Christine Boumeester

1904Jakarta, Indonesia | 1971Paris, France
— Galerie Clémence Boisanté

French painter and engraver.

Ranging from a fantastic style similar to that of the surrealists to lyrical abstraction, Christine Boumeester’s work always had a very free relationship to the artistic movements of her time. Born into a family of colonists, she began drawing at young age – undoubtedly to distract her from her facial furunculosis, an illness that struck in her early years. She qualified as a drawing teacher at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague in 1925, but was not much interested in teaching; instead, she set up a workshop and worked under the instruction of the painter Reuter. During various trips – to Domburg, a little seaside resort in the north of Holland, to the island of Texel, and to Germany – she painted several landscapes and portraits, sometimes miniatures on ivory. In her notebook she wrote: “When I was making portraits, I wanted to put the person’s character into the drawing, the most beautiful part, and I didn’t want realism but rather the nostalgia of the ideal that was on its way” (Le Cahier de Christine Boumeester [The Notebooks of Christine Boumeester] 1977, 1988). In 1935, the Santee Landwer Gallery in Amsterdam was the site of her first solo exhibition. After enrolling at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, she met the American painter Henri Goetz, whom she would marry six months later. She exhibited in various galleries in Paris, as well as the Salon des Superindépendants, where she showed her work every year until 1938. In 1936 she created her first surrealist canvases – fantastical, atmospheric landscapes and surrealist-inspired collages, a practice she would develop further when the war considerably reduced her means to create art. In 1937 she exhibited with H. Goetz at the Galerie Bonaparte.

Influenced by the work of her friend Hans Hartung, she began to turn towards abstract painting. Throughout these years, the couple socialised with the Gonzálezes and their surrealist friends the Bréas, Mary Low (1912-2007), Oscar Domínguez, and André Breton. When the war broke out, the couple were without French papers and fled to Dordogne, where Boumeester became interested in prehistory. They then went to Carcassonne to join up with the Belgian surrealist group (Ubac, Magritte, and Scutenaire). Once the United States entered the war, the two artists began a clandestine life, fabricating papers for the Resistance. In 1941 they founded the clandestine Surrealist revue La Main à plume [The Writing Hand] with Ubac and Dotremont. In 1942, they exhibited together at the Jeanne Bucher Gallery in Paris and co-illustrated the book, La Femme facile [The Easy Woman] by Georges Hugnet. Denounced as members of the Resistance, they were forced to live under assumed names. With the help of their gallerist, they fled to the Midi region, where they were reunited with de Staël, Picabia, Arp and Magnelli. They returned to Paris in 1945 and began again exhibiting regularly in various salons and galleries. In 1946, Alain Resnais filmed C. Boumeester at work as part of his series of artist portraits. This period also saw the start of Boumeester’s close friendship with Picabia, which would last until his death in 1953; it was Boumeester who restored his great painting Udnie.

In 1949, C. Boumeester and H. Goetz were naturalised as French citizens. With Flocon and Ubac they founded the group Graphies, whose first exhibition was held at the Galerie des Deux-Îles; a collective work, À la gloire de la main [For the Glory of the Hand] was published at the same time and featured engravings by the couple. These engravings also appeared in Inductives (1950) by Max Clarac-Sérou. This was followed the next year by the first study of C. Boumeester’s work, with texts by Gaston Bachelard, M. Clarac-Sérou, Noël Arnaud, and Yaroslav Serpan. A number of exhibitions then followed, as did illustration projects. The artist translated the book Point, Ligne et Surface by Kandinsky into French. In 1963 she moved with her husband to Villefranche-sur-Mer, where they associated with many artists including Picasso, H. Hartung, Vieira da Silva and Zao Wou-Ki. In 1968 she fell ill; H. Goetz published Christine Boumeester (1968) with an introduction by Vercors. After her death in 1971, he did everything he could to exhibit and gain greater recognition for his wife’s work. In 1983, Villefranche-sur-Mer was able to create a museum displaying the work of the two artists thanks to several donations. Ranging from figuration to abstraction, the work of C. Boumeester is imbued with a powerful poetry of form and colour in works that bring together Eastern and Western landscapes in radiant, dreamlike compositions.

Catherine Gonnard

Translated from French by Anna Knight.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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