"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
October 8, 2012
Unexpected Investment
by Lawrence Jeppson

The life of French painter Robert Lapoujade was full of ironies and twists.

In “Moments” #21 I wrote of his encounter with a family of Greek peasants. In a sense he was a rustic himself. He grew up in a small town, and when I met him he was living with his wife on an old, weed-grown farm a hundred miles west of Paris. He complained whenever there were cows in an adjacent field he was impelled to paint them. The paintings were not traditional bucolic images.

I was taken to the farm by his Paris dealer, Pierre Domec, who drove his Italian Alfa Romeo very fast on those narrow French back roads.

“Weren’t you very nervous?” Lapoujade asked me. I nodded, and he agreed. “I get scared every time I get in the car with Pierre.” Then the three of us went off together on some errand, the artist scrunched up in the small rear seat.

(A year or two later, my oldest daughter and I drove in a bigger car with Pierre from Paris, through Switzerland, to the Venice Biennial Art Fair, and back. All survived.)

His life was simple and direct, yet his art was complex, difficult, and appealing to some of Europe’s most notable intellectuals, among them philosopher Jean Paul Sartre.

A further irony: While France is filled with excellent art schools, national and private, and Lapoujade occasionally taught at some of them, he was largely self-taught. This did not stop the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris from acquiring his paintings. He exhibited in the important Prix Marzotto in Italy and the Carnegie Prize competition in Pittsburgh.

Although there was little doubt among some circles that Lapoujade was an important painter, not everyone liked his work or understood it. The same was true once of Van Gogh and Cézanne. So Domec’s gallery usually sold his works a painting or two at a time, and not every day.

Robert Lapoujade, Catherine, Lapoujade’s wife. (I own a much larger full-length rendering entitled Jeune Fille au Profile, for which she was the model.)

Early on in the Lapoujade-Domec relationship, an American motion picture producer admired several paintings and inquired their prices. A Lapoujade then could be acquired for a couple of thousand dollars. The American shook his head and muttered to Domec, “I’ll come back and buy when their value has risen to $20,000.”

At a later time, when prices had gone up, Domec exposed a sensuous collection Lapoujade had painted on the relationship of man and woman. The style was fractured, like the reflections from a thousand broken mirror fragments. Thus images are not obvious. Often the point is brutal, but the impression delicate.

Robert Lapoujade, The Big Battle

One repeated visitor to the show was a shy college boy who seemed overwhelmed by it all. Finally he said to Domec towards the end of the run, “May I bring my parents in to see these?”

Of course he could.

They came — stern, proper, middle-class parents — and looked at the art without comment. Finally they nodded to the boy.

“My parents,” he explained to Domec, “have said that I might have my inheritance now, while they are still alive, to invest or spend as I please. I have chosen to buy this entire Lapoujade collection.”

So the boy went out with 17 major Lapoujade oils, a trove he would watch over closely in ensuing years.

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About Lawrence Jeppson

Lawrence Jeppson is an art consultant, organizer and curator of art exhibitions, writer, editor and publisher, lecturer, art historian, and appraiser. He is America's leading authority on modern, handwoven French tapestries. He is expert on the works of William Henry Clapp, Nat Leeb, Tsing-fang Chen, and several French artists.

He is founding president of the non-profit Mathieu Matégot Foundation for Contemporary Tapestry, whose purview encompasses all 20th-century tapestry, an interest that traces back to 1948. For many years he represented the Association des Peintres-Cartonniers de Tapisserie and Arelis in America.

Through the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the American Federation of Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, and his own Art Circuit Services he has been a contributor to or organizer of more than 200 art exhibitions in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Taiwan. He owns AcroEditions, which publishes and/or distributes multiple-original art. He was co-founder and artistic director of Collectors' Investment Fund.

He is the director of the Spring Arts Foundation; Utah Cultural Arts Foundation, and the Fine Arts Legacy Foundation

Lawrence is an early-in-the-month home teacher, whose beat is by elevator. In addition, he has spent the past six years hosting and promoting reunions of the missionaries who served in the French Mission (France, Belgium, and Switzerland) during the decade after WWII.

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