LES HOMMES NOIRMixed Media
EMULSION, SAND, TURPENTINE, INKS, STRING, GRASS, PLASTIC,COLLAGE,OILS, ENAMELS, OIL PASTEL
The work that inspired this piece is a large vase, titled Les Hommes Noirs (The Dark Men), designed by Emile Gallé and his childhood friend, the painter and sculptor Victor Prouvé
Les Hommes Noirs was made by Gallé as a call for justice, for civil rights, and for the defense of the unjustly accused. Its subject refers to the intense political, judicial, and social scandal that surrounded a French Jewish military officer named Alfred Dreyfus (1859‒1935). The Dreyfus Affair (1894‒1906) involved a false accusation of treason and a subsequent cover-up that divided French society for over a decade. Gallé, who was deeply disturbed by the case, commissioned Prouvé to design a special vase for Gallé’s display at the 1900 world’s fair in Paris. Gallé intended for the vase to expose all “fanaticism, hatred, lies, prejudice, cowardice, selfishness, and hypocrisy.”
The vase dated 1900 is inscribed with “Hommes noirs d’où sortez-vous? Nous sortons de dessous terre.” (Dark men, from where do you come? We come from beneath the earth.) and these lines are written into my painting.
Prouvé’s design shows monstrous creatures rising from the darkness of the depths of the earth or from Hell, noxious dark men who illustrate the evils of anti-Semitism and calumny. One is a crone-faced, bat-winged creature with a tail made of snakes. Another has huge deformed claws for hands. A wavy-haired male figure, representing “Truth,” looks out with a hurt expression.