated and astronomical prices that afflict the art market and the collector

today.

The paintings were like the man, of a sober brilliance. He had no ambition to revolutionise artistic creation, but in its own highly personal way his work is a marvel of subtle tone and restrained colour depicting a whole private world of very delicate observations and refined responses to a vision of Provence that is now, alas, long gone.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'