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Guillaume Corneille

CoBRA, Abstraction

(Liege, 1922- Paris, 2010)

Guillaume Corneille

Guillaume Corneille Beverloo, better known as Corneille, was born in 1922 in Liege in a Dutch family. In 1929, the family left Belgium and moved to Amsterdam, where young Corneille is quickly interested in painting. From age 18, he joins drawings and prints classes at the Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam. Nevertheless, he judges his formation too academic and decides to pursue his own pictorial explorations. Over the years, he creates a specific thematic vocabulary, dominated by primordial forces: the stars, the clouds, the sea, the land.

In 1946 he held his first solo exhibition in Holland. The following year he exhibited his works in Amsterdam with Karel Appel. Then, he was invited to exhibit his paintings in Budapest, where he discovered the works of Paul Klee and Vassily Kandinsky and meets Jacques Doucet. From that period, he is interested in the topic of organic elements, which inspired him the series of "gardens" that he exposes in Europa Iskola .

Back in the Netherlands, in 1948, he participated in the creation of the dutch experimental group Reflex with Karel Appel, Eugene Brands, Constant Nieuwenhuis , Anton Rosskens and Theo Wolvencamp . They combine their different contributions, publish the magazine Reflex and organize a collective exhibition in Amsterdam.

The same year, in opposition to Surrealism, created by André Breton, which he considers too theorizing, Corneille takes a journey to Paris, where he co-founded the group CoBRA in response to the quarrel between abstraction and figuration, alongside with Asger Jorn, Karel Appel, Christian Dotremont and Constant Nieuwenhuys. They are soon joined by poets, painters and writers such as Jacques Doucet, Alchinsky, Heerup, Reinhoud, Else Alfeldt, CH Pedersen Egil Jacobsen, CO Hultén, Anders Osterlin or Max Walter. Wishing to return to the primary sources of creation, they will look for artistic forms spared by the standards and conventions of the west culture, such as totems and magic signs of primitive cultures, oriental calligraphy, prehistoric and medieval art. They also discover intact parts of their own culture, such as forms of Nordic folk art, primitive art, naive art, and creations due to children or mentally handicapped. This is a plea for a conscious regression, a return to the archetypal images which, it seems, remain buried in the depths of the subconscious, theory which is preached by the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.

For three years, "CoBRA" worked alone or in collective. They create unique works, many print publications and organize workshops, debates and exhibitions, bringing together international artists. After the group disbanded, each actor follows a personal path, keeping contact with each other. Corneille then works with many artists, including the writer Hugo Claus, one of his closest friends and CoBRA collaborator. He notably brings drawings, engravings or lithographs to the texts written by Claus. During this period, his style was very colourfull and gushing.

In 1949 Corneille made ​​his first trip to North Africa, where he passionately discovers the richness of Arabic and Berber civilizations. He will travel in many countries during all his life and thus discovers various cultural areas. He discovers the Tunisian South in 1949, in 1952 he stayed in the Hoggar looking for Antinea, in 1956-1957 he crossed Central Africa by car. That journey enables him to understand the myths, beliefs and rites closely related the signs. After traveling in South America in 1958, he went to Brazil and Cuba between 1962 and 1966. His many journeys fed him sources for his work, which has no equivalent in the artistic Paris during the years 50-60. Each trip is indeed an opportunity to meet new people, find new inspirations.

From 1950, Corneille moved to Paris , then began to exhibit in major galleries such as galerie Maeght (1950), galerie Colette Allendy (1954), Galerie Ariel (1961). He also exhibits his works in New-York in Lefebre Gallery (1962). He also exhibited in museums such as the Museum of Curacao (1954) , the Palace of Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium (1956) or at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in the Netherlands ( 1956 and 1960). A partir de 1954-55, Corneille s’initie à de nouveaux médiums ; d’abord à la gravure à l’eau forte dans l’atelier de Stanley Hayter à Paris, puis à la céramique avec Asger Jorn, Wilfredo Lam, Matta, Enrico Baj, Fontana, dans l’atelier de Mazzoti, à Albisola. At the same period, he recieved a honorable mention Carnegie International à Pittsburgh and the year after, in 1956,he won the Salomon Guggenheim price for the Netherlands.

From 1961, Corneille began painting on the floor. His paintings, structured organically, borrow their colors and materials to the mineral, which leads to its "geological period". He began a series of gouaches in 1962, which will be presented at special exhibitions in 1962, in the Galerie Mathias Fels, Paris, with texts by Hubert Juin, Jean- Clarence Lambert, Jean- Jacques Leveque, Lasse Söderberg and a second time in 1964 in the same gallery. There is a certain duality in the art of Corneille around the years 1960’s: its rigorous constructions are counterbalanced by great spontaneity and its rich color palette.

From 1970, he returned to figurative art. His paintings in bright colors then present an idyllic world, almost childlike where birds cats, women and suns are present. This positive vision, both by the theme and by the colors, enabling Corneille to forge a unique and remarkable visual world, that he declines on many products.

From the years 1980’s, Corneille presented his work during numerous exhibitions and develops its graphic work from the late 40's, which is then recognized internationally. Thus, between 1982 and 1992, several monographs are devoted to it. At this time he mostly painted colourfull figuratives characters such as women, cats or birds.

The years 1990's were marked by the appearance of his first sculptures in polychrome wood. In 1992, he made another trip to Africa to shoot a film, directed by Jos Wassink, which will be broadcast on the occasion of the exhibition designed by Ronald A.R. Kerkhoven: Corneille, the African face, Museuon (The Hague).




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