OZENFANT Amédée
French painter; born in 1886 at Saint-Quentin. He began to study drawing at the Ecole Quentin-de-la-Tour in his native city. Shortly afterwards he frequented the Académie de la Palette, where he was the pupil of Charles Cottet, Jacques-Emile Blanche and Georges Desvallières. He was given the La Tour pastels to copy end noticed with surprise that in his big box of clear colour none was suitable; he ascertained, for example, that 'sky blues or the flesh tones are neutrals transfigured by tones even more neutral'. The painter was to remember this lesson when he taught his disciples, 'Painting starts where reality ends, where illusion begins'. In 1908 he exhibited at the Salon de la Nationale and in 1910 at the Salon d'Automne, and in the following year at the Salon des Indépendants. He traveled across the Low Countries, in Italy, and spent three years in Russia. From 1915 to 1917 Ozenfant laid down the principles of Purism in his magazine L'Élan. In 1917 he met Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, the future Le Corbusier, and made him part of the movement. In 1919 they published together After Cubism, a manifesto of Purism. Ozenfant's work then consisted of compositions of simplified forms, organized according to a set of strict rules, strictly followed in order to avoid 'facility' and force the imagination to exert itself fully. While Juan Gris at the same period was proceeding from the abstract to the concrete, Ozenfant started from real or possible objects and moved toward abstraction, eliminating everything variable or accidental from each object, to retain only constants. The Purist rules of organization have often been compared to those imposed upon the fugue by J. S. Bach, and it is quite natural that certain paintings by Ozenfant bear the name of Chord or Fugue. From 1921 to 1925 Ozenfant and Jeanneret published their magazine Esprit Nouveau, which enabled the boldest and most diverse tendencies in contemporary art to express themselves. From 1925 to 1928 the whole activity of Ozenfant tended toward the renewal of mural painting; the central work of this period is the vast composition in the Paris Museum of Modern Art, The Four Racer. In 1928 he published Art (I: The Balance Sheet of Modern Arts; II: The Structures of a New Spirit), which is now a classic and has been reprinted many times in several languages. In 1931 he began a vast composition called Life, in which over a hundred figures handled in the Purist manner lyrically sing human solidarity, and he worked on it for seven years. This work now belongs to the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. From 1935 to 1938 he published Journey Through Life, his diary for the years 1931- 1934, in which he recorded all events, whether general or personal, in so far as they influenced the work in progress, Life. Since 1938 Ozenfant has been living in New York, where he founded the Ozenfant School of Fine Arts. Developing his theory of 'Pre-Forms', he has endeavoured to show that great works of art, like all truths, exist necessarily, potentially, in humanity's subsconscious before being revealed by in 'inventor'. While his work before the important composition Life was dominated by a will for economy, to say as much as possible with a minimum of means, since 1950 the artist seems to have set himself the goal of 'giving as much as possible to be seen'; in fact, his recent works appear quite simple from a distance, but on closer inspection, series of details are revealed.
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