Museum of Modern Art of Paris

Eugène Leroy, Auto-portrait, ca. 1958
huile sur bois, 73 x 58 cm, collection privée, Roubaix, France, © Photo Alain Leprince, © ADAGP. Paris 2022
Eugène Leroy Autoportrait, vers 1958 huile sur bois 73 x 58 cm Collection particulière, Roubaix, France © Photo Alain Leprince © ADAGP. Paris 2022

Exhibition Peindre by Eugène Leroy

Curator: Julia Garimorth

Visit with the curator on Friday, May 20 at 2:30pm

The Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris is devoting an important retrospective to Eugène Leroy. This exhibition brings together about one hundred and fifty works (paintings and graphic works), significant of the evolution of the artist's work.

Although his work has long remained confidential, Eugène Leroy is one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. It was not until 1988 that his first major Parisian exhibition took place, in the same Museum of Modern Art and in the same spaces of the ARC. The production of this painter, born in Tourcoing in 1910 and died in 2000, developed over more than sixty years based as much on the sensation of reality as on an ideal vision of painting.

Attached to the old masters and deliberately anachronistic, Eugène Leroy revisited throughout his life traditional iconographic subjects such as nudes, self-portraits, still lifes or landscapes. Beyond a retrospective, the exhibition itinerary, organized by themes, highlights the complexity of a long process of creation and pictorial research.


Museum of Modern Art of Paris

11 Avenue du Président Wilson

— 75116 Paris


About the artist:

Eugène Leroy has long led his activity as a painter and a career as a teacher of Latin and Greek. He had his first solo exhibition in 1937 in Lille and established himself as a "separate" artist. He presented his paintings in Paris in 1943 and then participated, in the 1950s, in several editions of the Salon de Mai. He travels frequently to Europe, then to the United States and Russia, where he visits the collections of museums, seeking to confront his painting with that of the great masters and to refine a pictorial erudition, essential to his work. In 1958, he moved into a small house-workshop in Wasquehal, in the north of France.

The Parisian gallery Claude Bernard exhibited it in 1961. It was on this occasion that the German painter Georg Baselitz and the merchant Michael Werner discovered his work. "I found there brown images," Baselitz wrote, "as a field, as a stone, as wood, as moss, as a scent. A simple Dutch composition with an incredible accumulation of colors. A pile of sheet metal from the dovecote that illuminated my head. »

In 1978, his eldest son opened the Jean Leroy gallery in Paris where he regularly presented his father's work. In 1982, Jan Hoet, then director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent, Belgium, whom Leroy met during a trip to the United States, devoted a major exhibition to him and invited him, in 1992, to documenta IX in Kassel.

At the same time, a fruitful collaboration was established with Michael Werner, allowing the European and international recognition of Eugène Leroy's work.

As Bernard Marcadé points out, "the contribution of Eugène Leroy's work to twentieth-century art is decisive, because it bears witness to a constantly repeated struggle of painting and image". Beyond its impasto – but also thanks to it – this painting creates a new pictorial language that is deeply anchored in reality, without worrying about its legibility.

Eugène Leroy sought to grasp a truth of perception while keeping the emotion that makes it possible.
"All I've tried in painting is to arrive [...] to a kind of absence almost, so that the painting is totally itself," he commented in 1979. He reworked his paintings, sometimes over several years, until the subject almost disappeared. The difficulty of detecting at first glance the painted motif allows the viewer to dwell on the physical presence of the work. His painting was "an act of memory, a projection forward, through the present darkness of history", to use the beautiful formula of the poet Yves Bonnefoy about Rimbaud.

Eugène Leroy's works are present in the largest public and private collections, in France and abroad. With about forty paintings and drawings, entered into its collections thanks to regular purchases and donations since 1988, the Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris is considered today as a place of reference for the artist.

Another news about Eugène Leroy: the Eugène Leroy exhibition. A contre-jour will be presented from April 29 to October 2, 2022 at the MUba Eugène Leroy in Tourcoing.