Mario Prassinos

February 26th, 2013

 

1916

Mario Prassinos was born on July 30 (the date on the Greek orthodox calendar or August 12 according to the reformed Gregorian calendar). He was of Greek origin, from a family who had always lived in Constantinople, even before the name of the city was changed to Istambul.

1920

Birth of his sister, Gisèle.

1922

Father goes into exile. Mass exodus of the Greeks in Turkey to avoid persecution by the regime of Ataturk. Arrival in France. The culture shock has a lasting influence on him. Goes to public school in Puteaux and then in Nanterre where he will live until 1936.

1927

Lycée Condorcet, secondary school.

1932

Attends the School of Oriental Languages.
Short studies at the art studio of Clément Serveau.
First surrealist paintings. His father’s personal library, with a complete selection of literature and books on contemporary art, initiates him into the Surrealist movement very early on. He can often  be found in the wings at Charles Dullin’s Théâtre de l’Atelier, where his friends, fellow exiles, work. Backstage gives him a taste for the theater.

1934

Studies at the Faculty of Letters, Sorbonne.
Gisèle Prassinos writes her first texts.
At Man Ray’s house, he meets André Breton, Paul Eluard, René Char, Benjamin Peret, Max Ernst, Dali, Arp and Marcel Duchamp. Often goes to the Café de la Place Blanche and the Pierre Loeb Gallery where he meets Juan Miro, Victor Brauner, and Alberto Giacometti. This period, when he meets the poets and artists which he admires, is very important for him. In the theater, he becomes friends with Etienne Decroux. In addition, he does several drawings and frontispieces for GLM Editions who publish Gisèle Prassinos’ first book.

1935

Meets Max Jacob.

1936

Does a small album of drawings for the same publisher-printer : Calamité des Origines. He learns wood engraving by copying photos.
Death of his father, Lyssandre Prassinos.
Takes an apartment in Paris in the rue Bérite, in the 6th Arrondissement. Abandons Surrealism but continues to search for a way to find the fantastic in the ordinary scenes of life. People (fighters, warriors, weather vanes) and cats lead him to do his first portraits of singers, such as Bessie Smith. Meets Balthus who, along with Victor Brauner, shows at the Pierre Gallery.

1937

Exhibition of « Cruel Art » with Picasso, Dali and Masson at the Billiet Vorms Gallery in Paris.

1938

Death of Pretextat-Leconte who will be the model for his paintings 30 years later.
Marries Yolande Borelly .
Has his first exhibition, prefaced by René Char at the Pierre Vorms Gallery who discovered him at the « Salon des Surindépendants ». Picasso is the first visitor.

1939

Meets Natha and Gildo Caputo, who will later become his dealer. Does drawings inspired  by Edith Piaf and the films showing in his neighbourhood cinema.
Meets Edouard Pignon.

1939-40

Enlists in the army, is injured, receives the War Cross .

1941

Goes to live in the Villa Seurat, in what was formerly Soutine’s studio. Antonin Artaud and Henry Miller live in the same building. Salvador Dali lives a few houses down.

1942

Visit of Raymond Queneau. A great sense of friendship and faithful admiration for this very original man ensues. They have the same taste for language. Beginning of his collaboration with the publishing house N.R.F. (cardboard bindings, artist’s books). Becomes friends with Michel, Raymond and Gaston Gallimard. He is at the center of the literary movement of the period.

1943-45

Meets Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre (illustrates Le Mur with color etchings), Jean Lescure, and  Gaston Bachelard. Portraits of cats and women. Raymond Queneau and Michel Gallimard acquire a few of his works. Meets Claude Gallimard. Two days before D-Day (1944) he exhibits in the reception rooms of N.R.F., rue Sébastien-Bottin. Meets Marcel Duhamel, Pierre Seghers, Jean Genet and Jean Paulhan.

1946

Birth of his daughter, Catherine. L’Instant Fatal, the result of collaboration with Raymond Queneau from 1943 to 1945, illustrated by his etchings, comes out. The subject is very topical : the dance macabre.

1947

Meets Boris Vian and Roland Petit. He does the costumes for Tobie and Sara by Paul Claudel for Jean Vilar and the first Festival of Avignon. Meets Alberto Magnelli, his neighbor at the Villa Seurat. Friendship and admiration for this elder painter who influences him for a short time (just long enough to realize that abstraction is not a historical necessity but an episode, and for the painter, a special calling. He realizes it is not his). Shows at the Billiet-Caputo Gallery. Meets Myriam Prévot.

1949

Takes French citizenship. He returns to painting the subject : Heards.

1951

First tapestries, which are exhibited at the N.R.F. during one of those memorable cocktail parties of the time. Meets Michel Tourlière, Jean Lurçat.
He falls in love at first sight with the house in Eygalières, and buys it because of the Alpilles mountain landscape, which is, at that time, completely arid. He will live there until his death.
Paints landscapes from nature. Does numerous drawings, experimenting with automatism inspired by the theater. Is looking for a kind of calligraphy based on the object, similar to Chinese ideogrammes. He uses the spraying of ink and paints as a technique to force the image to reveal ifself.

