Art From Art’s Sake #191: The Brilliance and Beauty of Blutch

Art For Art’s Sake – this week we take an extended look at one of Europe’s greats, Blutch (Christian Hincker).

Well, as these Art For Art’s Sakes sometimes do, this one evolved from a few of Blutch’s amazing pieces to something rather bigger… after all, when the work looks this good, you really want to cover it all. So this week, it’s an all Blutch A4AS…

From I Want You/Mitchum

Blutch is a French comic artist/author and one of the modern greats, with incredible draughtsmanship, always innovating, always pushing himself, yet criminally not as well known outside Europe as he should be. The nickname Blutch came from school, after school friends realised Hincker’s resemblance to Corporal Blutch, from Le Tuniques Bleues (The Bluecoats).

Since then he’s become increasingly admired by artists worldwide and the mainly European readers of his works for his magnificent linework, going on to win the Grand Prix in Angoulême in 2009.

His first work appeared in the arts magazine Fluide Glacial in 1988 and since then his work has been published in Lapin, À Suivre, Charlie Hebdo, amongst others, including Waldo’s Bar, Mademoiselle Sunnymoon, Rancho Bravo, Blotch, le Roi de Paris, Blotch Face à Son Destin, Sunnymoon, Tu Es Malade, La Lettre Américaine, Mitchum, Peplum, Le Petit Christian.

Already producing masterpieces in b&w, a move into colour came in 2002 with Vitesse Moderne.

From Dark Side of the Moon

 

Blutch’s editor at Cornelius, Jean-Louis Gauthey, explains perhaps the essence of his work, and why it may not sell as much as it should and is not more well known…

“Blutch undoubtedly suffers from the fact that in each of his works he opens up a new world, only to then abandon it. He wants to mock neo-conventionalism and conservatism in art, so he does Blotch with Fluide Glacial. He wants to do a contemporary tale in a full-color hardcover volume, so he creates Vitesse moderne with Dupuis (Modern Speed, Europe Comics, 2017). Then he decides to focus on exploring new forms of drawing, along the lines of Saul Steinberg or Sempé, so he does Mitchum with us”.

And then there’s this from Jean-Christophe Menu, Blutch’s editor at L’Association for Le petit Christian:

“For many authors, myself included, Blutch is a model in terms of the purity of his approach and the perpetual renewal of his work. But, as a graphic virtuoso, there is also the superficial influence he holds, and his imitators of course retain nothing but that, reducing all of his instincts to mere technique. For example, there was a kind of ‘brush-felt pen’ technique typical of Blutch for a while—a way of giving volume to his drawings through satiny clusters of short strokes—that was copied enormously, a bit like the cross-hatched strokes of Mœbius thirty years ago.”

 

From Total Jazz

For more of his work, check out Europe Comics’ Blutch page, where you can buy So Long, Silver Screen, Dark Side of the Moon, Modern Speed, and Where is Kiki? (with Robber). Total Jazz is available from Fantagraphics.

Now, here’s just a little of his work… incredible stuff…

Mitchum (1996-1999) – mostly wordless tales, described by David Mazzucchelli as “an emotional diary” and influenced by Blutch’s visits to New York in the ’90s and the artistic scene there.

“Puritan fever dreams to an encounter with a shape-shifting Robert Mitchum, Blutch builds stories out of his dreams, visions of America, and anything else he can get his hands on. Drawn in his unmistakable line that veers in a moment from crude to elegant, blotchy to crisp, horrific to serene, these comics show Blutch searching for new artistic frontiers. What he finds is sometimes surprising, occasionally unsettling, and endlessly fascinating.”

 

Blotch – Blutch’s satirical cartoonist alter ego, taking place in the 30s – who Blutch has described as ‘bitter, fat, full of pretensions and prejudices’ and that ‘you might say Blotch is a sort of self-portrait.’

Péplum (1997)- Considered by many to be Blutch’s finest, this wonderful epic tale of ancient Rome, right at the end of its greatness, Blutch drew on Fellini’s Satyrico, Pasolini’s Medea and Shakespeare, particularly Welles’ Othello and Falstaff.

‘Thrilling and hallucinatory, vast in scope yet unnervingly intimate, Peplum weaves together threads from Shakespeare and the Satyricon along with Blutch’s own distinctive vision. His hypnotic storytelling and stark, gorgeous art pull us into one of the great works of graphic literature.’

 

Le Petit Christian – described as ‘false autobiography’ by Blutch, Le Petit Christian was two volumes taking Blutch back to memories of childhood and his passion for cinema and comics. Again, completely different to his other work,  with a lovely lightness of line embodying the youth he protrays.

 

Vitesse Moderne (Modern Speed, 2002) – Blutch’s first work in colour, another innovation and reinvention –

‘Modern-day Paris. One night, as she’s leaving rehearsal, Lola, a young dancer, is approached by Renée. She introduces herself as a writer, and asks Lola if she could share her life for a while in order to gather material to write a book about her. Despite not feeling entirely comfortable with the idea, Lola accepts. The very next day, Lola and Renée experience the strangest day of their lives, involving an absent father who reappears at random points throughout the book, a bashful but psychopathic admirer, Omar Shariff, and a huge spider… All this is set against a backdrop of a general power cut, a highly demanding dance class and a very rainy day. In the world of today, where everything goes too quickly, twenty-four hours is sometimes enough to change your life.’

 

So Long, Silver Screen (Pour en Finir Avec le Cinéma, 2011) – this focuses once more on Blutch’s love of cinema, including reproducing scenes on the comics page.

 

Lune l’envers (Dark Side of the Moon, 2014). This is Blutch’s sci-fi piece, of sorts, telling of a near-future world, albeit one where the main character, Lantz, also a comic artist, could be seen as Blutch looking once more to himself.

‘The world is a huge factory, and the factory is the world. This world is presided over by “The Orifice,” the company which revolutionized the working method. You put your hands inside two holes, and you work, without you (or anybody) actually knowing what you’re working on… In the midst of all this is Lantz. Lantz is a comic book author. He’s the one who came up with the New New Testament, the bestseller that the entire economy depends on. Problem is: he’s got writer’s block. Riddled with doubt, he doesn’t know what he wants anymore, and his various frustrations are making him miserable. Lantz reflects the daily life of many among us. Will he be able to find an honorable way out of his psychological battles?’

 

Total Jazz (2004) – Again exploring his interests, Blutch’s collection of jazz-themed comics, short stories and vignettes explores the music and the jazz scene.

‘Drawn in a range of styles as improvisational as Coltrane and Mingus — everything from loose linework to tight pen and ink to gestural pencils — Blutch captures the excitement of live performance, the lovelorn, and the Great Jazz Detective, who is out but not down.’

 

 

Now, a few random beauties…

 

And we’ll end with this, picked up by Wim Lockefeer at his Sparehead blog

‘In 2002 the Dupuis series, Les Tuniques Bleues, one of the most succesful ongoing series ever, celebrated its 50th book with a special edition of Spirou Magazine.

With a character named Blutch, what better cartoonist to create a spoof than French literary comics hero Blutch? In this two-page story, Blutch plays on the naming confusion, on the difference between generations of comics and their creators, and on the influence of comics on the kind of person you become.’

Art For Art’s Sake – this week we take an extended look at one of Europe’s greats, Blutch (Christian Hincker).COMICONRead More

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