Jean Jullien at the beach
Our new monograph reproduces some of the lush, joyous sea and landscapes this brilliant French artist has created within the past few years
Catch sight of Jean Jullien’s work online, via his magazine cover commissions, in his childrens’ books, or in the many joyous, creative consumer items he has made (from baseball jackets to drinks glasses) and you might assume you understood his signature style. Many of Jullien’s poppier, commercial commissions, focus on faces. Jullien certainly is a Michelangelo of simple physiognomy; he even has a kids' book called Why the Face?.
However, in recent years, as this talented French artist shifted some focus away from quick illustrations and more towards meditative painting, a new focus emerged in his work. Jullien switched from portrait to landscape.
There are still people in these large pictures, but as his friend, the gallerist Raphaël Cruyt puts it in the introduction to Jullien’s new monograph, “human beings are brought down to an appropriate scale in vast, vaguely familiar landscapes dominated by nature.
"The horizon is always clearly defined, and the people are seen from behind facing it, urging you to magically dive into the picture," he goes on. "The panoramic views reduce the figures to rudimentary, anonymous outlines, allowing the audience to project their own memories onto them.”
Pages from Jean Jullien
Though this panoramic vision is quite unlike the close-ups Jullien puts in his faces, the intention remains true throughout. There’s a joyous, and open-hearted approach in his simple appreciation of one's place in the landscape. In an interview with his parents, reproduced in the book, Jullien captures the coastal environment of his childhood; he describes the inspiration to render these beloved stretches of familiar beaches in acrylics on canvas as "an impulse to recreate the essence of happiness.”
Here’s how Cruyt sees these pictures. “His seaside scenes typically feature the hazy sky, characteristic of France’s Brittany coast, and often follow the same kind of format. Broad brushstrokes strip the shapes of their complexity, as the reduced colour palette erases all singularities of the object and idealizes it.”
La Vague, 2018, acrylic gouache on canvas, 6 x 20 ft. (1.8 x 6 m). © Jean Jullien Studio / Photographs courtesy Chandran Gallery/Le Jardin Bleu & The Aromatics, Chandran Gallery, San Francisco, 2018
The book echoes these sentiments in its introductory captions for images taken from Jullien’s 2018 exhibition, Le Jardin Bleu and his 2019 show, The Aromatics, both staged at the Chandran Gallery in San Francisco. “For Le Jardin Bleu he presented paintings that focused on nature, surfing, and beach scenes,” explains the new book. “The works are marked by a bright colour palette and exude joy. In The Aromatics, the paintings explore similar topics of nature and the sea. With pieces ranging from the show’s eponymous work, featuring two beachgoers winding their way down to the water, to a twenty-foot meditation on the sea, the works feel intimately relatable.”
You might not be able to make out the faces in all these sea and landscape paintings, but you still know how they feel. To see all these images and many more in greater detail order a copy of Jean Jullien here. Meanwhile, check back in the next few days for news of an exclusive Jean Jullien edition, coming soon.