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SOPHIE AND ALAIN
by Charlie Finch
 
I first met Sophie Matisse and Alain Jacquet in 1988, at the Lee Arthur Studio on Bond Street, through our mutual friend, the photographer Mark Sink.

Sophie had just stepped out of a Renoir, and she was, of course, a Matisse. Alain, the Richard Hamilton of France in the 1960s, looked like Belmondo, drawn down by Galoise and gravity.

His career was in eclipse and hers, after a hippie childhood in Massachusetts, had yet to begin.

They became that rarest bird of the modern world, a perfect couple. Alain’s studied and public detachment from Sophie’s ephemeral beauty was the epitome of Gallic control. Sophie depended on Alain not just in the bedroom but also in the studio.

To be the great-granddaughter of the great artist Henri Matisse and the granddaughter of the great dealer Pierre Matisse would arrest the brush of any artist.

What Sophie found in Alain’s art was a place to hide, so that she could discover her artistic self. Alain’s art was pop subterfuge, familiar (and very French) painterly classics obfuscated by the means of reproduction.

Sophie co-opted Alain’s peek-a-boo style to the letter: reproducing Rembrandts and Vermeers while omitting the humans in them, then moving onto a Rosenquist-like series of camouflages and visual omissions.

Only then, with her husband as muse, was Sophie able to produce her masterwork, a series of Matissean takes on Picasso’s Guernica.

Through it all, Alain remained the envy of every art-world male who desired his desirable wife. He buttressed his reputation in France through a steady series of commissions, and he became the father of Gaia, Sophie and Alain’s danseuse daughter, an unparalleled phantasm of beauty and grace.

Comics and politicians often denigrate the French. We in the art world know better: what is French is apt, irrational, derelict and delicious.

Alain Jacquet, a master of all he surveyed, was all that. And death -- for he died last week -- is not his equal.


CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).



 



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