The works of Blasco Mentor are in their majority in the imagination of the artist. His work, painted or sculpted, reveals an unreal aesthetic. His creations are imbued with powerful fantasies or express his Spanish roots: bullfighting, the Meninas, the artist and his muse, the party and the spectacle… The Spanish origin does not come only from the color, nor the choice of historical truth, but a personal artistic fiction.
Often several subjects are developed simultaneously in his paintings, overlapping each other. We can also notice very diverse genres and trends. While it is sometimes difficult to follow a chronological or hierarchical order of tastes or influences depending on the period, this pictorial profusion and this cultural richness are indeed the signs of a powerful and imaginative artist. August 21, 2020
Presentation of Mentor’s work by Daniel SIMONIN
Daniel Simonin joined the association of friends of the work of Blasco Mentor from its inception. He practiced as a lawyer in Paris within the international law firm Landwell, of which he will ultimately be responsible. His atypical career as an art lover has led him to become an excellent connoisseur of the milieu, so particular to the contemporary art market. He currently lives in Nîmes with his wife.
It seemed interesting to me to make his point of view accessible to everyone.
“He is the great baron of the baroque” and “one of the last Catalan princes of painting, whom Picasso considered to be one of his legatees in modern art – Hervé Bazin.
“My house and my work reflect the same vision: the taste for celebration and mockery
La Fenice, opening
We had friends, Hélène and Jean Pierre, who lived in Solliès-Pont, near Toulon, whom we had known from vacations at the Mediterranean Club. We saw them regularly, despite the distance that separated us, and they introduced us to the painter Blasco Mentor. Hélène was a podiatrist and Jean-Pierre a dentist and they looked after the minor ailments of the painter and his wife Neige who lived in the village near Solliès-Toucas. The friendship of Mentor, of the “Master” as Helene affectionately called him for this couple and their children has never wavered.
Mentor also helped decorate their beautiful home.
We were invited to the opening of the “La Fenice” exhibition, at the Guigné gallery, avenue du faubourg Saint Honoré. What an exhibition! what a crowd, what an exuberant, baroque, crazy, funny painting …
It was a dazzling painting of Venice, where large paintings depicted operas performed at “La Fenice” in Venice. “One cannot go with more verve and invention against contemporary art,” said critic Jean Crespelle. We have since had the opportunity to go to Venice to visit this temple of opera music and learn about its history of destruction by fire and its identical reconstruction over the centuries. I sat in the large box built for the Emperor Napoleon, it is she who is represented in Mentor’s painting
I didn’t buy the painting from the gallery, it was way too expensive for me. I bought it several years later, on an April 1st, it’s not a joke! on the phone in Honfleur. I had seen the advertisement of the sale on the Gazette Drouot and I asked the auctioneer for explanations on the canvas to confirm that it was indeed the painting that I had seen at the gallery and which was shown on the invitation card. He described it to me and didn’t even ask me for a RIB (those were the good times, then) and I bought the painting for a very reasonable price. The person selling must have wanted discretion because he had chosen a provincial auction house, and I knew then that the number and quality of the paintings offered would have justified contacting a Parisian auction house. What was his motivation? money of course, you always need money if you sell! Or did she no longer believe in the artists she had collected and get rid of her bulky paintings even if it means losing a small fortune? I prefer to believe in the first hypothesis and then I am grateful to him for having sold off this painting which I would never have been able to acquire under normal conditions.
Hélène introduced us to the “Master” who reigned over all the small world gathered for the occasion. He was an elderly man already, with a weathered face, abundant graying hair, an ironic but benevolent smile on his lips and mischievous eyes, searching the interlocutor with his gaze. He painted the portrait of Marie-Jeanne on the inside page of the book dedicated to his work, which was published for the opening. I remember Mentor vividly staring at my wife under her big eyebrows, for a few seconds to determine her characteristic features, no doubt, and then suddenly, without any hesitation, to draw a few lines of her face on the white sheet. A few moments were enough to catch Marie-Jeanne’s gaze. She hasn’t changed since then! and his portrait is in the living room.
Almost every lunchtime visit we went to see Mentor and his wife. We discovered his fabulous house which he had built in masterly stages and which is unveiled in a 1995 issue of “Residence”.
Mentor was a earthy person, liking good food and good flesh too, he who painted plump female bodies all his life. He obviously didn’t like skinny people!
I drank his words: one day at a flea market, he saw a very convoluted and colorful pottery: “It’s so ugly it’s almost beautiful,” he said, laughing!
