Tony GONNET workshop
Tony GONNET, born on August 22, 1909 in Péronne into a family of Picardy notables who had belonged to the noblesse de robe since the 17th century, died on September 26, 2004 in Nîmes, at the age of 95. Between 1941 and 2002, Tony GONNET produced a considerable body of work that was appreciated from the 1950s onwards. He loved life and said that each of his works was an offering to it.
In Paris, he first became an industrial draughtsman, and from 1936 contributed to the creation of an aircraft engine of unprecedented design. In 1939, the "engine construction engineer" was placed by the army at the disposal of a mechanical engineering company, which moved to Casablanca in June 1940. There, in 1941, he met up with André Breton and Saint-Exupéry, on their way to America. Unable to obtain a visa himself, he returned to Paris in January 1942, still working on aircraft engines, and took up residence at the Hôtel de la Louisiane, rue de Seine, until 1953. He was an avid reader and, as before the war, a regular visitor to the Café de Flore.
He became one of the leading figures of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and counted among his many friends and acquaintances Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Genet, who prefaced his first exhibition in Paris in 1952, and Albert Camus, Maria Casarès, Simone Signoret, Boris Vian, Paul Grimault, Marcel Duhamel, Gaston Gallimard, Alain Cuny, Roger Blin, Lola and Marcel Mouloudji, Henri Crolla, Claude Luter, Serge Reggiani, Fabien Loris, Jacques and Pierre Prévert.
In 1941, in the boredom of Casablanca, Tony GONNET began drawing, then painting, in a surrealist style (lot n°2).
In 1946, he abandoned surreal figuration for abstraction, using only geometric shapes and gradations of color, in a style all his own, characterized by a subtle interplay of shapes and colors. His first abstract paintings were mini-paintings measuring 19 × 13 cm, as small as the pebbles he collected on Mediterranean beaches to decorate them (lots no. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8). He then moved on to larger formats, always limited by his modesty.
He also sought, through painting, to join music, which for him was the ultimate form of creative freedom. As early as 1941, he drew figures with the heads of musical instruments. For him, no painter had ever equalled Paul Klee.
The succession of Tony GONNET's paintings bears witness to the plastic research in which he had been trained as a drawing engineer. Each of his works aims to achieve a harmony of form and color designed to bring joy.
The painting he was working on was his provisional answer to existential questions. The man was, as we said, modest (he wrote in 1947, "the road necessarily passes through self-forgetfulness") and always refused to solicit his relations to make his painting better known.
Tony Gonnet's work can be summed up as follows:
The Surrealist period runs from 1941 to 1946. Towards the end of 1946/1947, abstraction began in drawings and paintings on paper, canvas and wood. The works of the 1950s-1960s, the central period of his production, tend towards muted tones. As early as 1969, he sometimes introduced human face profiles into his geometric compositions, perhaps less a reminiscence of Surrealism than a quest for a reconciled world. Then, in the 1970s and 1980s, his palette became lighter and more luminous. As in 1969, from 1990 onwards Tony painted mainly gouaches, often incorporating human profiles.
In addition to his studio, which includes many of his works, Tony GONNET left a Diary, which he kept from 1940 to 1960, and a voluminous personal archive, all of which will be preserved by the Institut Mémoires de l'Édition Contemporaine (IMEC), at the Abbaye d'Ardenne near Caen.
While his first exhibition in Paris, in 1952, was prefaced by Jean Genet, it was Pierre Courthion who presented the 1957 exhibition, and Jean Cassou, former director of the Musée d'Art Moderne, who presented the 1971 exhibition at the Abbaye de Sénanque. In 1986, Serge Reggiani sponsored his last Paris exhibition, and in 2005, at the request of Jean-Marc Roubaud, deputy mayor, a posthumous exhibition was held in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
We hope this selection of cubist, colorful and musical works will help you rediscover the talent of this artist.
Possibility of viewing works in advance by appointment
Tuesday, July 4, 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
+ 33 (0)1 34 42 14 50
+33 (0)1 34 42 61 46