Music of the Morning, Music of the Evening

Claude Marie Madeleine Bouscharain

Oil on Canvas
74 x 195cm
Signed: "Bouscharain" (Lower/Left)


Verso:         Inscribed: “Bouscharain, Music of the Morning, Music of the Evening, 6 Cheviot Place, Green Point, Cape Town”

Illustrated & Referenced:      Graham’s Fine Art Gallery. 2009. Imaging and Imagining: South African Art c.1896 – 2008. Graham’s Fine Art Gallery, Johannesburg. p. 234 & 235.


Born in the south of France, Claude Bouscharain spent her childhood in Geneva where she later completed her studies in child psychology.  Returning to Paris she switched to art in 1945, studying at the Académie des Beaux Arts.  In 1946 the family moved to New York where she continued her studies at the Art Students’ League where, significantly, free experimentation was encouraged (Alexander, 1988: 87).  While on holiday in France in 1950 she studied under Fernand Léger.  Many of the principles which she assimilated under Léger would become of major significance to her work from 1967 onwards.  Of these, colour contrasts, the juxtaposition of objects and monumentality were perhaps the most notable (Alexander, 1988: 87).  During the same year she met and married the South African artist Erik Laubscher and returned with him to Cape Town.  A year long visit to America in 1966 was a turning point in her career which would lead to the hard-edged style of her works in acrylic. 

Central to Bouscharain’s highly visual works is a complex interaction of elusive, mystical and esoteric imagery and of vibrant colour relationships, which she considers integral to the layered meaning of her work (Arnott, 1977: 22).  Esmé Berman (1993: 70) describes Bouscharain’s work as essentially an interrogation of the “strangeness of reality”.  Defying easy access due to the seemingly irrational combination of subjective insights and dreamlike imagery, her work, throughout the different stages, deals predominantly with the complexities of human nature in general and often with conditions of “human isolation and alienation” (Berman, 1993: 70).  Bruce Arnott (1977: 13,14,16) identifies three different stages in her work: her early works, made while she was a student in New York and Paris; her “lyrical” oil paintings (1952 to 1966); and her “epic style paintings” (1966-c1981) executed in hard-edged, smoothly applied acrylics, influenced by her trip to America and the teachings of Léger. 

Undated, Music of the Morning, Music of the Evening was in all probability painted during the ‘lyrical’ period, towards the mid1960s.  Pointing to the hard-edged style of her later works, it is tempered, in areas, by the more subtle nuances of oil paint.  Divided into two rectangular segments, the overall mood of the painting is one of introspection and reflection, the music perhaps suggesting a refuge from the exigencies of life.  Both segments contain references to the transition from the morning to the evening in the brilliant yellows and oranges of the sun at dawn and sunset, and the cooler colours of the approaching darkness, and both are set against the backdrop of cityscapes in the background.  As Berman (1993: 70) notes, to search for exact meaning and associations in Bouscharain’s enigmatic work is to deny the very strangeness of reality to which she alludes and unmasks.  To quote Arnott (1977: 14): “Herein lies both the difficulty and the fascination of [Bouscharain’s] art.”

by Karin Preller


Bibliography:      Alexander, L., Bedford, E., & Cohen, E. 1988. Paris and South African Artists 1850-1965. Cape Town: South African National Gallery.

                             Arnott, B. 1977. Claude Bouscherain. Cape Town: Struik.

                             Berman, E. 1993. Art and Artists of South Africa: An Illustrated Biographical Dictionary and Historical Survery of Painters, Sculptors and Graphic Artists Since 1875. Halfway House: Southern Book Publishers.

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