From the snow of the Jura to the white of a work, the itinerary of Jean Ricardon to see at the Courbet d’Ornans museum

Jean Ricardon chose snow white from his native Jura as his favorite material. The Courbet Museum in Ornans (Doubs) is devoting an exhibition to him to understand his career. With a room devoted to the stained glass windows of the Abbaye d’Acey and a tribute to “The Burial at Ornans” by Gustave Courbet, a 6 meter long fresco, never presented.

Jean Ricardon was born in 1924, in Morez in the Jura. He begins by painting self-portraits and figurative snow landscapes. Then he “went to Paris” at the École des Beaux-Arts and his painting was completely transformed.

This is what the exhibition at the Courbet Museum in Ornans shows: an artistic journey over several decades, like a frantic quest. The exhibition is called “The Deep Meaning of White”Jean Ricardon having chosen white as a material.

After his first self-portraits, his landscapes of snow in the Haut-Jura or a view of Paris, the visitor can follow the evolution of Jean Ricardon. And he is already painting snow. His first abstract painting, predominantly white, dates from 1961.

Alongside the artist’s works, those of those who influenced and marked him, such as Vassily Kandinsky, François Morellet or Aurélie Nemours, or supported him such as Michel Seuphor.

And to watch carefully, a confrontation with Pierre Soulages. Two works by the master of black dialogue with those, dressed in white, by Jean Ricardon. In this “confrontation”, the canvases of Soulages do not necessarily have the last word.

In the 1980s, the monks of the Abbey of Our Lady of Acey, in Vitreux in the Jura, want stained glass windows for their Cistercian building. Artists who have offered, as traditionally, colors, see their projects refused.
Jean Ricardon wins the competition launched: the religious were seduced by his research on white and his spirituality. The stained glass windows will therefore be white, with a little grey, transparent, opaque, translucent. No two identical.

Pierre-Alain Parot, master glassmaker in Aiserey in the Côte-d’Or, produces them in close collaboration with the artist from Besançon. For Pierre-Alain Parot, “ it’s a technological challenge and also the beginning of a great adventure with Jean Ricardon “. He remembers : “ it was a technological challenge because it was large parts. Jean didn’t want small formats that we would have grouped together. The first time I saw his works, I said to myself that it was impossible: how to put white in a stained glass window? It’s a window! So, to work, we had made small colored glass tablets with all the possible shades and numbered. When we called each other, we talked about G3 or A5, a bit like for a naval battle “.

The monks of the Abbey of Acey are active in an electrolysis workshop, for metallurgy. “They are also manufacturers” continues Pierre-Alain Parot “so they also liked the technological challenge…”
In total, 10 years of work were necessary: “Jean went there almost every day…”
The creative journey is visible through sketches, models and finished stained glass windows.

Jean Ricardon painted until 2018, the date of his death, at the age of 94. His latest work, found in his studio, is a tribute to Gustave Courbet: he “revisits” the painting “The Burial at Ornans” by the master of Ornans.
Benjamin Foudral, the curator and director of the Museum and the Pôle Courbet, is delighted to be able to present this unfinished fresco, 6 meters long. Unfinished, with rework, annotations in pencil, a little as if the visitor could witness Jean Ricardon’s creative process. “ It is an extraordinary work. We see that he summarizes all the thoughts he has had throughout his career. This confrontation with Gustave Courbet is a tribute in the form of a testamentadds Benjamin Foudral.

Jean Ricardon was a professor at the Beaux-Arts in Besançon for 35 years. A committed teacher, who left no one indifferent, relatives or detractors. Among his students, Christian Fumagali Where Charles Belle. This choice to stay in Besançon and devote his time to teaching certainly harmed his career as an artist.

Jean Ricardon exhibited in galleries abroad, he knew the right people to be relayed internationally, such as Michel Seuphor. He exhibited at the Center Georges Pompidou, Beaubourg in Paris, from 1979. But he chose to focus on teaching.
If he had wanted to, his work would have shone in a different way. There, by confronting him with Pierre Soulages and others, his work fits perfectly next to these giants of the abstract of the 20th century. “says Benjamin Foudral.

video length: 02min 37

The Musée Courbet d’Ornans offers an exhibition dedicated to the Franche-Comté painter Jean Ricardon who devoted his life to research on white. With an interview with Jean Ricardon, archives of 2001, Pierre-Alain Parot, master glassmaker and Benjamin Foudral curator and director of the museum and the Courbet center

©C. Eme-Ziri, E. Debief and C. Théodore France Télévisions

The exhibition John Ricardon “The Deep Meaning of White”

On view at the Courbet museum in Ornans until March 26, 2023.

The museum is open to the public every day except Tuesday:
– from June to September: from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
– October to May: Monday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

At the end of the year, the Courbet museum will exceptionally close at 4 p.m. on December 24 and 31 and will exceptionally open from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on December 26 and January 2.

video length: 04min 56

Jean Ricardon checks the last hangings in June 2001: The museum of his city finally devotes a retrospective to him. He explains in particular why he chose white.

©C. Eme-Ziri, A. Ziri France Télévisions

Contrary to what Jean Ricardon affirms in this report, no, he did not definitively put down his brushes in 2001.

And fortunately: in 2010, he began to paint “his” funeral in Ornans, in homage to Gustave Courbet, a fresco 6 meters long, visible for the first time in Ornans thanks to this exhibition. And the fact that it is unfinished is rich in lessons about his work!

From the snow of the Jura to the white of a work, the itinerary of Jean Ricardon to see at the Courbet d’Ornans museum