Jean Crotti

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Born April 24, 1878(1878-04-24)
Bulle, Fribourg, Switzerland
Died January 30, 1958(1958-01-30) (aged 79)
Paris, France
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Jean Crotti (1878–1958) was a French painter.

Life and work[edit]

Jean Joseph Crotti was born in Bulle, a small village outside of Fribourg in French-speaking Switzerland. He grew up in the countryside until his father moved the family to Fribourg where he started a house-painting business. Crotti was expected to work in this business after his father decided to support only his older brother André's higher education. Despite his father's wishes, Crotti studied at the School for Decorative Arts in Munich in 1896 and in 1900 was apprenticed to a theater set designer. In 1901, possibly financed by André who had become a doctor, Crotti attended the Académie Julian in Paris. Until 1912, when he began working in a cubist style, Crotti's painting showed the influences of primitivism and fauvism.

In 1915, seeking a place to live and work away from the disheartening situation in Paris caused by World War I, Crotti and his wife Yvonne Chastel traveled to the United States, first visiting Crotti's brother in Ohio and then settling in New York. There, Crotti frequented the evening gatherings of artists and intellectuals at the apartment of Walter and Louise Arensberg, collectors of modern art and the center of New York's avant-garde. He became friends with Francis Picabia and shared a studio throughout fall/winter 1915-1916 with Marcel Duchamp, who was then beginning to work on The Large Glass. Crotti later described his aesthetic and personal transformation in New York as a moment of dadaist asexual reproduction, triumphantly declaring: "1915 Birth of Jean Crotti 2 by auto-procreation and self-delivery and without umbilical cord."

At the Montross Gallery in 1916, three of Crotti's constructions, made of painted glass, metal, and found objects, were exhibited in a group show with the works of Duchamp, Albert Gleizes, and Jean Metzinger. The show caused considerable controversy among art critics, much of it directed at Crotti's Portrait sur mesure de Marcel Duchamp (Portrait of Marcel Duchamp Made to Fit), which though attacked as making fun of the public, was praised for its likeness to its subject. Emphasizing Duchamp's intelligent vision, Crotti's metal and wire construction featured prominent glass eyeballs staring out from beneath a sculpted brow.

By September, Crotti was back in Paris, carrying news and greetings to the Duchamp family from their son in New York. Soon after, Crotti fell in love with Duchamp's sister Suzanne, whom he married in 1919. (In the meantime, Duchamp had begun an affair with Crotti's ex-wife Yvonne.) In January 1920 Crotti and Suzanne, along with Picabia and Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, submitted their work to the first postwar Salon des indépendants, using this major cultural event to inject Dada into Paris.

While Crotti and Suzanne Duchamp were quietly associated with Dada throughout 1920, their central Dada contribution, an April 1921 joint exhibition at the Galerie Montaigne, was also the first indication of their gradual separation from the group. André Salmon, a poet-critic and antidadaist who wrote the catalogue essay accompanying the exhibition, described his friend Crotti as an artist devoted to tradition and to the restoration of a religious art. The April exhibition also included the first public use of the word tabu, which, inspired by Crotti's mystical experience in Vienna earlier that year, would later become the name for his "new religion." By July, he had formalized his ambivalent break with Dada, calling himself "TABU-DADA or DADA-TUBU."

Crotti's first major work of tabu, Mystère acatène [Chainless Mystery], was exhibited at the Salon d'automne in November 1921, where he also distributed handbills advertising the new movement. In his article, "TABU," published by the Little Review in the spring of 1922, Crotti stated that "TABU is a philosophical religion. ... We wish through forms, through colors, through it matters not what means, to express the mystery, the divinity of the universe, including all mysteries."

Crotti continued to paint into his later years and in the 1950s returned to motifs of overlapping circles and trajectories reminiscent of his TABU works of 1921-1922. Still preoccupied with breaking "the thread that binds us to matter," Crotti called these new works "cosmic" painting. He and his older brother André died on the same day in 1958. (Source)