Send to a friend Print

Le papier à l’œuvre, an exhibition focused on artists and paper, presented by the Louvre and Canson® from June 9 to September 5 2011

25 August 2011

Whether it is white, colored, translucent, oiled, watermarked, cut-up, torn, roughed up or recycled, paper is a prime drawing medium. This is corroborated by this exceptional exhibition bringing together some sixty works, from the 15th century to today, stemming from the collections of the Louvre and other institutions.

Organized into five sections, the exhibition aims to inspire comparisons between old masters and modern artists and to reveal the wide range of technical and aesthetic approaches used.


Papers and colors


Color may serve as a mask, hiding or covering the medium, all the while enhancing the impact of the artist’s drawing: examples include drawings on pink paper by Botticelli, Degas or the American conceptual artist Robert Barry, together with others on blue paper (Jan de Cock, Lavinia Fontana), on black paper (Pierrette Bloch), as well as those involving oil on paper, such as the works of Vleughels, Michallon or Simon Hantaï.

Assembled paper, multiplied paper

The exhibition’s second section examines the many enticing ways in which a single sheet of paper can be handled and transformed: expanding the medium by pasting several sheets together (Rubens), assembling a composition by bringing together fragments of drawings (Ingres), covering portions of a composition with other pieces of paper, thus opening up the possibility of alterations or second thoughts (Jean Dubois), or drawing with the paper itself, creating silhouette portraits through the simple manipulation of black and white space (Oberlin).

Paper collages and cut-outs matured into a fully fledged art form by the twentieth century, a period explored in the exhibition through the works of artists such as Braque, Picasso and Matisse.

Found paper, selected paper

Paper, whether serendipitously discovered or painstakingly selected for its specific characteristics, has long been a preferred medium of expression for artists, as evidenced by the works of Rembrandt, Piranesi, Van Gogh, Seurat, Cézanne, Maillol and Picasso, among others.

Transfers and transparencies

A new drawing may be a copy of an existing one. As artists have always been interested in the ability to see through paper and to move compositions from one medium to another, the practices of tracing, transferring and perforation have been employed since ancient times.

Tortured paper, glorified paper

The final section of the exhibition focuses primarily on twentieth-century works, by artists such as Jean Arp, Jacques Villeglé, François Rouan, Claude Viallat, Eduardo Chillida and Christian Jaccard. Pieces celebrating the beauty of paper as a material are presented alongside others in which it is mutilated or partially destroyed. But we quickly realize that the former means nothing without the latter and that the glory of tormented paper is universal.
The exhibition begins and ends with two works done on Canson paper – Matisse's Blue Nude IV and Jaccard's Combustion, mèche noire et traces de brûlures sur papier Canson II. It also highlights a few of the brand's famous papers, such as Ingres paper and Montval paper, in a section presenting the papers chosen by artists for their specific characteristics.


Lastly, a recent drawing by Dominique De Beir, Le Blanc, c’est la nuit, conceived especially for the exhibition, is placed in front of the window opposite the entrance to the Salle de la Chapelle. Created in the form of three horizontal strips of Canson Montval® paper, this work invites the viewer to explore the transparency of light. An information panel next to the piece relates the history of this particular paper, created for Aristide Maillol in1911, and produced since 1925 by Canson.


Exhibition Commissioners: Nathalie Coural with the collaboration of Hélène Grollemund and Dominique Cordellier

Exhibition catalogue

Edited by Natalie Coural.

The exhibition catalogue produced by the Musée du Louvre in association with Editions Hazan includes essays tracing the history of the art of paper, the dissemination of materials, as well as the advent and development in the eighteenth century of special papers designed for artists. This book presents all seventy featured works, in full-color reproductions, organized in the same manner as the exhibition: papers and colors; assembled paper, multiplied paper; found paper, selected paper; transfers and transparencies; tormented paper, glorified paper. Both the general texts and the essays on specific topics are contributed by renowned specialists—philosophers, historians, art historians, researchers, restorers and artists—and thus delve into the very heart of this subject, through the fertile exchange of ideas across disciplines.


Press contact : Sophie Grange, Tel : +33 (0)1 40 20 53 14