1953

Illustrates The Raven by Edgar Poe, with wood engravings and etchings.

1954

Costumes and stage settings for Macbeth, directed by Jean Vilar in Avignon and at the T.N.P. in Paris.

1955

First one-man show at the Galerie de France, run by Gildo Caputo and  Myriam Prévot, to be followed by many others until the death of  Myriam Prévot in 1977.

1955-57

Pursues his work on landscapes.

1958

Long stay on the island of Spetsai in Greece after a cruise in the Aegean Sea with Jeanine, Michel Gallimard and Albert Camus.
Numerous drawings on paper with ink and paint. Black and white pointillism takes form and is perfected even though he continues to use the line and arabesques.
A one-man show at the Blu Gallery in Milan.

1959-60

Does the series Bouquets, prefiguration of later portraits.
Receives the award « Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres ». Does the scenery and costumes for Strindberg’s Eric XIV (Avignon and the T.N.P.)
Death of Michel Gallimard and Albert Camus.
Max-Pol Fouchet does a film on him for television.
Meets Jean-Louis and Molly Ferrier. Jean-Louis Ferrier does an important article on him for Les Temps Modernes magazine. Large paintings in the series Landscapes and Trees).
Important exhibitions in German museums.

1961

Robert Lapoujade makes a film about him called  L’Image et Le Moment.
One-man show at the Picasso Museum in Antibes.

1962-64

Paints around 30 canvases for The Portrait of Bessie Smith and writes a text which is at the origin of
a book.
Exhibitions in Dutch museums and at the Kunsthalle in Basel. Meets Colette Ryter who shows his tapestries in Zurich.
A one-man show at the Orangerie Verlag in Cologne.
Settings and costumes with Jean Vilar for Verdi’s Macbetto at La Scala in Milan.

1964-70

Portrait of grandfather Prétextat. Systematic use of pointillism by spraying. With this technique, the painter does not touch the painting but is present at its emergence. In 1966, he does a series of color etchings for Rimbaud’s Une Saison en Enfer.
Tries his hand at teaching at the School of  Fine Art in Luminy where François Bret is director.
He is promoted to the « Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur ». His granddaughter,  Emmanuelle, is born. Has a series of one-man shows in various cultural centers in France, and at the Cantini Museum in Marseille in 1968.
Designs the stage settings and costumes for Xenakis’ ballet Eonta in 1969. Lucien Clergue makes a film on his painting.
Has a show at the Art’s Club in Chicago.

1970-71

Important exhibition at the Réattu  Museum in Arles. During a long illness, he writes Les Prétextats, a chronicle of his work on this subject. These writings reveal a hidden part of his personal world. At the time of an exhibition, Editions La Demeure publishes Empreindre, reflections on cardboard, imprints and tapestry codifications. Meets  François and Cécile Nourissier.
A new theme emerges as a result of the landscapes done in 1960 : The Turkish Landscapes .
He does very large works made by spraying drops and droplets of paint, recalling Seurat, who Prassinos has continually referred to since his youth.
The theme of Prétextats is not abandoned, but undergoes a metamorphosis : Proprotextats a cross between the dog Propro and the grandfather who he resembles. Pèretextats, portraits of his father with reference to the Holy Shroud of Turin, an old obsession of the painter, long fascinated by this extraordinary image revealed by the camera. A book published in 1901, one of the first on the subject, was one of his favorite book during his childhood.
He does the stage settings and costumes for the ballet Bolero at the Opera Comique.

1972

One-man shows at the Ateneo in Madrid and the Galerie de France in Paris.

1972-74

The Turkish Landscapes becomes Forests and Parks. These are obsessional memories dating from childhood. The painter uses a scrupulous simplicity of image. A big exhibition of large format drawings at the Abbaye de Saint-Maximin. Les Prétextats are published by Gallimard in 1973.

1975

Meets Marcel Maréchal for whom he will do the stage settings for Louis Guilloux’s Cripure two years later.

1976

The first The Turkish Landscapes are shown at the Galerie de France. He does a series of small washes as a break from the large formats.
A long stay in Greece where he begins to write The Tattooed Hill.

1980

Does the scenery and costumes for the Stravinsky ballet, Le Sacre du Printemps at the Halle aux Grains in  Toulouse.
Continues his work on the The Turkish Landscapes and the Shrouds. The theme of the tree reappears.

1981

For the Avignon and Marseille Operas, he does the costumes and stage settings for Verdi’s Otello.

1982

A complete retrospective of paintings, drawings, sculptures and etchings is organized by Presence Contemporaine in Aix-en-Provence.
The Tattooed Hill is published by Grasset.

1984

Retrospectives are organized at the Tapestry Museum in Aubusson and at the Ecole Nationale d’Art Décoratif, as well as exhibitions at the French Institute in Athens, Rhodes and Thessalonika.

1985

Works on the Paintings of Torment for Notre-Dame de Pitié chapel in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
Gift to the French Government of a number of works done between 1958 and 1985.

He dies on october 23, 1985.