At the dawn of the 20th century, this academic painter experienced a liberating breathing space during a two-year break. From this period originated an exceptional spirits work, acclaimed by André Breton as soon as 1933. Drawings born of a trance and executed in pencil, his ectoplasmic work hints at arachnid frames, feverish faces, and oscillations dictated by his tutelary mind. Collected for more than a century, Fernand Desmoulins is now part of the collections of the Museum of LaM (France), Antoine de Galbert (France), and was shown in the last exhibition of the maison rouge (Paris): L’envol ou Le rêve de voler.
Fernand Desmoulin’s mediumistic drawings were made during a feverish and inspired interlude that lasted from 1900 to 1902. The wave of spiritualism that had swept through Europe gave this sophisticated artist, asphyxiated by his career as a painter and academic engraver, a liberating breath of fresh air, allowing him to create an exceptional, magnetic, sometimes violent, body of mediumistic work, that André Breton himself wanted to publish had he not passed away before the project’s realization. Freud had just published The Interpretation of Dreams, and the birth of a new century signaled a shift from conversations with the unknown beyond to the exploration of the subconscious.
A foggy countenance framed with curly hair, a feverish psyche expelled onto the sheet with meteoric writing, sinuous lines, spiderwebs, a mental oscilloscope, the work of Fernand Desmoulin is striking for its incredible richness, for its genial intrusion into what Henri Michaux calls “the space within”, that of inner voices, a virtual witness to a psyche weighted with conflict that ultimately made him the most innovative of the spiritualist artists. A production which, freed from the normative straitjacket of its author, joins the archipelago of art brut.
Preface : Raphaël Koenig
Foreword : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition In abstracto, from June 8th to July 15th, 2017.