Perrotin is pleased to present Rhapsody in Blue, the first exhibition of work by Gérard Schneider in the United States in over a half-century. Pioneer of Lyrical Abstraction, Schneider’s aesthetic is raw and vibrant, physical and unrestrained, reflecting his intention to translate pure emotion into painting. The works on view will span Schneider’s almost seven decades long career, focusing specifically on the artist’s relationship with the color blue.
Everyone listens to Beethoven and Mozart without any expectation of representation.
The following text was written by Christian Demare to accompany the exhibition.
Rhapsody in Blue
In 1924, George Gershwin composed Rhapsody in Blue, using a highly innovative approach to music composition. Rooted in its time, it incorporated elements of jazz and popular music, effectively conveying the challenges of musical creation and the necessity of staying in touch with the truth and reality of the world.
In a similar manner, Gérard Schneider revolutionized European post-war abstraction two decades later. In 1946, two exhibitions in Paris heralded major upheavals in abstract painting: First Exhibition of Domela Hartung Schneider at the Research Center on Cujas Road, and Abstract Paintings: Dewasne, Deyrolle, Marie Raymond, Hartung, Schneider at gallery Denise René. These exhibitions propelled a group of young abstract painters to the forefront of the art scene, who quickly made a name for themselves by offering a radically new take on the notion of abstraction.
Schneider was soon regarded as the leader of this so-called “lyrical” abstraction. His first solo exhibition was held at the Lydia Conti gallery in Paris from April 25 to May 17, 1947. Art critics and the art world in general were quick to recognize his work’s international appeal, leading to his first solo museum exhibition in Germany in 1952.
Gérard Schneider... accelerates at a rapid rate his broad, bold brush strokes. Or else, he slows them down to being almost motionless. In any case, his foot is always on the accelerator... Schneider manipulates his speed with great mastery. Forms plunge and color, rich, sumptuous, switches on and off like the lamp of a lighthouse.
Gérard Schneider’s work was first exhibited in New York at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1949. This seminal exhibition marked the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between the Swiss-born French painter and New York City. Starting in the late 1940s, Schneider exhibited regularly in the United States, especially in New York. He was featured in the traveling exhibition Advancing French Art in 1951-1952, which obtained an exceptional reception in New York and marked an important moment in the encounter between American and European abstraction.
In 1955, New York gallery owner Samuel Kootz exhibited Schneider for the first time. His first solo exhibition at Kootz Gallery in 1956 was a public and critical success, introducing the American public to a powerful, gestural painting style that impressed with its strength and presence. Working closely with Samuel Kootz, Schneider had five solo exhibitions in New York. Kootz was one of the great promoters of European abstraction in the United States, and it was through him that some of Schneider’s major works found their way into the collections of major North American museums.
I think you and Pierre [Soulages] are the two men I am most confident in today.
From 1945 onwards, Schneider abandoned any reference to the real, advocating an autonomous abstraction wholly detached from any “figurative allusion.” He nonetheless drew on his deep knowledge of the old masters and the history of twentieth-century artistic trends to enrich his pictorial language and vocabulary: form, gesture, and color.
Schneider was an exceptional colorist, confident in his ability to work with assemblages of color, create contrasts, and make spaces come alive with color. Blue, a color that carries immense symbolic and emotional weight, occupies a special place in his work. For Schneider, blue must always resonate with a warm color, as it is a space in its own right. It is much more than the obvious symbolism of air or water; it is the opening – the royal road – to the metaphysical dimension of color, the path to abstraction.
– Christian Demare
The abstract is pure painting, liberated to translate our internal states, to which we give shapes and colors.
Né en 1896 à Sainte-Croix, Suisse
Décédé en 1986 à Paris, France
Swiss born, Gérard Schneider (1896-1986) enrolled in the École nationale des arts décoratifs and the École nationale des beaux-arts de Paris before settling permanently in France. Throughout the mid-1930s, Gérard Schneider incorporated into his work Kandinsky’s revolutionary abstraction while writing poems and exploring the new horizons opened by Surrealism. In the excitement of the immediate post-war period, Gérard Schneider’s painting plays a key role in the rise of a new and radical form of art: Lyrical Abstraction. His gesture is raw and vibrant, physical and unrestrained. Deeply inspired by music, his brushstrokes reflect his intention to translate pure emotion into painting. Gérard Schneider befriended Georges Mathieu, Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages, whose work also took an international dimension. Starting from the mid-1940s, major exhibitions featuring the main figures of lyrical abstraction take place in Paris, in Germany and then in the United States, especially on the occasion of the major travelling exhibition 'Advancing French Art' which travelled all over the country—notably to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Philipps Collection in Washington, the Art Institute of Chicago, after which Samuel Kootz Gallery represented him in New York. During the 1950s-1960s, Gérard Schneider exhibited across several continents where he would be invited for major institutional retrospectives and Biennials. Gérard Schneider kept painting until his death in 1986, at the age of 90.