Another time, looking at his little sculptures, he said, “that one, (it was a bull), had a tail, and it fell, but it’s much better like that”!
I asked him if he could paint me a picture with the theme “luxury, calm and pleasure”, he didn’t say no, but I understood that bothered him and he never did. On the other hand, as I was looking at one of his almost finished paintings, he said to me: “do you want it? sure ? “And hesitating before dedicating it to both of them, to my wife and to me, asking each other with eyes,” are you going to stay married together? “He bet on the yes and” Le Taureau Amoureux “is still in our possession, well hung in our room
I noticed on this occasion that in general, a painter only signs a painting when it is sold, this is the moment when he relinquishes it and it is undoubtedly a protection because an unsigned painting finds more difficult to buy.
It was in his company that I also understood that even great artists doubt and fear the gaze of others on their work. This was the case with Picasso, whom he followed for some time when he was starting out, he said. I also understood that even a technically gifted artist like him, since he started painting at thirteen while portraying his brother, could have problems with his palette! one day he joined us and said “I can’t do it” he was painting a modern version of the painting from the end of the 16th century, by an unknown painter from the School of Fontainebleau, representing Gabrielle d’Estrée and her sister in the bath, the latter pinching the nipple of the red painted breast of Henri IV’s favorite. He got there later and it’s a very beautiful painting that I saw going up for auction.
When we knew him his career was already behind him, he had nothing more to prove, he had exhibited all over the world, in Italy, in Milan, at the Castiglione Palace he painted an extraordinary fresco, in the Côte d ‘ Ivory, in Asia, in Japan… But it was at La Courneuve, at the Maison du Peuple, that he painted the largest fresco in Europe which is currently in a deplorable state. In France, of course, he exhibited in Toulon, Rennes, Saint-Denis, at the Vasarely Foundation, exhibition inaugurated by François Léotard, then Minister of Culture, at the villa Tamaris in La Seyne –sur –Mer, at the Palais des Rois from Mallorca to Perpignan and we were at the Mentor exhibition at the Bourdelle museum in Paris which was one of the most beautiful. He was convinced, I’m sure, to be a great painter, and had retired to his home, away from the media light and the honors that go with it, no longer being too interested in the world. contemporary
Without knowing it, without knowing it, in the Salon d’Automne in 2002. Neige had reserved a space and then she had forgotten and she asked me at the last moment, since I lived in the Paris region if I could not. bring some paintings to the Salon. Mine paintings! because for Solliès’s paintings, it was too late. I got by, packed my paintings, hired a transporter and occupied a small space in the living room! it wasn’t great but I made sure Mentor was there. I had an exhibitor’s badge, it was “funny” and I could see that the public of the show knew Mentor and especially the “Fenice Rinovata” “was exhibited in the main aisle and is listed in the catalog. edited for the show. It was a salon that had lost its notoriety, which featured artists who were not “in fashion”, and above all, in my opinion, exhibited too many painters and sculptors, of too unequal value. This is where I really realized that there were two markets disconnected from each other, a traditional one, which is struggling to renew itself, to be modern, and an “in”, media, and financial “which monopolized all the light.
Mentor had concern for the public, the fear of looking at his work, which some would say, the characteristic of artists of the past, since today our “plastic artists” (at the beginning I thought he was acted artists who worked plastic!) do not create for the public, even if their work is presented to the latter, and make the work the subject of the work, so that they can talk about it endlessly. I’m hardly exaggerating, although there are still, and gladly, some notable exceptions.
For Mentor, “a painting only exists by you and as many times as your gaze rests on it. Each time you recreate your table. If you look at it with complicity, this painting will live, speak to you and dialogue will take place “. And again “between the creator and the viewer must necessarily establish a state of grace”
He was also concerned with leaving a trace, he had the idea of creating a place that would have brought together his works and those of other local artists, who were of course enthusiastic about this prospect, which proved that he enjoyed ‘a great aura among his peers. The project fell through, too many people were drawn to success and greed. There was even an attempt to misappropriate the work for the benefit of ill-intentioned individuals, which fortunately failed.
And then, while in Africa, Mentor had a stroke. Poorly treated on the spot, he was repatriated to the American hospital in Neuilly, not far from our home. I don’t have a good memory of our visit even though he recognized us anyway, but he remained paralyzed and unable to speak coherent words.
One day at his home, he made us voluntarily, spontaneously “with his left hand,” in pencil, quick portraits of the children who accompanied us and of us both. Maybe we’re the only ones who have such drawings, maybe he wanted to prove to himself that he was still good at something, or just thank us for our visit.
