Under the Influence: The Sexy, Sordid Surrealism of Clovis Trouille

by Kirsten AndersonPosted on

Religieuse italienne fumant la cigarette, 1944

Introducing “Under the Influence,” a new weekly blog series curated by Hi-Fructose Editor at Large and Roq la Rue gallery’s Kirsten Anderson. Kirsten’s brain is a veritable treasure trove of knowledge concerning the historical influences of past art movements such as Symbolist, Surrealist, Fantastic Realism, Futurism, Early graphics, Surf, Punk etc., upon some of today’s new contemporary art. Many thanks to Kirsten and we look forward to this new enlightening series.

Under the Influence – an ongoing series by Kirsten Anderson for Hi-Fructose, which explores artists of other eras who influenced today’s contemporary art.

Clovis Trouille

Souvenir without Suite, c. 1960

The Sexy, Sordid Surrealism of Clovis Trouille
By Kirsten Anderson

French painter Clovis Trouille (1889-1975) could be considered a major spiritual godfather of the Lowbrow movement of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Embraced by the Surrealists, Trouille shared their use of dreamlike narratives and an iconoclastic, provocative use of imagery, yet Trouille’s work diverged Surrealism’s subconscious explorations with it’s unapologetically brusque approach to the dark powers of sexuality and his clear, almost propagandist glee in tawdrily trashing the church.

The Confession, no date available

Le Reve Vampir, no date available

Having served in World War I and being traumatized by the experience, Trouille developed a jaundiced eye towards anything institutional. His luridly colored canvases eschewed the idea of precious romanticism of courtly love and heroic battle, favoring bringing the sordid hypocrisies of religion and warfare to light in a comically grotesque way. Interestingly, Trouille’s copious depictions of the sexually frank female contain no sense of shaming. The artist seems to be firmly in the camp of the playfully witchy, gypsy sirens and slutty nuns he depicts. His humor shines bright in much of his work, particularly his later works which contain campy references to horror movies and burlesque peep shows. In his wonderful painting “My Grave” (aka “Mon Tombe” c.1947) ridiculously sexy vampiresque women cavort amongst bad actors in priest-like red cloaks as a bust of Jesus laughs uproariously at a lightning filled sky. It’s a scene straight out of the greatest psychotronic movie never made.

Remembrance, c. 1930

Trouille’s lack of interest of dependence on institution (even galleries), and reticence of being labeled as part of any particular movement meant that even though he had been painting since the turn of the century, he actually only had his first solo show in 1962.

Oh! Calcutta! Calcutta!, c. 1960

My Grave, 1947

Although he faded into a bit of obscurity, his work was a forerunner to the aesthetics of the Lowbrow movement and his work can be seen as a precursor to the type of thought later expressed by many artists such as Robert Williams, Coop, The Pizz, and Isabel Samaras. As a result, his work is starting to gain an enthusiastic audience again, as well it should!

Le Magicien, 1944

La voyeuse, 1960

Le Bateau Ivre, c.1942

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