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  • Caroline Cassin

Interview. Sylvie Harburger, Daughter of the painter Francis Harburger produced the catalog raisonné

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

-Who is Francis Harburger? Can you tell us about him, his works, his influences as an artist, do you associate him with a particular school?

Born in Algeria in 1905, Francis Harburger arrived in Paris in 1921 where he was a student at the School of Decorative Arts and then at the Beaux-Arts. In 1928-29, he was received at Casa Velasquez in Madrid. At just 20 years old, he exhibited at the Salon d'Automne and made his first private exhibition in 1930, in Paris.

His influences are those of Chardin, Cézanne, Derain, Corot, Le Greco or Velasquez.

It does not relate to any particular school. He remains an independent artist until the end of his life.

-What is the Hieroglyphics style?

It is a production of Francis Harburger from the 1950s. In unison with the painters of his time, these are a series of still lifes where the painted object is represented in two dimensions, without perspective, without shadow or light, and redoubled by its extremely schematic drawing. It was a philosopher, Étienne Souriau, professor at the Sorbonne and director of the Revue d'esthétique, who in 1963 gave the name of "hieroglyph" to these works.

(c) ADAGP, Paris

-What was the creative process that led Harburger to invent a new pictorial language in the early 1950s?

The artist himself explained his evolution. He believes that he has succeeded in mastering the naturalistic language of "the ancients" and can therefore invent his own pictorial language.

Another interpretation has been put forward by museum curators: on his return to Paris, at the Liberation, despoiled, Francis Harburger finds nothing of his pre-war studio and his collections. This terrible dispossession will mark her entire life from now on. The very personal creation of a new pictorial design can then be explained by the rupture that war and spoliations represented for the artist.

(c) ADAGP, Paris

-How do anti-Semitic laws affect him?

Faced with anti-Jewish laws, Francis Harburger left Paris and settled in Algiers in 1940 with his family.

He no longer has the right to teach. He will then paint a lot and exhibit in Algiers and Oran, between 1940 and 1945.

-Have you found traces of these missing paintings? Tell your research ...

I found traces of a few paintings (ten) up to 1952. They left France in July 1940, for Germany and from there, after a long journey through Israel. But they didn't come back, except 4, to France… (It's a real novel, it depends on the space you have).

-What is the catalog raisonné?

The Catalog raisonné of painted works identifies the number of works produced by an artist and describes each of these works. For Francis Harburger, we have been able to identify in the public and especially private collections, around 1,600 paintings, signed and often countersigned on the back and dated. There are 600 “still lifes of reality”, 237 hieroglyphs, 310 landscapes, 180 paintings made in Algeria (landscapes, still lifes, genre scenes and portraits), 90 portraits, 50 nudes, 11 “civic compositions”, 18 wall decorations , 25 collages. 1,200 photographs of the artist's works are reproduced in the Catalog raisonné of painted works and 150 in the book dedicated to Graphic Works published in 2018.

Francis Harburger's artistic production is known today thanks to the publication of several books: in 2002, a monograph by Caroline Larroche, Harburger [51], published by Éditions Altamira; in 2008, the Catalog of the exhibition in three museums [40], Roubaix, La Piscine-Museum of art and industry André Diligent, Trouville-sur-Mer, museum-villa Montebello, Beauvais. departmental museum of Oise; in 2015, the Catalog raisonné of the painted work, published by Editions Gourcuff-Gradenigo; and in 2018, a book dedicated to Graphic Works.

(c) ADAGP, Paris

-Are there any works left to recover? What advice would you give to families who are still looking? Where to go ? On which sites? Who to contact, how to start initiating a search for theft?

Yes, there are still many works to be found. Of the hundred or so works that were stolen from him during the war, only four were returned ...

Difficult to answer, except to make a list of archival sources ?

-Where to find the story of Francis Harburger? A site, social media, links? Where to admire his works?

A website is dedicated to him: A Wikipedia article:

Radio broadcasts:

A painting hangs at the La Piscine Museum in Roubaix.

About twenty museums in France, Algeria and Israel have works by Harburger. Unfortunately the works are often in the reserves!

Many thanks Sylvie!

Caroline Cassin.

(c) ADAGP, Paris

Copyright : Le Conteur arabe : Franck Sicre Les Poteries : Leprince photographe La leçon de peinture : Atelier Del Arco

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