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Jean Carzou  让卡尔祖 

1907   On January 1st, Karnik Zouloumian  was born in ALEP in Syria, of Armenian  parents.They had left Armenia because their families disapproved of their union. He was only ten when his father, a photographer, died. After that, he left Syria with his mother and sister, to settle in Egypt where his mother's family lived.
He was a bright student at the Armenian Lycee in Cairo.

1924   He obtained an American scholarship (Yeghiayan Foundation), to go and study in Paris at the "École Spéciale d’Architecture".

1929   He graduated in. He often went to the Louvre where Ingres' paintings inspired him to become a  painter
As an autodidact, he enrolled himself in the  Montparnasse Art Academy (La Grande Chaumière) and decided to give himself up exclusively to painting.
First, he directed his work towards geometrical abstraction, he approched Surrealism, but very quickly,
he developed his own style:figurative representation with elements of oneirism. His meeting with Gabriel Boissy, was to allow him access to  Comoedia, where he  illustrated fairy tales and short stories. Later, in order to earn
a living, he  produced caricatures of politicians in newspapers, such as Hitler, represented as a "German Father Christmas" in "Aux écoutes" n° 814 on December 23rd 1933.

1930   His first exhibition was at the "Salon des Indépendants".

1936   He married Jeanne Blanc, "a Provencal classical Beauty, with sweet eyes, with whom he knew the joy
of living 
" as she was described by  Florent Fels.

Painting, music, literature and politics were at the heart of their life. Nane Carzou wrote some books which the artist  illustrated.
When war was declared , they found refuge in Prades, then in Burgundy where he was  to discover country life.
The War was to inspire him with the fantastic elements in his work.

1938   Birth of his son: Jean-Marie. He always remained close to his parents, as can be seen in the narration
of their journey in  Armenia. Among other things, he wrote a preface to the catalogue of the exhibition "Figures rituelles", at the new Gallery Emmanuel David and whole heartedly supported the cause of Armenia.

1939   Carzou's success started when he took part in the contest-exhibition organized by "Pour que l’Esprit vive" with his painting "Saint François d'Assise" which obtained second prize. He confirmed his status with his first
private exhibition, galerie Contemporaine, rue de Seine.
He went on  to organize  over one hundred
private exhibitions of his works in Paris, in the provinces and abroad.
He regularly took part in 
 des Indépendants, d’Automne, des Tuileries, and various Art Exhibitions of groups, and in  numerous exhibitions regional and worldwide. He was awarded the  Hallmark prize three times: in 1949 with his painting "Le berger et les mages" (The shepherd and the Mage) in 1951 and in 1955. He obtained le grand prix de l’Ile de France in 1954 with "Château abandonné à Bougival" (derelict castle at Bougival).Then le grand prix
 de l‘Éducation nationale in Tokyo, ein 1955 and le grand prix "Europe" at the first Bienniale in Bruges, in 1958.



Hébertot theatre - Jean Carzou


Michel Nau : First Poets Festival -  Hébertot Theatre- Jean Carzou


1952   Carzou confirmed his public fame in the theatrical world with his sets and costumes of Incas for "les Indes Galantes" by Rameau.
He worked  six more times for the stage. He created the settings and   costumes of "wolf" from J.Anouilh and G. Neveu,for Roland Petit's Ballets, (1953);  those of "Giselle" (1954) for the Opera  de Paris; and those of 
"Athalie" (1955) for the theatre la Comédie-Française.
" Le Loup" (The Wolf) by J. Anouilh and  G. Neveu was be produced again by  La Scala de Milan (1963).
Carzou again worked with the performing arts with "After Eden" (1966) for an  American Company, Harkness ballets; then with "Jeanne et ses juges"  (Joan and her judges) from Thierry Maulnier (1968) at Mai de Versailles
and lastly "
la Périchole
" for the theatre de Paris (1969), where his stage-sets and costumes had  world wide success . On the occasion of the performance of "La Perichole" (1975),  the theatre of Angers  organized
an exhibition of his complete stage-work.

1953   Le salon des Peintres Témoins de leur Temps  (The Art Exhibition of his Painters Witness of their Days)organized a referendum by the public to find out which painting the visitors would like to possess: "la promenade des amants" (The Lover's Walk) by Carzou, took the biggest number of votes. Two years later, he was named one of the "Ten Best Painters" of the Post-War génération Connaissance des Arts.

His two exhibiitions, at the gallery David et Garnier: Venise 1953, totally dedicated  to Venice and  Apocalypse 1957, inspired by  Modern Times, (completed during the previous year and the three Summer months spent in the calm of Bourbonnais, at Mayet de Montagne), was very well received.
The water-colours exhibition  Escales  had the same success.

1959   Carzou went to the U.S.A.for the opening of his first exhibiition in New-York, at the Wildenstein gallery.

1960   Provence where he often stayed was used as the theme for his  Provence exhibiition at David and Garnier's.Throughout the sixties and seventies  his fame grew. All over the world,  exhibitions were organized,
of his engraved work.
He undertook the illustration
(water-colours lithographs, etchings, dry-point etchings
) of many authors: A.Arnoux, J. Audiberti,A. Camus,T.S. Eliot, J. Follain, E. Hemingway, J. Gracq, E. Ionesco, Ch. Kunstler,
P. Mac Orlan, F. Mauriac, A. Maurois, E. Poe,  A. Pollier, A. Rimbaud, W. Skakespeare, A. Verdet, J. Verne,
A. Vidalie…

