Passionate about the Modern Masters, with a particular preference for the surrealist movement, the Galerie Jean-François Cazeau – based in Paris in the Marais since 2009 – presents, from May 25 to June 30, 2023, an unprecedented exhibition dedicated to Pierre Jahan (1909 -2003). Entitled La fantaisie surréaliste, it reveals a new facet of the work of the humanist photographer in the immediate post-war period, through a selection of monotypes, photocollages and works on canvas and paper. While the retrospectives at the Musée Réattu in Arles (2010) and the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire Paul Éluard in Saint-Denis (2014-2015) ensured Jahan’s posterity, this exhibition is the very first entirely devoted to the work on surrealism of this versatile and poetic artist.
Pierre Jahan, whose work is well known to photography enthusiasts, particularly with his photos of the Occupation and the return of his pieces to the Louvre, remains a protean character of the 20th century, whose work crosses disciplines and movements. The young Jahan arrived in Paris in 1933, where he decided to devote himself to photography after meeting Raymond Gyd, director of an advertising agency. He then exhibited with Henri Cartier-Bresson and Man Ray, joined the Groupe of the XV in 1950 and befriended Jean Cocteau, a great dynamic personality of the avant-gardes. Jahan became one of the unclassifiable personalities of photography, which he considered above all as a field of experimentation without limits, a pleasure of the eye and a technical mastery at the same time. If he never claimed dogma, Jahan nevertheless left rich surrealist works.
“Surrealism… takes great advantage of ambiguity and lends itself to a number of transpositions” said André Breton. “I think that the photographer who so much suggests, describes or finds (if he has the duty never to falsify) he also has the right to use his shots as material capable of generating Dream. Surrealism is often ridiculous or cruel, why couldn’t it be pleasant and poetic? asks the artist in his biography. What Jahan seeked above all is to give free rein to his fantasies, always with humor and irreverence. This clean look, full of imagination, is also reflected in his references to literature as well as in his advertising work.
Through a selection of photomontages, photocollages, rayograms and even paintings (in which he signed La Noiraie, the artist’s alter ego), the exhibition shows the surreal and playful side of the photographer of Jean Cocteau’s book , Death and the Statues (1946). This vast corpus of re-composite images, by collage, superimposition, montage, favors both dramatic statements and comical games in Jahan. He diverted the images of everyday life towards the imaginary, highlighting all their wonder, as Max Ernst did in collage.
The birds, knives, revolvers, mannequins and dolls of Hérault, privileged instruments of the surrealist imagination, find their place in an unprecedented way in the work of the artist.
All the works in the exhibition come from the Pierre Jahan Fund and are presented in preview.
Pierre Jahan : La fantaisie surréaliste
From May 26 to June 30, 2023
Galerie Jean-François Cazeau
8 Rue Sainte-Anastase
75003 Paris, France