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          Workshop visit

with Claudie Amado (opposite) by Michel Reboisson

Claudie Amado, épouse de l'artiste Jean Amado sculpteur

Back to the past: on Saturday, June 12, 2010 Mrs. Claudie

Amado-Duhamel welcomed us in her property to present the

works to present us the works of her husband, the sculptor

Jean Amado.

The endless ribbon of pine trees with salmon-colored trunks

The endless ribbon of salmon-colored trunks of Scots pines,

of elms with fleshy leaves and of tender birch trees that runs

continuously along the banks of the Svir river invariably

brings my thoughts back to the Chemin Hugues property on the road to Célony, where, in a park planted with trees, Jean Amado's large sculptures stand guard, evoking mysterious journeys to infinite lands and times.

On the Svir River, which connects Lake Ladoga to Lake Onega.

Like megalithic fields, the theory of Jean Amado's monumental works line the park of the sculptor's home.

Six days earlier, thousands of kilometers away from Karelia, we were kindly received by Mrs. Claudie Amado-Duhamel for an evocation of the works of the sculptor Jean Amado, her husband.

Jean Amado was born in 1922 in Aix-en-Provence. His attraction for terracotta was born from the observation of an old lady, mischievous and poetic, Émilie Decanis, professor at the École des Beaux-Arts de Marseille. She had a kiln in her garden, next to the Amado's house, and spread her pieces on the grass to dry. The production of Émilie Decanis, judging by the photograph of her workshop, taken from Vincent Buffile's book "dix céramistes aixois", remains traditional: floral compositions, scrolls, animal friezes adorn vases and jugs whose forms result from the history of pottery, from the Cretan period to the Hispano-Moorish achievements. The teaching of Emilie Decanis constituted an undoubtedly solid base to determine the future of a young creator. After the years spent in the Resistance, it is Jean Amado who will train in his own workshop Carlos Fernandez, a charming and colorful character.

After the war, Aix-en-Provence became a lively center for the arts of fire, then in full revolution following the experiments carried out in Vallauris by Pablo Picasso and those of Jean Cocteau with the Madeline couple. Many artists practiced their talent there such as René Ben Lisa, Georges Jouve, Philippe and Frédéric Sourdive, the Buffiles or Daniel Beaudou.

In 1946, Jean Amado met Jo Steenackers, a cultured artist, attentive to modernity, appreciative of Bauhaus research and an admirer of Picasso. They got married in 1951. Mrs. Claudie Amado-Duhamel, Jean Amado's second wife, told us that in the couple, who had opened a studio on the Cours d'Orbitelle in Aix-en-Provence, Jo conceived the drawings and determined the colors. Jean was the skilled practitioner in charge of the realization.

In the showcases of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, we discover a series of works executed in Vallauris by Pablo Picasso. I can't help but establish links of kinship in form and color between Picasso's head of a young woman and the head of a young African by Jo and Jean Amado. In the same way, Jo Amado's Ibis is part of the same inspiration.

To ensure the daily life, the workshop produced "food" works not devoid of flavour as shown by the massive volumes of knowledge (literature and medicine) in front of the Tacussel bookshop on the Canebière in Marseille. This is where the high school students of the 1960s came to buy their school books.

During this period of active reconstruction, Fernand Pouillon, who esteemed and appreciated Emilie Decanis, whom he had met at the School of Fine Arts in Marseille, gave the Amado couple their first order for door frames for the buildings of the Vieux Port in Marseille. This collaboration continued with the giant ceramics of the Algerian building sites of

Fernand Pouillon (Diar -Es-Saada, Diar-El-Mahçoul).

This opening on architecture led to a change of orientation, the art galleries no longer constitute the priority objective, and of scale illustrated by the totem of Diar-Es-Saada of a height of forty meters.

The death of Jo Amado-Steenackers occurred in September 1963. One can easily imagine the personal and professional disarray of Jean Amado, now alone and confronted with the mysteries of creativity, a field rather reserved for his late wife. The public commission linked to the 1% will allow him to continue his activity not without difficulties.

The works of Jean Amado which will follow are the fruit of a strange alchemy where images of the epic landscapes of Provence mix and merge: the rock of the castle and the eroded forms of the Val d'Enfer in Les Baux, the silent procession of the Penitents of Les Mées, the cave dwellings of the cirque of Calès; and those resulting from reports: the strange geological folds

of the valley of Dadès in the south of Morocco, the gorfas of Matmata, the Cliff Dwellings of the Anasazi Indians of Mesa Verde, the networks of sassi of Matera, the buried cities of Cappadocia or the cliff-tombs of Petra.

Since the end of the 1960s, the prophetic power and complexity of Jean Amado's compositions have provoked numerous interpretations. So close to some and so far from others, they have never ceased to raise questions. But isn't that what great works are all about?

Among the first sculptures, The Guardian, The Mama and The Nave, illustrate the theme of Noah's Ark or rather that of the saving migration of a humanity whose survival is indissolubly linked to the telluric matrix. Are these distant reminiscences of the Exodus or the Crossing of the Desert? Jean Amado's work seems to be marked by the apocalyptic seal.


