The work of Henry Miller is marked by largely autobiographical novels, the raw and sensual tone of which sparked a series of controversies in Puritan America whose moral hypocrisy he wanted to stigmatize. His virulent and scandalous writing left a deep mark on the writers of the Beat Generation.
This great storyteller of sexuality and eroticism liked to think that in him “the devil writes but the angel paints.” “The one for whom painting was a real passion did not hesitate to say:” to paint is to love again. “True syntheses of all the painting of the first half of the 20th century (we will think of Klee, Chagall, Dufy, etc.), these works reveal to us that a tenderness for humanity and a cheerful optimism inhabited this immense writer.
The automatic drawings and watercolors in which one can read a real creative pleasure take us into the bubbling visual universe of one of the greatest geniuses of our century.
“For Miller, to paint is to be born, it is to experience this primordial innocence of the child who discovers the world. However, his painting, except for the cheerfulness of the coloring, is the opposite of children’s drawings. Even if the novelist admits not knowing how to draw, his painting is scholarly (…) his pictorial work is a synthesis of all the painting of the first half of the 20th century. Indeed, it must be said or admitted that it contains a summary of the art of Klee, Hans Reichel, George Grosz, Nolde for Germany; by Chagall, Rouault, Léger, Dufy, Matisse, Picasso, Pascin, for the Paris school; by Georgia O’Keefe and John Marin for the United States. Still, this amalgamation constitutes a surprisingly personal work as much as that of a “painter-witness of his time” – just as writing heralds a change in Western sensitivity and sexuality. “
“The heterogeneous figurative elements, amalgamated as in a dream, but plastically linked together by passages, reflections, transparencies, are most often reduced to a few plant, object or animal species: characters, houses, flowers, fish, birds , quadrupeds, sailboats. But it is the human figure that occupies the first place. These subjects offer variations from one watercolor to another, but seem to come from a sort of matrix, a common mold. With these forms which take the place of a graphic alphabet, Miller mixes signs which are also symbols, such as the scale, the Star of David, the moon (full or crescent). These recurring signs are a sort of leitmotif. “
“What does painting represent for him and how does he justify his activities as a painter? “When I paint I feel good. And if that makes me happy, chances are it will make other people happy too. ” And here he is showing himself to us, in the act of painting: “I no longer know what I’m doing or where I am… I have two brushes in one hand and three in the other and I don’t stop to sing, to dance, to swing, to stagger, to hum, to swear, to scream… ”In a nutshell, Miller paints because he likes it, because the act of painting is opposed to painting. act of writing like happiness to anguish. “
(Excerpts from the text Le Sourire au bout du pinceau by Françoise Py, art critic)