Holding up a mirror

ByProma Chakraborty

Mar 7, 2019

Here is a collection of works created by French artists Maite Delteil in late 1960s, undiscovered till now, featuring contemplative women trying to find their place in the society

A visit to a house studio in Anthe, France, last year led to the chance discovery of several unseen paintings from the 60’s. All striking paintings of women in vibrant colours – these works were done when noted French artist Maite Delteil was young, exploring the depths of her thoughts.

Born in 1933 in France, Delteil lives in Paris and Delhi. Putting together these works in an exhibition titled ‘The Yellow Room’, it will showcase a collection of never exhibited before works created by Delteil in late 1960.

A film by Joy Banerjee on Delteil titled ‘Maîte Enchanted’ will also be released along with the preview of her show.

“On my visit to Maite’s country house in June, I saw her earlier works kept in a closet.  The small intimate works reflect deep influence of the European masters and reflects her own environment in the works influenced by the French countryside where she had spent major part of her childhood,” says Sunaina Anand, director of Art Alive Gallery.

With around 30 works on display, the paintings feature women as the sole subjects. Predominantly sketching lone ladies, the subjects are all documented in different postures and poses, spending their time in their bedroom or boudoir. Guided by the status of women at that time, her paintings capture the situation of women quite accurately. 

“In the sixties, the social life in France was a little bit conservative. I was rejected from the family by my father when I married my Indian friend Sakti Burman. I might have thought unconsciously that the ladies have to find their place in the society alone, without the guidance of anyone. So unconsciously the work I was doing at that time was mostly of single women lost in their own thoughts,” explains Delteil.

One recurring element present in her work, the mirror —  adds on to the commentary made by her works. Although she did not have any particular intention in mind for putting mirrors in most of her paintings, she feels that the reflection of their figures in the mirrors perhaps symbolises they are not alone. She adds that in some paintings, the mirror helps to show women’s profiles from both front and back.

Working in Japan when she created these works, the gallery she was working with closed down and these paintings remained undiscovered till now. She recalls she was impressed by artists like Berthe Morisot, Edward Vuillard or Pierre Bonnard. “Looking at these paintings, I realised I was very much concerned with the search of vibrant colours simply applied as Matisse (Henry Matisee) was doing. I was also trying to depict intimate interiors to present models in gentle boudoirs, in a contemplative appearance, more than in a banal sentimental vision.”

The exhibition will be on display at Art Alive Gallery from March 15 to
April 15.