Claude Marie Madeleine Bouscharain

(1922 - )

About

Claude Bouscharain’s canvases are pervaded by a provocative and vaguely disturbing atmosphere – a sense that the viewer is being provided with a view into rather than of the personages who inhabit the distorted space.  Her colour combinations contribute to the unreality:  in her earlier works she composed mainly in minor key, with cool and neutralized tones performing visual functions usually reserved for the dominant, hotter colours.  Always her content was concerned with human beings, her style often hovering on the borders of abstraction; but while the figures were deprived of individualizing features they were never totally reduced to non-figurative forms.

Following her visit to the USA in 1966, Claude Bouscharain was drawn towards hard-edge design and purer colour.  She also switched to the acrylic medium and embarked on large-scale compositions.  However, the stylistic and technical adjustments did not connote an altered orientation; she summarised her artistic philosophy as follows:

“I am interested in human life.  My painting helps me to delimit what I know about it.  To me, an ordinary, down-to-earth life does not exist. By its very beginning and end, it is entirely mysterious.  Therefore I am not interested in dreams and fantasies; what one calls ‘reality’ is the strangest of all.”

In her reference to the “strangeness of reality”, Claude Bouscharain provides a key to the enigmatic nature of much of her work. However, to search too intently for rational meanings in all her canvases is to sacrifice their essential poetry and their subliminal emotional communication to the banalities of overt things and explicable occurrences.

Reality, for Bouscharain, is a compound of subjective insights and imprecise moods and feelings, a heightened awareness of the overtones and metaphysical implications of actions, events and situations, an externalisation of the angst of modern living and a persisting private concern about human isolation and alienation.  To make such a vision both tolerable and tangible, she has tended to ritualise reality:  she unmasks its strangeness by stripping away the psychological comfort of familiar context, light and viewpoint; and then dresses her perceptions in schematic colour and hieratic form.

In her later work, the hieratic quality is emphasized by the detached precision of her use of the acrylic medium:  the personalised imprint of brushwork, pre-sent in her earlier oils, has been eliminated and forms are fixed in time and space by the uncompromising hard-edge style.  Yet each ritualised tableau is endowed with hyper-realist drama by the intense and penetrating light in which the images are bathed.

  • Chronology

    1922

    Born 12 July in Foëcy (Berry), France.She moved to Geneva with her parents.

    1927

    Attended Jean-Jacques Rousseau Nursery School, Geneva.Thereafter she attended high school in Geneva.

    1940

    Remained in Geneva after her parents had returned to France.

    1941 - 1942

    Entered the Institut Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Institute of Educational Sciences), Geneva to study child-psychology.

    1943

    Completed her studies and rejoined her parents in Paris.She became voluntary assistant to the head psychiatrist at the Hôpital de Enfants Malades.

    1945

    Attended drawing classes at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris.

    1946

    Admitted to the Académie des Beaux Arts; departed France for the United States with her parents where she settled in New York.

    1947

    Continued studies at the Art Students’ League, New York, under Robert Beverley Hale and Morris Kantor.

    1950

    Revisited Paris and remained there to study under Fernand Léger.Met and married the Cape based artist, Erik Laubscher.Moved to Cape Town with him where they settled in Bree Street.

    1952

    First child, Michèle, born.

    1953

    Moved to Green Point.

    1954

    Second child, Pierre, born.

    1958

    Third child, Francesca, born.

    1966

    Revisited America with Erik Laubscher.On return from America, stimulated by visit, she changed her style of painting.

  • Studies

    1941 – 1942

    Entered the Institut Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Institute of Educational Sciences), Geneva; studied child-psychology

    1945

    Attended drawing classes at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris

    1946

    Admitted to the Académie l’Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris

    1947

    Continued studies at the Art Students’ League, New York, under Robert Beverley Hale and Morris Kantor

    1950

    Académie Montmartre, Paris, under Fernand Lége

  • Exhibitions

    1985

    Group exhibition with Erik Launscher and Stanley Pinker, Drostdy Centre, Stellenbosch

    1982

    Solo exhibition, University of Stellenbosch

    1981

    Republic Festival Exhibition, Durban

    1979

    Invited artist, Cape Town Biennale

    1975

    Cape Town Festival Exhibition, South African National Gallery, Cape Town (March)

    1974

    Republic of South Africa Exhibition, South African National Gallery, Cape Town (in lieu of Venice Biennale)(August)

    1973

    South African Association of Arts, Cape Town group exhibition (May)

    New Cape Art, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town (October)

    1972

    Solo exhibition, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town (August)

    Group exhibition, Gallery Connoisseur, Johannesburg (October)

    1971

    Exhibition of Cape Artists, Durban Museum

    Republic Festival Exhibition, South African National Gallery, Cape Town (May)

    1970

    Group exhibition, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town (February)

    Inaugural Exhibition of new premises, South African Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town (June)

    Inaugural Exhibition, Bulawayo Art Gallery, Rhodesia (December)

    1969

    Quinquennial Exhibition of South African Art, South African National Gallery, Cape Town (October)

    1968

    South African Breweries Biennale, travelling exhibition

    1966

    Republic Festival Exhibition, South African National Gallery, Cape Town (May)

    Solo exhibition, Artists’ Gallery, Cape Town (June)

    South African Breweries Biennale, travelling exhibition

    Republic Festival Exhibition, Pretoria

    1965

    Group exhibition, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town (January)

    South African Women Artists, South African National Gallery, Cape Town (May)

    Fifth Cape Salon, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town (August)

    1964

    Fourth Cape Salon, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town (August)

    1963

    Third Cape Salon, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town (August)

    South African Flora in Art, South African National Gallery, Cape Town (August)

    Group exhibition with Erik Laubscher, Lidchi Gallery, Johannesburg (October)

    1962

    Cape Wild Flower Paintings, St Martini Gardens, Cape Town (July)

    Second Cape Salon, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town (August)

    1961

    First Cape Salon, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town (August)

    South African Art Today, Durban

    1960

    South African Artists, Ghent, Belgium (March)

    1959

    Group exhibition, Under 40s Exhibition, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town, (September)

    Solo exhibition, South African Association of Arts, Cape Town (October)

    First of five solo exhibitions at the Argus Gallery, Cape Town

    1950

    Art Students’ League Tercentenary, New York

    Participated in over 40 group exhibitions from 1950 in the United States of America, South Africa, Belgium, Zimbabwe and Australi

  • Collections

    Public Collections – South Africa

    • South African National Gallery, Cape Town
    • Hester Rupert Art Museum, Graaff-Reinet
    • National Museum, Bloemfontein
    • Pretoria Art Museum
    • Sandton Municipal Collection
    • University of the Orange Free State

Artwork