Claire Tabouret - New Now London Tuesday, July 13, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'I don’t know anything about them […] I don’t what happened just before, I don’t know what happened just after this moment, and all that is what will be created in the painting in a way…' —Claire Tabouret

    Inspired by the long-standing High Society event the Bal des débutantes where the daughters of the French aristocracy and international elite are officially presented to the world, Débutantes Jaunes belongs to an important series of works by Claire Tabouret that closely scrutinises the long-standing tradition. The exclusive focus of her first solo exhibition with Bugada & Cargnel, the rigid conventions and symbolic weight of the social event clearly resonates with Tabouret, the complex group dynamics at play allowing her to more fully explore ideas around identity and representation.

    Enigmatic and theatrical, the painting presents a group of young women arranged into a tight pyramidal composition, their rigid poses and fixed smiles visually evoking the formal photographs that have historically recorded these annual events. Sometimes involving months of etiquette training and gown fittings, and often inspiring extreme feelings of eager anticipation or deep dread, these photographs and press clippings might be the only material record of a girl’s emotionally charged passage from the familial to the marital home.


    Debutantes seated and holding bouquets for a formal photograph, 1952
    Debutantes seated and holding bouquets for a formal photograph, 1952

    Taking these young women out of any specific historical moment, Tabouret reimagines their lives, their hopes and their anxieties within the space of the painting, capturing a sense of expectation and pressure placed on their shoulders in a time when ‘the only respectable career for a woman was marriage, and the best marriages were made by debutantes.’i Restoring something lost or otherwise absent from these source images, the painting becomes ‘a palliative to everything I am feeling that isn’t actually visible in the photograph.’ii Fascinated by group dynamics and the ways in which people occupy this shared space, Tabouret’s diffused treatment of paint and incorporation of long strips of fabric dissolves the physical boundaries between her subjects, exploring a sense of the fluid interconnectivity experienced in these shared moments.


    Claude Monet, Luncheon on the Grass, 1865-66, oil on canvas, Puskin Museum, Moscow, Russia Image Photo © Bridgeman Images
    Claude Monet, Luncheon on the Grass, 1865-66, oil on canvas, Puskin Museum, Moscow, Russia Image Photo © Bridgeman Images

    Carefully structured through rhythmic green lines and painted strips of pasted fabric, Tabouret captures the ballgown’s diaphanous volumes of tulle and chiffon in soft washes of yellows and splashes of pink. Glowing with an extraordinary light that has become synonymous with Tabouret’s work, she infuses her figures with a sense of depth achieved through the initial application of a radiant neon green. Ephemeral and amorphous, this neon foundation lights the bodies of the debutantes from beneath the layers of acrylics and fabrics built up over them.  

    'She’s not trying to reclaim her palette, but rather to invent her own colour, however glaucous it might turn out to be.' —Judicael LavradorTabouret’s phosphorescent canvases have an important art-historical precedent in The Impressionistic experimentation of Claude Monet’s monumental Nymphéas. Referencing a childhood visit to the Orangerie in Paris, Tabouret recalls feeling swallowed up by the paintings ‘buried under this amount of colourful paint.’iii Identifying colour as the guiding principle of her work, Tabouret has a refreshingly contemporary approach to the fluidity and mutability of Impressionism and her work continues to build on these early lessons.


    Claire Tabouret interviewed ahead of the opening of her 2014 Galerie Bugada & Cargnel

    exhibition, Les Débutantes

    i Kristen Richardson, ‘What the History of Debutante Balls says about Women’s Lives’, Time, 25 November 2019, online 
    ii Claire Tabouret, quoted in Léa Bismuth, ‘An Interview of Claire Tabouret by Léa Bismuth’, 7 Februuary 2014, online
    iii Claire Tabouret, ‘Les Debutantes’, l’interview, online 

    • Provenance

      Private Collection, Paris
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2014


Débutantes Jaunes

signed and dated ‘C. TABOURET 2014’ lower right
acrylic and fabric collage on paper
76 x 111 cm (29 7/8 x 43 3/4 in.)
Executed in 2014.

Full Cataloguing

£40,000 - 60,000 ‡♠

Sold for £63,000

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey
Head of New Now Sale
+44 20 7318 4084

New Now

London Auction 13 July 2021