"Art heightens the sense of humanity." - Matthew Fox, from "Original Blessing"
There is an underlying unity in the universe, Jean-Claude Gaugy believes. The constant quality that weaves its way through everything is movement - rhythmic life, repeating itself in infinite forms.
In Gaugy's acclaimed carved paintings, all ancient and archetypal expressions of the human soul find articulation in textured line and luminous color, and in images that reflect the essence of who we are.
The call to create resounds from deep in Gaugy's ancestral past. For almost 400 years his family worked as artisans in the Jura mountain region of France, quietly maintaining the dignity, independence, and strength of those who understand the demands of fusing function and beauty.
For his part, Gaugy continues a tradition of synthesis, fusing well-mastered skills of sculpture and painting in a signature style that has become known as Linear Expressionism. He carves rhythmic, flowing, yet decisive line into wood, and then complements that powerful sense of movement with the rich complexities of color.
The results are internationally admired and collected works that speak to the wholeness of being human.
Born in 1944, young Gaugy heard his own call of independence and left his mountain village for Paris at age 14. There he survived by doing sketches in cafes and soon was invited by the owner of a lavish dining club to paint portraits of customers. During the day Gaugy pursued classical art studies and the Ecole des Beaux Arts, focusing on his great love of sculpture.
One night, renowned surrealist Salvador Dali entered the dining club and asked to see more of Gaugy's art. Dali was so taken with what he saw that he arranged for a one-man exhibition of Gaugy's paintings at the Galerie de Seine in Paris. Soon Gaugy's work was being shown in Brussels and Germany. The Soviet government purchased three of his large paintings at a group show at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, and the young artist was flown by consular jet to Moscow for museum installation of the works.
With a insatiable thirst for knowledge, Gaugy studied during the following years at a number of prestigious art schools in Paris, Rome, Germany and Moscow, as well as apprenticing in England with famed sculptor Henry Moore. In 1966 he immigrated to the United States, a move that led to the development of his trademark Linear Expressionist style.
Three-dimensional sculpture did not command the interest in the United States that it did in Europe. But Gaugy was unwilling to give up his love of carving. Instead, he began creating deeply carved bas-relief wall sculptures in wood. Gradually the carving became less deep and more linear, and color was integrated into the work.
As his art evolved and matured, Gaugy found himself commissioned to create many murals, some as large as 50 feet. Among his clients were the Rockefeller Foundation, New York's Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, and the National Foundation for Depressive Illnesses, which in 1991 unveiled Gaugy's 30-foot work at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. In 1994, a major exhibition of Gaugy's carved paintings was sponsored by the government of Luxembourg.
With international recognition and a lifetime of accolades, Jean-Claude Gaugy continues to rise at 4:30 each morning with a singular focus. He brings to his studio all the intensity of an artist whose abiding passion is clear communication through his art.
Just as he understands the creative source to reside in the depths of his being, so his intent is to touch that same pure place in those who experience his art.
Among the owners and collectors of the work of Jean-Claude Gaugy are:
The Hirshhorn Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
The Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY
The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH
Museum of Modern Art, Budapest, Hungary
Syracuse University Art Collection, Syracuse, NY
The Johnson Museum at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
The Hilton Head Museum of Art, Hilton Head, SC
The Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI
The Aspen Institute, Aspen, CO
Museum of Art, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT
Hofstra Museum, Hempstead, NY
Davenport Museum of Art, Davenport, IA
Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA
Frick Fine Arts, University of Pittsburg, PA
Emerson Gallery, Hamilton College, NY
The Levy Library, Charleston College, NC
Schlesinger Art Collection, Switzerland
President and Mrs. Bill Clinton
(former) President and Mrs. Turgut Ozal, Turkey
Prime Minister Gyula Horn, Hungary
Senator Orrin Hatch, UT
(former) Governor Milken, MI
(former) Senator and Mrs. Roger Jepsen, IA
Mrs. James Schlesinger, NY
Mr. James Annenberg Levee, FL
Maestro and Mrs. James Brooks-Bruzzese, FL
Rabbi and Mrs. Theodore Levy, Hilton Head, SC
Mr. Van Cliburn, TX
Ms. Jean Tyson, AK
Dr. Michael Bishop, NY
Murals and Monumental Work:
Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, NY
First Interstate Bank Center, Las Vegas, NV
Dallas Jesuit Museum
The Awakening Museum, Santa Fe, NM
Jean-Claude at Mary Martin Gallery
America in the 60s was only beginning to acquire a broad taste for art. The ownership of paintings was becoming more common, but the market for sculpture was largely limited to city monuments, bronze eagles and western imagery. Gaugy had other images to share, the need to sculpt, and a family to support. The artist focused his creativity and training on finding a solution. In this fertile and determined ground, carved paintings were born.
Gaugy had always loved the warm, organic nature of wood. As a child, he had helped his grandfather carve cathedral doors. As a graduate student, he had explored greater intricacies at the School of Woodcarving in Oberammergau, Germany. He felt wood as a material was somehow attuned to the life-affirming messages he wanted to convey.
Early pieces were deeply carved with traditional bas-relief techniques into slabs of walnut that Gaugy glued and doweled and finished with stain. The sculptor was sculpting, but the work could be wall-hung. People could find a place for it in their homes and buildings. The artist's problem was solved.
But only the initial problem. With each new work, new challenges appeared. How could thisform be better shown, that emotion better conveyed? The essential purpose of all artmaking, search and growth, immediately took hold. It has never stopped nor slowed.
Through the years, carving and painting techniques have evolved tremendously. Current work is not immediately apparent as wood, until touched and examined. Realism in imagery has given way to a powerful and distinctive style developed to serve both the medium and the artist's message. The carved lines have remained and the preoccupation with form and movement have not diminished. This has created a philosophy of structure and composition which Jean-Claude Gaugy, as "founder," has christened Linear Expressionism. Lines form the basis of all the works, defining, guiding, creating emotion through rhythm and complex juxtapositions.
"I have done things with wood that have never been done before," says Gaugy. "When I die, I hope it will be said that I have moved the boundaries of art just a bit."