Famous French Painter, Hervé Télémaque, dies at 85

Hervé Télémaque was a French painter of Haitian descent who was involved in the surrealism and narrative figuration movements. Since 1961, he has lived and worked in Paris.

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Hervé Télémaque, an artist whose piercing work against racism and colonialism catapulted him to fame in his latter years, died at the age of 85.

Hervé Télémaque, a French artist born in Haiti, died on Thursday in a hospital in Paris. His sensitive pieces addressing racism and colonialism have only lately gained widespread attention in Europe and the United States. He was 85.

Télémaque’s death was reported by the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado, which is presently displaying a version of Télémaque’s survey that was initially exhibited at the Serpentine Galleries in London. According to the museum, he was suffering from an autoimmune condition.

He had to forego his sporting ambitions due to a health condition. When François Duvalier took control in Haiti in 1957, he fled to New York City and joined the Art Student’s League until 1960, when his instructor, painter Julian Levi, supported his creative career. During his visit to the United States, when he visited museums, he was intellectually fed by abstract expressionism, then surrealism, as utilized and reinterpreted by American artists (De Kooning, Lam, etc.), and especially by the impact of Arshile Gorky.

His work Sirène (Musée Sainte-Croix) established his singularity as early as 1959. Télémaque wanted to stay grounded in reality and avoid abstraction: even the title alludes to his everyday existence, invoking the boat sirens he heard from his Brooklyn Heights apartment.

Theme of Sexuality

The theme of sexuality, which is especially present at the beginning of his work, is announced with L’Annonce faite à Marie (Musée des beaux-arts de Dole, FNAC), which recalls his marriage the same year with Mal Pilié (Histoire sexuelle, 1960 ; Ciel de lit n°3, 1962, Musée d’art moderne et d’art contemporain de Nice; Femme merveille, 1963,Institut d’art contemporain de Villeurbanne).

Télémaque continued his exploration with unusual low-reliefs, where the jigsaw substitutes the pencil and large-format charcoal drawings that he began in 1992 starting in the 1990s. He approaches the theme of mourning in a darker way (bat, skull) and works his own magic by creating blends mixing coffee grounds with colored pigments, giving them a sensual heaviness.

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These events—the illness, then the death of his mother in 1993—and undoubtedly the memory of the voodoo that was prevalent in Haiti—mark him. 18 Télémaque pieces are housed at the National Museum of Modern Art at the Centre Pompidou. 8 paintings and 1 sculpture were added in 2014 as a result of an artist contribution. Three of Télémaque’s works, including No title (The Ugly American) 1962/64, are housed in the MOMA.

Early Life

Hervé Télémaque was born in Port-au-Prince on November 5, 1937(85 years old). He holds a French Nationality and he belongs to the white ethnic group. His Zodiac sign is Sagittarius.