Christian Bérard was my best, best friend. He was a friend of everyone in Paris with talent, you know… And where he put his hand was like the golden touch; when he put down his hand, the world was yours. Of course, in the ballet, in the theater, in the mise en scène—oh, I saw such beautiful productions. To me there’s never been any scenery in the world except Bérard’s… I met him when I was living in Europe in the 1930s… I’ve got lots of his sketches around this room… Adored him… He died at the age of 46. I think it was a cruel blow to Paris… He was a total artist. I mean inside and out. And what he produced was comparably little that the world has in hand today, because a great deal of it was in mise en scène, which you know is thrown out. There’s no room for it. It’s so terrible… He had without question the greatest taste… of anyone I’ve ever known. Without question. — Diana Vreeland*
“In the official annals of modern art, Bérard’s name is missing. Or nearly so: sometimes he is mentioned in passing.” (Jean Clair). I must have first seen his name cross-fading in the title sequence of the film Orpheus (1950), dedicated in Jean Cocteau’s hand to Bérard. Poulenc’s Stabat Mater was composed to memorialize him the same year. And as late as 1972, Bérard features in the list of dedicatees of Charles Henri Ford’s volume of poems, Flag of Ecstasy. In other words, Bérard’s name is not missing, but deliberately inscribed in filmic, musical, and poetic monuments that pay tribute to his irrepressible storm of costume designs, fashion illustrations, frontispieces, paintings, set designs, rugs, scarves, improvised stylings, and “looks” for legendary parties. The involuntary, signature-like quality of his promiscuous undulations and their clumsy “you-know-what-I-mean” shorthand constitute a form of painting as direct address, a disarming mode of speech that carries over into Bérard’s preference for painting his notes to friends with a brush. — Nick Mauss**
With a focus on the life of the artist in the South of France, the exhibition CHRISTIAN BÉRARD—EXCENTRIQUE BÉBÉ brings together over 300 paintings, drawings, photographs, and interior decorations by the “eccentric modernist,” the sui generis associate of Diaghilev, Cocteau, Chanel, Jean-Michel Frank, Marie-Laure de Noailles, Louis Jouvet, and Christian Dior.
Curated by Célia Bernasconi and designed by Jacques Grange, the exhibition also features works by guest artist Nick Mauss, invoking Bérard as a “lost practitioner of modernism’s irreverence.”
See links below for details.
CHRISTIAN BÉRARD — EXCENTRIQUE BÉBÉ
Through October 16
Nouveau Musée National de Monaco
*Lally Weymouth, “A Question of Style: A Conversation with Diana Vreeland,” Rolling Stone, August 11, 1977.
**Nick Mauss, excerpt from his essay in the exhibition catalog Christian Bérard: Excentrique Bébé, edited by Célia Bernasconi (Paris: Flammarion, 2022). Text © Nick Mauss, courtesy NMNM.
Christian Bérard: Excentrique Bébé, Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, Villa Paloma, July 9–October 16, 2022, from top: Carnaval, 1927, oil on canvas, collection Juan Picornell, photograph by Tomeu Sastre; Vue d’intérieur, appartement de la rue Casimir-Delavigne, circa 1936, graphite pencil, watercolor, ink, and, gouache on vellum paper, collection NMNM, originally in the collection of Boris Kochno, photograph by NMNM/Marcel Loli; Christian Bérard: Excentrique Bébé exhibition views (2); Le joueur de flûte pour Marie-Blanche de Polignac, undated, oil on canvas mounted on wood panel, collection Raymond Toupenet, photograph by Mirela Popa; Christian Bérard: Excentrique Bébé exhibition view; Christian Bérard and his dog Cola, in front of the Casino de Monte-Carlo, 1939, film still, collection SBM, Monte-Carlo, © Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer; Self-portrait, 1930, oil on canvas, collection NMNM, originally in the collection of Boris Kochno, photograph by NMNM/Marcel Loli; Christian Bérard: Excentrique Bébé exhibition view; André Ostier, Bérard painting Les enfants des Goudes on his easel, 1941, silver print, collection Pierre Passebon, © Indivision A. et A. Ostier; Christian Bérard: Excentrique Bébé exhibition view; Portrait of Gabrielle Chanel, circa 1937, india ink and wash, patrimoine de CHANEL, Paris, © CHANEL/Christian Bérard; Baigneurs solitaires sur la plage, circa 1933, oil on canvas, collection Jacques Polge, © NMNM/François Doury; Christian Bérard: Excentrique Bébé exhibition view; André Ostier, Bérard at the restaurant des Goudes, 1941, film still, collection and © Indivision A. et A. Ostier. All exhibition view photographs by NMNM/Andrea Rossetti, 2022, courtesy and © Nouveau Musée National de Monaco.