The Guigné gallery, which only lived by and for Mentor, has closed, perhaps out of necessity? I’m not in a position to judge but Mentor even though he was still alive no longer had a gallery to defend him. Ingratitude?
So what is the future of this painter? oblivion looms if there is no major exhibition in the years to come. There are few paintings or sculptures that go up for auction! In Arles three or four years ago, large old paintings were put on sale.
They found buyers, but at relatively low prices. The scarcity of quality canvases is accentuated by the fact that important paintings are stuck in the “foundation” and cannot be sold from what I understand. And the commune of Solliès-Toucas does not have the means to bring its work to life. The beneficiary is a quality person who managed to have Mentor exhibited at the Goya de Castres museum in 2009, but she is apparently not a specialist in communication and her financial resources are limited, I have been told. .
A painter like Mentor is not in the current media and financial circuits, but hey! Mentor’s past pleads in his favor and one can hope that the Spaniards will rediscover him one day. Baroque figurative painting, saturated with color, with life, and which takes an indulgent but ironic look at the faults of our human condition, is not fashionable in France, but will become so again, because I am sure it will. there is a public sensitive to this art, including me!
I would like to be able to acquire other paintings, from the “musicians” or “circus” series in the years to come. It almost happened the day a “woman with a dove” was put up for sale, but the auctioneer called me the day before the sale to tell me that the painting was taken down, it was a fake!
But above all I’m happy to have met a real painter, maybe a great painter and a good man who loved life.
Extract from his book “The tribulations of an art lover” Editions de la Fenestrelle- dec 2016-
Presentation of Mentor’s work
All of Blasco Mentor’s work constantly alludes to the customs and traditions of his country of origin: Catalonia. Thus, they certify their shapes, the sense of humor, the baroque style and the particular colors of the bullfight.
Mentor’s painting could be defined as monumental, gentle, tragic, rich, worked, always human. Everything about her reflects her happiness and worries.
The woman is the central theme of his work. The painter and the model is one of his most recurring themes, but Mentor’s other passions are bullfighting, circus, carnival in Venice, birds (especially pigeons), musicians and concert performers. Subjects which have given rise to large pictorial series. Always through the practice of sculpture and modeling, Mentor worked in his unruffled quest for a personal transition to reality. Friends of Blasco Mentor’s work
Presentation of the work of Blasco Mentor
We owe Mentor, if I may say so, to the kindness of Franco who sentenced him to death at 20 years for enlisting in the Republican army … Thank you! He lived half a century in France where his paintings, however, show the envy that he has not forgotten the lights and the violent colors of his country.
Mentor! It is a name that was already worn by a famous sage. At first glance, this Mentor seems above all to be an enthusiast. But I am tired of Pierre Mazars (1) who said that this painter does not take painting tragically, but that he takes it seriously. To judge the world around it, wisdom has very diverse means. He, Mentor, has chosen the derision and you can imagine that, because of this, my pen has a friendship for his brush.
What is he saying, what is he actually laughing at? Above all, pretenses, prejudices, faking appearances. His universe of masked beings, mixed creatures, as strange as the Hindu or ancient Egyptian gods, is highly symbolic. In his personal circus, the elephant, the rhino, the giraffe, the monkey and the horse are animal transvestites. Willful confusion between beast and man! And most often the first advantage! In the arena, glory be to the bull first, all leather, against the gold of its killer! If he plays the flute, the faun, remember that he is half a goatee. Who is this lion-boy threatened with her wand by an opulent tamer in the pulpit of a courtesan? Lots of birds, in the work. This is because the bird is the symbol of lightness, of independence. But we don’t have wings. See this other plump lady, this magician who, nostalgically, makes a flight of doves escape from an overturned gibus, some of which are already perched on her arms. Here, innocence envelops the sensuality provoked elsewhere by the virility of the horns and proboscis.
Technically speaking, Mentor has a safe hand. He loots his palette. It illuminates, it sparks, it diffuses. He loves embroidery, ribbons, lace: all the trimmings of the rainbow, which flatters the eye but also expresses the vanity of things. Watch out for what glitters: there is fake underneath. Beware of entertainment that covers a puzzle. Mentor paints as otherwise he sculpts: in our time, he is a great baron of the Baroque and, let us not forget, one of the last Catalan princes of painting whom Picasso considered to be one of his legatees in modern art.
(1) Writer and journalist, specialist in art history