Henry Robinson Luce reported on the unveiling of Bernard Lorjou’s The Atomic Age (L’Age Atomique), now part of the Pompidou’s permanent collection at Salon des Tiuleries, in the review “Art: Shouts” for TIME magazine in 1950 (http://www.centrepompidou.fr/, Luce TIME). Luce reports,
“Atomic Age made everything else at the Salon des Tuileries last week look either timid or oldfashioned; it was a direct challenge to the aging moderns who have so long shaped French art. By its size, its dull coloring and its air-war theme, the picture was clearly intended to invite comparison with Picasso's famous canvas of the Spanish civil war, Guernica” (TIME 1950).
The grand scale of the painting (12 feet by 18 feet) certainly set the stage for the imposing presence of a strangely victorious scene in which human strength dominates. Various sculptures portrayed in the painting boast eternal life, creatures are in submission—the decapitated bull, the feast on a table showcases fish, ham, chicken, lobster, hare—and even in skeletal form, the figure of a man commands a flying horse. Lorjou’s primary attitudes expressed in the painting might be poignant empathy tempered with irony; though Luce posits, “Lorjou meant his painting to convey a hopeful message”—we might find Lorjou’s explanation of his work—“If there is an atomic war, afterwards there will still be men. It will be necessary to nourish them…”—to be a rather ironized sentiment concerning our world in the post-atomic era.
Although both L’Offrande and L’Age Atomique could be characterized as expressionistic and allegorical, Lorjou considered himself to be a “figurative-realist” of sorts, and he “spits on abstraction” (Barry 146, Luce TIME).
Lorjou founded L’Homme Temoin (Group of Social Realist Painters) with art critic Jean Bouret—the association included Bernard Buffet, Andre Minaux, Simone Dat, and Jean Couty. The members of L’Homme Temoin revered figurative painting and despised the abstract movement. Lorjou celebrated the primal, robust attitude of the human animal; he proclaimed, “Man is an eater of red meat, fried potatoes, fruit and cheese” (www.the-artists.org/). Kathleen Morand describes the import of the works of L’Homme Temoin:
“What the group has been responsible for is a hard core of really serious work, which has attempted to preserve something of a great and humane tradition in a world of shifting values… who can answer abstract art in canvases of comparable size and in terms even more empathetic” (Morand 187).
And although Lorjou’s Atomic Age seems to echo Picasso’s Guernica, Lorjou asserted, “Picasso is called a god. In reality he is a monster!” (Luce TIME). Lorjou related his paintings, instead, to the works of Goya, Velasquez and El Greco (Marks 233). Indeed, Lorjou’s pilgrimage to Spain during his early twenties impacted his artistic vision and approach dramatically. Political and social concerns became thematic motifs in Lorjou’s puissant works; indeed, the poetic painting L’Offrande, executed just after the crisis of World War II, could be read in terms of a cathartic, creative offering from a sensitive artist to assuage our grief in the aftermath of human tragedy.
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MIR Gallery, an online division of MIR Appraisal Services, Inc., is proud to showcase Bernard Lorjou’s L’Offrande; to view the Lorjou painting, or any other works in our online gallery, please do email: email@example.com or call (312) 814-8510.
Marks, Claude. H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1984.
Barry, Joseph Amber. Left Bank, Right Bank. New York: Norton, 1951.
Luce, Henry Robinson. “Art: Shouts.” TIME Nov 1950.
Morand, Kathleen. French Painting in the Time of Jean De Berry. “Post-War Trends in the ‘Ecole de Paris.’” New York: Pahidon, 1991.