Exploring the Troubled Mind of Eugène Gabritschevsky

Most of the work was produced while he was in a mental institution.

Eugene Gabritschevsky, Untitled, gouache and watercolor on tracing paper, 21 x 29 cm. Antoine de Galbert Collection, Paris. © Etienne Pottier
Eugene Gabritschevsky, Untitled, gouache and watercolor on tracing paper, 21 x 29 cm. Antoine de Galbert Collection, Paris. © Etienne Pottier

The first major showing in Paris of the work of Russian artist Eugène Gabritschevsky (1893-1979) is on exhibition in La Maison Rouge, a private contemporary art foundation near the Bastille.

The mesmerizing show chronologically charts the journey of an artist whose promising scientific career was interrupted by severe mental illness, and saw him institutionalized for much of his life. In 1931 he was confined to the Haar-Eflingen psychiatric hospital near Munich where he more or less remained until his death in 1979. It was there that, over the course of three decades, Gabritschevsky created the bulk of his body of work, in silence and in solitude.

Eugen Gabritschevsky, Untitled, August 1946, gouache on photographic paper, 28.5 x 41.5 cm. Private Collection, New York. © Adam Reich.

Eugene Gabritschevsky, Untitled, August 1946, gouache on photographic paper, 28.5 x 41.5 cm.
Private Collection, New York. ©Adam Reich.

The exhibition presents art works from this prolific period and, for the first time, others produced before 1929. It brings together 250 works from thousands of drawings, together with archive documents including photographs and some of the artist’s correspondence.

The works on view are varied in style. Gabritschevsky employs a number of techniques, such as frottage (rubbing), grattage (scraping) and stamping, and makes use of a number of different materials. Some of the works reflect a dark and troubled mindscape furnished with more than enough fodder for nightmares.

Eugen Gabritschevsky, Untitled, 1947, gouache on paper and red chalk on paper, 22 x 13 cm. Collection de l’Art Brut Lausanne;© Atelier de numérisation – Ville de Lausanne Amélie Blanc Caroline Smyrliadis Collection de l’Art Brut Lausanne.

Eugene Gabritschevsky, Untitled, 1947, gouache on paper and red chalk on paper, 22 x 13 cm. Collection de l’Art Brut Lausanne; ©Atelier de numérisation – Ville de Lausanne Amélie Blanc Caroline Smyrliadis Collection de l’Art Brut Lausanne.

Others explore ambiguous imaginary realms that could be chthonic or transcendent and work towards giving form and color to being itself: its mysterious origins, its uncharted future, its almost unbearable present.

Gazing at the works, one is overcome with a sort of twisted voyeuristic guilt; but rather than peeping through blinds, the viewer is peering into the artist’s mind.

Eugen Gabritschevsky, Untitled, 1942, gouache on paper, 21 x 29.5 cm. Collection Chave, Vence. © Galerie Chave.

Eugene Gabritschevsky, Untitled, 1942, gouache on paper, 21 x 29.5 cm.
Collection Chave, Vence. ©Galerie Chave.

Gabritschevsky’s interest in genetics is perceptible in the subjects of his work: fantastic beasts and hybrid creatures emerge from these mystic realms and, along with the incredible range of his artistic expression, gesture to the role of random mutation in our evolution.

Gabritschevsky’s mental struggle is tangible; he seems to work with the burden of unspeakable knowledge, prompting critic Annie Le Brun to write: “Quite simply, he went where no one else had ever been, to reach—even at the cost of the gravest imbalance—the point where life reveals the terrifying splendor of its infinite metamorphoses between the organic and the inorganic, the vegetable and the mineral, the human and the animal.”

Le Brun’s full essay on Gabritschevsky is printed in the exhibition’s catalogue.

Eugen Gabritschevsky, Untitled, 1949, gouache on paper, 21 x 295 cm. Collection Chave, Vence. © Galerie Chave.

Eugen Gabritschevsky, Untitled, 1949, gouache on paper, 21 x 295 cm.
Collection Chave, Vence. © Galerie Chave.

The exhibition, and the accompanying catalogue, are produced in partnership with the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne and the American Folk Art Museum in New York where it will travel in autumn (11.11.16 – 02.19.17) then in spring (03.13.17 – 08.13.17).

See more works from the exhibition below:

Eugen Gabritschevsky, Untitled, 1950, gouache on paper, 48 x 63 cm. Collection Chave, Vence. © Galerie Chave.

Eugene Gabritschevsky, Untitled, 1950, gouache on paper, 48 x 63 cm. Collection Chave, Vence. © Galerie Chave.

Eugen Gabritschevsky, Untitled, 1947, gouache on paper, 21 x 27 cm. Collection Chave, Vence. © Galerie Chave.

Eugene Gabritschevsky, Untitled, 1947, gouache on paper, 21 x 27 cm.
Collection Chave, Vence. © Galerie Chave.

Eugen Gabritschevsky, Untitled, 1942, gouache and aquarel on chalk paper, 234 x 314 cm. Private collection New-York.

Eugene Gabritschevsky, Untitled, 1942, gouache and aquarel on chalk paper, 234 x 314 cm.
Private collection New-York.

Eugene Gabritschevsky (1893-1979) is on in la maison rouge  from July 8–September 18, 2016.


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