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sketchbook treasures for “JACQUOU LE CROQUANT”

From July 19th to July 21st and August 9th to August 11th, 2006 Le Bugue was proud to pay tribute to Julien SARABEN, on the covered marketplace (La Halle). Julien Saraben was an “artist” if ever there was one! Painter, engraver, draughtsman, musician... but, first and foremost, for all who knew him, a “truly great guy”, kindness and humility itself.
It was Julien’s son, Jacques (also a painter and photographer), who got this “first ever” exhibition together: the sketches, full of verve and youthfulness, that were the very first pencil strokes, later to become the illustrations for Jacquou le Croquant - Eugène LE ROY’s deeply moving story of peasant rebellion (“jacquerie”) in the 19th century. The plight of the poor country folk and the uprising that inevitably ensued pulled at Julien SARABEN’s heartstrings. The artist’s sensibility comes touchingly through in these poignant and dazzling “first impressions”.


Books and art in every shape and form were his whole life, but it was nature and the landscapes and the men, women and children of the Périgord that were his driving force when he travelled hundreds of kilometres on his bicycle, ever ready to pull out his sketchbook (“his finger on the trigger of his sketchbook”, as his good friend, the journalist and publisher, Pierre Fanlac, so neatly put it, fondly calling him a “great big dragonfly buzzing across the fields”!)

« Throughout the summer months, Julien Saraben, first on his bicycle, later on his moped, travelled up and down the Périgord, sometimes doing up to a hundred kilometres a day. Together we planned his route. He would arrive around five o’clock in the morning. I would already be sitting on the terrace with my dog, Arta, at my feet. For three hours I would have been writing articles for “Périgord Actualités”. Nobody in the neighbourhood was awake. The nearby Tour de Vésone was outlined against the sky above my garden like tattered Valenciennes lace. The smell of coffee pervaded the early morning air.
On his wanderings Julien liked to stop and take lengthy pauses to hungrily breathe the fresh, cool air and to fully “absorb” the scenes and landscapes that were so familiar to him. He would unstrap his sketchbook and, pouting his lips, swiftly execute a few pencil strokes. Then, back on his bike, the great big dragonfly would go buzzing across the fields once more.
When he reached a village he sat down on the village square, his back against a wall and he waited, a gentle smile on his kind square face; he waited, like the angler, poised for action. At times he chose to go into a café because there were more people there. He always sat at a table at the back, so as to get a good wide-angle view. He hardly moved; he became invisible. People forgot he was there and that was exactly what he wanted. Then all of a sudden his hand started to make a sort of knitting movement on the white page. The drawing began to take shape almost without his knowing it. He was no longer Julien Saraben, art teacher at the « lycée des garçons » or curator of the « musée du Périgord » - he was one of those peasant farmers, sitting contentedly in the café before going off to till the fields behind the tawny croups of hefty oxen, treading softly across the fields.
When he got back in the evening, around six o’clock, he always dropped in at the printing house. We settled down in the little study, beneath the lime tree that was exactly as old as me, and together we explored his treasures… »

Excerpt from “Choix d’une Vie” by Pierre FANLAC
(Translated into English by Valérie SARABEN)

Pour mieux connaître le chemin de vie et le parcours artistique de Julien Saraben, peintre et graveur, qui fut en outre professeur de dessin et conservateur du musée municipal de Périgueux, reportez-vous aux textes des poètes et critiques d'art qui ont le mieux décrit l'homme et l'ami.

Sophie Cattoire

Nous remercions Jacques Saraben, le fils de Gabrielle et Julien Saraben, pour nous avoir confié des documents relatifs à l'oeuvre de son père, dont certaines oeuvres originales, afin que nous puissions les reproduire sur BUGUE-PERIGORD-NOIR.info

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