1962   For the first time in Paris, his painted ceramics were exhibited , alongside his watercolours, drawings and lithographies.
In the same year, Pierre Cailler published the descriptive catalogue of Carzou's engraving and lithography work. 
Abroad, the exhibitions followed one after another, as well as the journeys to Japan, Lebanon, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.S.A. (2nd journey in 1972). Carzou went to Armenia three times  with breaks in Russia (1966, 1969 and 1984 where he was given the decoration "Mardiros Sarian" at  Erevan).
As an artist he used different media: he produced sculptures, (especially "The Bust" 1978),  ceramics, 
and a  painting called
"Parc de l'Ile de France
" for the liner "France" ; tapestry patterns :"L’invitation au voyage "
(a journey invitation), for the Manufacture des Gobelins; a tapestry inspied by "la Périchole" for "le mur du Nomade" (the Nomad wall);  and for Pierre de Tartas, two other tapestry cartoons. He also took part in the international prize of gemmail in Tours and he was nominated "New Painter of the light" with "Fille de Carthage"* (A girl from Carthagenia)

1976   Carzou took part in the Cannes Festival as a  Membre of the selection committee. In the same year,
the Post-office published a Carzou stamp 
"Princesse lointaine" (Distant Princess) and the Post-office Museum presented  an important exhibition of his works (paintings, drawings and lithographies).
He created a line of  lithographies for "le château d’Argol" from Julien Gracq, commissioned  by the  Société des Bibliophiles de l’Automobile Club de France.

1977   Numerous  retrospectives of his works have been organized: at the château de Val in Corrèze, under the patronage of President Jacques Chirac, at Rochechouart, at the château des Hayes, at Perouges, near Lyon;
in Switzerland and Luxemburg.
He was promoted to the rank of Commandeur de l’Ordre du Mérite by the President de la République and elected
at the Académie des Beaux-Arts (Art Academy) on december 7th 1977, in the  seat of deceased Jean Bouchaud.

1979   On April 4 th, he was presented to the Academy by M. Emmanuel Bondeville, its lifelong secretary.
In his
speech, he contested cubism "Picasso is not a painter" and modernity in general. He prefered Claude Lorrain, Watteau and Dali,  though enjoying buying works of  his figuratve contemporaries, especially those
Maurice Boitel
, at the René Drouet gallery, faubourg Saint-Honoré. 

 1981  The château de Vascoeuil organized a Carzou retrospective with presentation of stage-sets and costumes of "la Périchole" during the three Summer months.

He lived in Vence from 1958 onwards, and he spent many summers and other times in his home,on the avenue
Jean Maurel, in the Ara region. There, according to Chave  the gallery owner who he worked with  as a lithographer  "
he would have: meals at the "la Farigoule" or purchase paint-brushes or pencils and other drawing-paper at 13 rue Isnard"  That is how he was named "citoyen d’honneur de la ville ", (honorable citizen of the City) and the Mayor, Bernard Demichelis voted for the creation of a "musée Carzou" inside the Emile Hugues Foundation, in the château de Villeneuve . 

1982   Official delivery, in the Hall of the Comtesse de Caen, at the Institut, of his Academician sword, which
he designed and was a gift from  his friends and admirers.

1985   At the age of 78, Carzou undertook a gigantic Apocalypse to decorate  the chapel of the Congregation
des Dames de la Présentation at Manosque;a blue-green fresco,over six hundred and sixty-six square meters long,representing "the cycle of human adventure" such as he defined it. He shows his horror of war, genocides, holocaustes through the devastated landscapes,  palaces in ruins,  blockhaus and numerous  intricated rails,
which can be found in this work. His fear of an over-undustrialised world is illustrated by four supersonic jets, messengers of future catastrophies. But an embracing  couple  gives us hope again; the Earth will be reborn
as symbolized by this woman-tree of the last painting, "l'accomplissement".

1986   Preparations for the opening of "Carzou  Museum", in Vence, the town to which Jean Carzou made
a donation  of 43 oil-paintings,  several of them of a large size, 52 paintings in poster paint, water-colours, drawings, all his engraving and lithographed work, sculptures, ceramics,illustrated books, theatre stage-settings models
and  costumes. This gave a complete panorama of the artist, from his beginnings. François Léotard, the minister
of  Culture, opened the exhibition on July 13th 1986.

1988   The Francony Gallery presented Carzou 's work of the years 30-40, revealing to the public, his role as
a precursor as well as the continuity in  his work.

1990   A contoversial legal battle took place and  "le musée Carzou" closed its doors.
The works were given back to the  artist.

1991   The church of the convent of Manosque in which he had decorated the chapel became  Carzou Foundation

1995   The mayor of Dinard offered to house Carzou's donation in a museum named after him; the château de Port-Breton (former residence of the industrialist Boussac) was chosen but the project came to nothing.

1997   The town of Le Cannet organized a retrospective at Bonnard Place.

1998   In march, his wife Nane died. Then he retired to his son Jean-Marie etand his daughter-in-law's home
at  Saint-Aquilin.

2000   Officer of the Legion of honour, Commander of the Order of Merit and Commander of the  Arts and Letters,
at the age of 93, he died on August 12th at  PERIGUEUX (Dordogne)

2003   26.11 Reception of Zao Wou-Ki elected as a member of the painting section, taking the place of Jean Carzou, in the Institute of France, Academy of Arts.



Tribute speech pronounced  by Zao Wou-Ki
for his reception under the dome, taking the place of Jean Carzou
November 26th 2003



 * " Fille de Carthage " can be seen in the article " Gemmail " in Know +         


Multiple Sources: Like every synthesis, this  biography only exists, thanks to the work of specialists that can be found  in the books and catalogues indexed in the bibliography of this site.


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