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A secret song of exile and light

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All through Tobiasse’s life as a man and as an artist he was preoccupied by a quest for light and freedom. From those wretched times in the cold, dark years of man’s madness onwards, when, as a very young man, he had several miraculous escapes during the Nazi occupation, he only ever dreamt of light, huge skies and the shutters that he would open in the morning to reveal countryside inundated with light.

This is what lead him to the shining sea and sun of the French Riviera in 1950. There he experienced the jubilation of painting and working. Life was like a celebration, in contrast to those years of darkness and terror. In the world of Tobiasse, light was everywhere. Even the light which couldn’t be seen but was present, enveloping and vibrant in a celebration of eye and mind.

He also found light in the pleasure of enjoying what he called the gold of time, that of his art, in his luminous moments of silence and solitude. He wrote on his paintings and he painted on his writing words that, higgledy-piggledy and in waves, came to light up his world of creative intimacy. His universe was peopled with phantasmagorical symbols which had risen to the surface like so many tatters of childhood memory.

Autoportrait aux rayures bleues

Oil on canvas, 130 x 97 cm, 1999

“I unwind my dreams from the ends of my brushes.”

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Le vélocipède

Oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm, 1959


Oil on canvas, 43 x 57 cm, 1958

Le joueur de jazz et la vache bleue

Oil on canvas, 162 x 114 cm, 1961



The first subjects were figurative with still lives, animals and velocipedes. The research into matter was the most important aspect, the subject being just a pretext. Inspired by Dubuffet and raw art primitivism.

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Maternité en bleu

Oil on canvas, 92 x 62 cm, 1961

L'horloge sous la porteuse de chat

Gouache on paper, 70 x 50 cm, 1962

Le cycliste et le poisson

Gouache on paper, 66 x 46 cm, 1969



It was through the discovery of the Jewish Bride by Rembrandt at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam that he elaborated his technique of coloured juices and the interplay of light.

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Qui t'a fait Roi ?

Oil on canvas, 91 x 118 cm, 1974

Les pommes, le taureau et l'autobus

Gouache on paper, 70 x 50 cm, 1969

New-York New-York

Oil on canvas 19 x 24 cm, 1980



We discover the artist’s preferred cities, Paris, Jerusalem, New York and Venice against a backdrop of Biblical themes.

“Mystical drunkenness on the edge of skyscrapers, like a Theatre, like a woman in a song of light.”

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De Notre Dame à Saint-Germain des Près

Oil on cardboard, 51 x 67 cm, 1969

Paris que j'aime

Oil on canvas, 35 x 25 cm, 1974

“Like a sacred text in its luminous furrows incrusted in the walls of its past.”

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Petit repas sur la place Saint-Marc

Oil on canvas, 65 x 81 cm, 1974

Les madones de Saint-Marco

Acrylic and collage on paper, 24 x 32 cm, 1980

Jacob and his mother

Oil on canvas, 160 x 130 cm, 1984



Large formats and new techniques appeared around 1982, coinciding with his establishment in New York;. The subjects literally exploded out of their frames. Technique got bigger.

“The memory of the world with its silk light between dazzle and dusk when the sky withdraws from the lagoon.”

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Les filles de Loth

Oil on canvas, 160 x 120 cm, 1984

La femme qui marche

Pastel on paper, 146 x 120 cm, 1984

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Lumière de Shabbat entre la rose et le cédrat

Oil on canvas, 90 x 90 cm, 1994

Homme assis

Pastel on paper, 70 x 51 cm, 1992

Dame à la bougie

Pastel on paper, 102 x 70 cm, 1998



Tobiasse’s work became more refined. He painted as he drew. The canvasses were drawings done with a paintbrush. The backgrounds were lighter; the central figure had the advantage.

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Les joueurs d'échecs

Oil on canvas, 102 x 70 cm

Les fruits sont des lumières de Jérusalem

Collage on mixed techniques, 74 x 57 cm, 1992

“You only need to walk somewhere to be walking towards Jerusalem, a city of old rose, ochre and blue.”

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Sans titre

Oil on canvas, 90 x 90 cm

Petite fille avec morceaux de temps éclairés

Oil and pastel on paper, 70 x 100 cm

Carnet 4

Le souvenir des choses du temps

Carnet 5

Il faut déchirer



Dripping paint, explosions of colour, Tobiasse set himself free of any constraints, let himself go and didn’t hesitate to express himself with all the spontaneity and enthusiasm of his experience. It was in 2005 that he decided to have his pictural notebooks published. These were the very essence of his creative inspiration and the climax of his work.

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La symbolique de la mythologie TOBIASSE s’exprime à la manière d’un langage :

The smooth, pot-bellied teakettle evokes hospitality and family warmth.
The ships, trains and carts are reminders of the Exile and the nostalgy of leaving, never to return.
Fruits describe abundance, chandeliers describe light and hope.
Woman represents maternal love and amorous sensuality.
The theme of man and child expresses respect for the family and ancestral traditions.

It is in this way that themes that were initially profane and close to certain bestiaries rapidly evolved into reminiscences of his childhood. The buses seen when he was travelling to France, the paddle boats on the Niemen in Lithuania, the smoke in the sad grey train stations, and the teakettles are mixed up in a quirky fashion with Biblical and erotic fantasies and the Exile.

The artist tells how much he was struck by the gleamingly coloured pre-Columbian art he saw in Mexico. The impressive Aztec sites of the Yucatan, with their engraved stones, were the inspiration for his techniques of carborandum engraving.


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