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Alain Bonnefoit 1937 | French Sumi-e style painter

In his forty year career Alain Bonnefoit has experimented with the most varied means of expression: mixed techniques on canvas paper, oil painting, original lithography and engraving, his elegant sumi-e and sculpture. Since the end of the 80′s he has held important exhibitions in Paris, Vichy, Angers, Toulouse, Sion, Le Havre, Bièvres, Metz, Juan-les-Pins, Venice, Pisa, Florence, Milan, Siena, Lille, Grenoble, Nantes, Marseille, Strasbourg, Reims and Brion. The real artistic explosion began in the early 90′s: requests for solo exhibitions increased rapidly, together with critical and public success. The outstanding shows were in Tokyo, Rome, Paris, Lausanne, Osaka, Orléans, Los Angeles, Luxembourg, Martigny, Florence, Cannes, Brussels, Kyoto, Chaumont, Lyon, Certaldo, Bordeaux, Seoul, Ludwigshafen, Siena, Pietrasanta, Tahiti, New York, Kwangju, Naples etc. His works have been acquired by public bodies in Japan, Korea and France. He still lives between France and Italy which he now considers his second country.

Sumi-e is a style of painting is characteristically Asian, and has been practiced for well over a thousand years. Literally ink painting, it is an art form that strives to distill the essence of an object or scene in the fewest possible strokes. A few carefully placed broad strokes that fade off abruptly, a few thin lines and a dot, and a bird is clearly called into being on the paper.
Sumi-e is sometimes confused with calligraphy, because the tools used are the same. Calligraphy is the graceful, artistic representation of written characters, using ink and brush, while sumi-e is painting a scene or object. In the West, sumi-e is often called Chinese Brush Painting, although it has been a major art form in Japan and Korea as well.
To paint with ink requires the use of the Four Treasures. This refers to the must-haves of sumi-e: an ink stone, an ink stick, a brush, and the appropriate kind of paper. The ink stone is a stone with a shallow depression carved into it; it is used to prepare and hold the ink for the painter. The ink stick is a black stick composed of pine soot, bound into a hardened form with resin. It is typically molded in cylinders or rectangles with a lavishly decorated bas relief, such as dragons, on the surface. The reliefs are often painted in gold or other colors, making the utilitarian stick of ink a work of art in itself.

Painter, engraver and sculptor, Bonnefoit was born in Montmartre, Paris, in 1937. From 1953 he attended the École des Arts Appliqués, from 1956 the École des Beaux Arts in Paris and from 1959 also the École des Beaux Arts in Brussels Engraving and Sculpture Department. In 1961 he began a two year period in the studio of the sculptor Volti who would become his maestro in both art and life. In 1964 he arrived at the form of expression that later made him famous: the female nude. In 1965 he moved to Tuscany but kept on his studio in Paris. In 1973 he made his first trip to Japan, an experience that affected him deeply, where he discovered and studied the technique of sumi-e. He made repeated visits to the East for further in-depth study and is now a master of the technique.