André Durenceau – Inspirations 1928

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(Please click all these thumbnails to see the bigger pictures)

Illustrator, artist, muralist and bon viveur André Maurice Durenceau was born in Auray, France in 1904 and by the time he was 24 he’d emigrated to the USA and had his first limited edition folio of designs, called “Inspirations”, published.

There’s very little easily accessible biographical detail about Durenceau on the web, but thanks to Time Magazine’s online archive, we can learn that he had acquired US citizenship and was thriving as a muralist in Hollywood around 1934, and that he was a colour adviser to Technicolor. He went on to pursue a career as an illustrator, illuminating several books and occasionally producing some modernist art deco paintings.

There’s evidence that he worked as a textile designer in the US, and it’s likely that he had studied design before arriving stateside.

Be prepared for some colour overload as you feast your eyeballs on these boisterous designs.
I found them on the New York Public Library site, and you’ll notice that they own a rather grubby, apparently flood damaged copy of the Inspirations folio. I’ve corrected the scans slightly, but if I’d followed my impulse to give them a total wash and scrub up treatment, some of the colour might have suffered, so I held back. A bit.

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Continue reading this post, there’s a lot more text and pictures after the fold, here >>

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I’ll bet there are designers still knocking off his work today, 80 years later….

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Durenceau had a completely fearless attitude to colour. Johannes Itten had only just published his seminal book “The Art of Colour” in Europe a couple of years before Inspirations was published.
I’ve a strong feeling that if Durenceau had read it, he would have thrown it against the wall, and carried on down his own path, laughing at Swiss theories.

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Wow.
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The amazing colour saturation of these prints is achieved by using the pochoir process. The designs are cut out of a number of stencils and the colour is deposited in a series of applications with a large flat round brush that produces a very rich sheen of pigment. The picture below shows the brush and the stencil being held down on the artwork. If you read French, this book explains it perfectly.
The University of Cincinnati Library has a page explaining the pochoir process here, and The Smithsonian has a gallery of pochoir printmakers here.
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Here’s a couple of his figurative works to finish with –

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The Muse 1929

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Seminude in a Lush Garden.

Here’s a newspaper picture of him from New Year’s Day 1939, when he’s just been commissioned to sculpt a mural for one of the upcoming World Fair’s pavilions.
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and here’s the text from the same news article. (24kb PDF file)

9 thoughts on “André Durenceau – Inspirations 1928”

  1. In September, 1934, the great African American poet Langston Hughes published an exotic essay about his time in Soviet Central Asia in the glossy monthly the Woman’s Home Companion. The essay was titled “In An Emir’s Harem.” The lush illustration on the first page was by Durenceau. Thanks to the original poster for offering more about this artist!

  2. @David. Can you send a scan of the Emir’s Harem illustration?
    art(dot)text(at)articlesandtexticles(dot)co(dot)uk

  3. Thanks for the information on Andre Durenceau. I was fortunate to find a complete Inspirations portfolio with original binder some years ago, but could find little about him until now. The title page notes that no plate uses more than six colors, and many use no more than three. Some of the plates are so bizarre as to be almost disturbing.

  4. The sort of work that Durenceau was producing in these folios was aimed at a niche industry that grew out of the fashion, couture and allied decorative arts trade, called fashion forecasting.
    Have a look at Promostyl and International Colour Authority for the modern version.
    Durenceau certainly seems to have been having a lot of wild fun in his work!

  5. We own several works by Andre Durenceau. We are interested to know what they are worth. Some large paintings, two reverse paintings on mirrors and one of two dancing zebras. They have been in our family directly from the artist including an engagement portrait of my husband’s mother from 1938.

  6. Marsha, I am not an expert in pricing paintings, so I’m probably not the right person to ask. I would imagine that an auction house might give you an appreciation of the works you own. There are specialists on call in all the big auction houses.

  7. I new Andre Durenceau’S daughter, after her death my mother inlaw received a few pieces of his work. after the death of my mother inlaw the paintings were given to her children. I read your response to Marsha about contacting the auction houses, we live in Florida do you know who we could contact here.

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