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Georges Duby
 of the French Academy


Homage to Rimbaud, Prado beach, Marseille

AMADO JEAN (1922-1995)
By Georges Duby, of the French Academy

Jean Amado was born in Aix-en-Provence on January 27, 1922. He is of Smyrnian and Comtadine Jewish descent.

All his life, he was driven by a craftsman's passion for the beautiful material patiently, lovingly, poetically elaborated. An excellent draughtsman, he first worked in ceramics with his first wife, Jo Steenackers. In 1954, the architect Fernand Pouillon commissioned them to create an immense decoration for the façade of one of the towers he was building on the heights of Algiers: 40 meters high and 6 meters wide. This Totem, as the local inhabitants called it, was installed two years later. But in other climates, where they are exposed to the elements, works of such magnitude require a more resistant material than terracotta. In 1957, Jean Amado created what he called Cerastone, a mixture of basalt sand and molten cement. Baked at around 1,000 degrees Celsius - after 1974, it was simply left to harden in the open air - this concrete has an ochre tone; by using certain oxides, it can offer a wider range of colors. The qualities and requirements of this material are the characteristic features of Amado's creations. Each structure, prepared by a series of meticulously dimensioned drawings, is composed of several pieces, each one manufactured one after the other, each one on the previous one, fresh cement against hard cement, which ensures a precise adjustment and the necessary cohesion of the whole. The interlocking lines, themselves determined by the dimensions and weight of the various pieces fitting into this sort of puzzle, control the dynamics of the work, giving it its plumbness, its nervousness and, through a play of detachments, cracks and crevices, a strange, cavernous and secret life.

In 1964, the year following Jo's death, Jean Amado completed his first sculpture in volume. From then on, he would only concede a secondary role to bas-relief. After his marriage to Claudie Duhamel, encouraged since 1967 by Jean Dubuffet who supports him with his particular esteem, he also gradually abandons enamel: stripped of this surface film, the objects that come out of his hands take on a more frank and vigorous unity. From now on, the artist's research will mainly focus on the pigmentation of the mass. It was at this time that, through Dubuffet, the Jeanne-Bucher gallery welcomed Jean Amado to Paris. Immediately, all of a sudden, his fame spreads everywhere. Then begins an intensely fertile period. If the sculptor pursues until 1982, in modest formats, the elaboration of the long suite of the Barques, his work, for the main part, that it answers to public orders or that it is born of his own desire, is conceived to stand up, dominant, in full wind, offered to the burns of the sun, to the assaults of the gusts, more and more vast and imperious, until this disproportionate project of 1984, studied in collaboration with Paul Coupille, and that unfortunately, for lack of means, was never realized: to model the arid hills, to implant on the rock the silhouette of imaginary habitats at the entry and exit of the Treize-Vents tunnel on the A55 freeway between Fos-sur-Mer and Marseille.

1970, first solo exhibition at the Jeanne-Bucher gallery; 1979, first retrospective at the Mathildenhöle in Darmstadt; 1980, retrospectives at the Grenoble Museum of Sculpture and Painting and at the Rijksmuseum Kröller-Muller in Otterlo; 1985, retrospective at the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris. Oslo in Norway, Aalborg in Denmark, Darmstadt in Germany, the Kröller-Muller Museum in the Netherlands, the Palais de l'Élysée bought respectively Qu'est-ce qu'il traîne, la Barque no 14, Roseberg, De la mer le passage, Maman. Erected in front of the city, lifted by the breath of the sea, Hommage à Rimbaud was inaugurated in 1989 in Marseille, on the Prado beach. Amado's sculptures can be seen all over France, on squares, in the courtyards of large houses. Many are fountains. Water," writes the artist, "brings to sculpture and sculpture to water something I don't know, perhaps one more mystery, but there is an exchange between one and the other, as in these fountains that the moss covers to the point of stealing what is underneath."

"Fortresses of desire" (the formula became the title of a film that presented Jean Amado's work on television), immobile or crawling figures that seem to come from the depths of the ages, worn down by secular erosions, these sculptures emerge as if under the pressure of telluric twists, similar to those that made Sainte-Victoire bloom on the horizon of Aix-en-Provence. It is necessary," confided their author to Bernard Noël, "that it grows by itself. Jean Amado wanted his works strongly rooted in the mother earth, he wished them invaded by insidious vegetation. They are hollow. "Is it not, he said, to approach the idea of matrix, of body, of tomb? ...] I do not seek at the level of doing but of need. To escape any immutable order, to incorporate myself into the great vital forces, to find a time between life and death and delay the moment of disappearing." Jean Amado died on October 16, 1995 in Aix-en-Provence. A few months earlier, he was collecting stones, cutting them up and entrusting them, adorned with brief artifices (Stones), to the bronze founder.

     Georges DUBY

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