Description & Technical information

The present sheet is a fine and typical example of Simon Bussy’s refined, delicate pastel technique. The artist invariably used a combination of French-made Roché pastels and buff paper produced by the firm of Cartridge in London. His pastel studies are usually depicted against a toned background of one muted colour, with a reserve of white paper left untouched around the edges of the composition. As the contemporary scholar François Fosca noted, in one of the first monographs to be published on the artist, ‘Simon Bussy developed a new style: with minute precision he applied a vaporous and blurred technique to drawing. In his work, there was never any hatching or vertical marks which would reduce the effect of the layer underneath, or make it stand out. Bussy developed a soft, velvety medium which always avoided becoming cloying or limp.’

Most of Bussy’s pastel drawings of fish seem to have been made at the zoo at Vincennes, since he was unable to find adequate lighting at the London Zoo in order to make studies of fish there. As the French writer André Gide noted of the artist, ‘what now attracts him more and more rather than the likenesses of human beings are the likenesses of birds, fishes, insects. He spends most of his time at the London Zoo or in the Vincennes park or aquarium; then he shuts himself up with his collection of studies and by a kind of patient and lover-like distillation evolves from them his paintings. In face of each living form he seems to be asking, ‘And you there! What have you to tell me?” And the mygale, the crab, the scorpion become motionless and give up their secrets…There are some of Simon Bussy’s fishes whose stupidity fascinates me (as Flaubert’s St. Anthony said of the catoblepas) and at whom I can stand gazing in long drawn-out contemplation. And yet, with all its ineptness this matter is alive and a perfect organism.’

Medium: Pastel, over an underdrawing in pencil, on paper laid down on board
Signature: Signed Simon / Bussy. in pencil at the lower right.
Titled and inscribed No 19 / Angel Fish / f. 18 in ink and Poisson Ange / Angel Fish on the backing board.

Dimensions: 30.4 x 28.6 cm (12 x 11¹/₄ inches)
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints