Eugen Gabritschevsky was born in Moscow in 1893, studied biology and heredity, and was a well-known researcher in his field. By 1927, however, Eugen started demonstrating signs of mental illness and his research came to an abrupt end in 1929 when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Gabritschevsky was committed to Eglfing-Haar psychiatric hospital near Munich, where apart from occasional stays with his brother and family, he remained until his death in 1979. In the ensuing years at the hospital, Eugen produced a rich and outstanding body of work consisting of thousands of paintings and drawings. In 1948, his works first came to the attention of French artist, Jean Dubuffet, probably best known as the founder of the Art Brut movement (literally “rough art” or “raw art”, and later known as “outsider art”). Between 1950-61, Dubuffet purchased 71 of Eugen’s works for his Compagnie de l’Art Brut.
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Almost all of Eugen’s works were later acquired by Alphonse Chave, Dubuffet’s friend and owner of an art gallery in Vence. Shortly after, Chave sold some 600 drawings to Daniel Cordier, whose gallery championed Gabritschevsky for a number of years before making a significant donation of his work to the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, in 1989. These works are now on long loan to Les Abattoirs in Toulouse.
In a letter to this brother Alexander, Eugen wrote, “I am living in a prison that the people here call Anstalt […] The main thing I have done is paint fantastic painting. There have been exhibitions in Frankfurt, New York, Vence (in France), and they have described me as a painter of genius. Now, though, I don’t work much and I live with the reviews from the past. I worked like mad for a while but all that’s in the past now.”
Today, a significant selection of 250 works of Eugen Gabritschevsky, together with archival documents (photographs and artist’s correspondence) form part of a striking exhibition at La Maison Rouge, Paris. Works on display include his charcoal drawings, watercolours and gouache paintings. His depictions of deserted landscapes, cities, mutations, physical deformations and imaginary creatures, lead us into a dark, alternative world that is instilled with a troubled but fantastic aesthetic.
As Valérie Rousseau notes in the exhibition catalogue (Eugen Gabritschevsky, 1893-1979, Snoeck Editions, 2016), “The particular sensibility that characterises his work arises from the contrast between his great mastery—the sophistication of his drawing, the thoughtful gesture that approaches the surface, the extent of his knowledge of the invisible, the vastness of his intellectual capacities—and the indistinct, even suspended atmosphere in which his subjects are immersed, recalling certain aspects of the work done by Max Ernst when in exile in the United States during the Second World War.”
Where: La Maison Rouge, Fondation Antoine de Galbert, 10 Bd de la Bastille, 75012 Paris
Dates: July 8, 2016, to September 18, 2016
Timings: Wednesday to Sunday from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. Late night opening on Thursday until 9:00 pm.
Tariff: €10 (Full), €7 (Reduced)
More information: Visit La Maison Rouge’s website