This singular creativity does not seem to have an antecedent in the history of sculpture and the only connections that we can try to establish with other artists are tenuous: Etienne Martin and Eduardo Chillida.


The Protector is in line with the "arches" but the use of steel associated with cerastone gives it a martial character and evokes closer times, that of the aircraft carriers that criss-cross the seas of the globe to prevent conflicts. This more narrative character is confirmed with the sculpture The Wooden Carrier where the use of wood recalls the original material of the great junks from which it seems to draw its inspiration.

But where is the species that can be saved? No trace in these boats streaked with long scars, with entrails dug out of galleries and hypostyle rooms, in these cliffs which shelter swarms of caves, in these animals caparisoned with rocky plates which protect heaps of cells, in this bogue which opens on a landslide of mastabas and Babylonian residences, in these immemorial

Babylonian residences, in these immemorial fortresses all shaped and carinated to face the space and the time of which they carry the stigmata.

Either it is too late and these fantastic refuges are the fossilized testimonies of the last attempts doomed to failure, or we are in the expectation of the end of a humanity which carries in it the germ of its destruction like man that of its death?

Or, these antediluvian ships frozen in expectation are designed to respond to the distress of a being anguished by the idea of its disappearance and who entrusts them with the mission of carrying its most accomplished testimony far away, into the future?

The theme of the "ark" is enriched by those of habitats, fortresses, rock hermitages and armored animals. The same feeling of protective power, of inaccessible places, is attached to these different evocations. The transition seems to have taken place with this authentic masterpiece that is "The Doubt and the Stone". The cliff becomes a ship or the ship becomes a cliff to let the grandiose epic poetry of Jean Amado filter through with even more mystery and intensity.

As for the rock monastery of Aladja in Bulgaria, some cells are dug in the wall of the cliff and the majority develops inside the rock a concentration network that one could imagine in Neolithic times.

The mineral nodule, split by a cataclysm, reveals in the fault a chaos of Ziggurats, a tumble of temples and constructions that evoke Babylon, the great prostitute of the Apocalypse.

The Centre Georges Pompidou presents works by Étienne-Martin from June 23 to September 13, 2010. When will there be an exhibition dedicated to Jean Amado at Beaubourg ?


The monumental and dull plasticity, the expressionist terribleness that emanates from the sculptures, the complexity of the puzzle that composes them, contrasts with the spidery finesse and fragility of the preparatory drawings, almost surgical, executed without shadows as if the volumes and reliefs exist by themselves in the artist's mind.

The stages of the Monument to Arthur Rimbaud on the beach of the Prado (1989). The stages of the project are: the preparatory drawing, the model and the finished realization.

It is a new life that begins for Jean Amado with the meeting of Claudie Duhamel that he marries in 1965. She will be the secretary of the workshop, taking care of the administrative tasks, writing the correspondence, the estimates and the programming of the work, not without neglecting her doctoral thesis in medieval history.

In 1968, he met Jean Dubuffet who asked him to reproduce some of his works on a monumental scale (Times Square in New York). Dubuffet, a man of keen intelligence and detached humor (according to Claudie Amado-Duhamel), appreciated the work of Jean Amado and recommended him to his agent Jean-François Jaeger.

This episode will be decisive for the continuation of Jean Amado's career. In February 1970, an exhibition is dedicated to him at the Galerie Jeanne Bûcher in Paris. On this occasion, the State bought him "La Tatoue Démolie". In 1971, he exhibited in Oslo at the Haaken Gallery where the Norwegian government also bought him a sculpture. This is the beginning of a recognition of his work and a real national and international fame.

Gérard Monnier, a young and brilliant professor of art history at the University of Aix-Marseille, directed Annick Pegouret's master's thesis on "Jean Amado" which drew up an inventory of the sculptor's achievements.

Aix-en-Provence and Marseille are adorned with his works, including the Fontaine des Cardeurs (1979) and the Monument to Arthur Rimbaud on the Prado beach (1989).

Monumental works and exhibitions (1) follow one another, as shown in the posthumous "course of art" presented in 2008 in Aix-en-Provence: Vaugeisha (1971) - The Guardian (1971) - La Mamma (1972) - À la l imi t e (1974)- Le Château d'ocre (1979)- La Bogue (1981)- Le Doute et la pierre (1984) - La Promenade (1988)- Tout Mis sur le Dos (1988) - Le Départ (1989)- Embarquement immédiat (1990) - Les Degrés vertigineux (1991)- À Marée basse 1 (1991) - Le Giron minéral (1992) - Le Passage (1992)- À Marée basse 2 (1993) - Le Manège (1993)

Jean Amado died on October 16, 1995. Since then, Claudie Amado-Duhamel has assumed with elegant generosity the management and dissemination of the work of the sculptor Jean Amado without however cutting ties with his training: she has just published with her son Emmanuel Amado a novel, an investigation that plunges us "In the shadow of the Cathars" to the Editions AutresTemps, August 2009. We would like to thank her for her welcome and for all the emotions that her speech associated with the works of Jean Amado have given us.

Comments collected by Michel Reboisson

château d'ocre, 1979
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