Gaston Chaissac (1910-1964) was a self-taught artist working on the margins of the mainstream art world. His work defies categorisation, but he is clearly one of the great figures of French creative life in the 20th century.
Chaissac held a deep attachment to the Vendée region, where he lived for the last 20 years of his life, but his inspiration and vocation as a painter was drawn from Paris and Provence (where he settled after 1942), and from his friends Albert Gleizes, André Bloc and André Lhote. Chaissac's notoriety spread far and wide after the war, notably thanks to Jean Dubufet, who introduced him to the great adventure of Art Brut. Today, however, his work is largely, and unjustly, overlooked by the wider public. With his deliberately "brutal," naïve inspiration and his cognisance of certain forms of contemporary art, Chaissac became the founder and leading proponent of an original school of "modern rustic painting." His work was the subject of a retrospective in Paris, at the Musée National d'Art Moderne (MNAM) in 1973, and features in the permanent collections of the MNAM and the city art museums of Lyons, Saint-Etienne and Nantes ( La Cène , 1956-7). The museum of the Abbaye de la Sainte-Croix, in Les Sables-d’Olonne, holds an important collection of his work (some 100 drawings, 60 paintings, collages, objects and totems). The museum is also home to a Chaissac study centre. The present exhibition, in collaboration with the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, is the biggest and most comprehensive retrospective of Chaissac's work to date.