Avishay Ayal. The Desire for Books

The paintings displayed in the current exhibition are the fruit of desire, desire and yearning. The painter longs for the object of his desire, yearns for it and admires it. He sets out every day to re-create the object of his desire and to anchor it to paper and canvas.

This desire is strange, since it is directed at inanimate, heavy and grave objects. These yearnings are no less strange, as they are channeled at an object that is within reach, and in fact belongs to the painter. Why, then, should the painter set out on a desperate and feverish journey to look for the object of his love, when it is with him, here at home, on the shelf? Why is it so vital for him to design, construct, describe, display it, and agonize over every little detail connected with it? Where does all this obsession originate - to paint books, only books, shelves filled to capacity with them, or paint only one open book on the table?

Books have sometimes appeared in still life paintings, but have never featured exclusively in them. Still life is the genre invented at the beginning of the seventeenth century, always portraying the same subjects: familiar, recognizable objects, isolated or in a group. This genre, considered inferior compared with history painting, portraiture or landscape, became a major visual instrument and a favorite subject matter with twentieth century avant-garde painters. Margit Rowell, curator of the exhibition Objects of Desire: The Modern Still Life held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1997, wrote as follows:

"Objects of desire are not real but fictive. seen through a distorting lens. They furthermore enact a structure of desire that is a closed narrative system. Because the drive or pulsion of desire, in order to be sustained, must be unsatisfied, the objects desired (or the climax of the story) are never distant or defined. Thus the objects of a still life, although they appear accessible, are actually inaccessible, fictional, created; ideal as opposed to real. They and their interpretation and articulation embody ideological conventions and patterns, removed from the direct experience of the real world”

' The desire to paint books derives from the need to acquire and own books. The desire to possess books is a well-known obsession: the drive to buy books, to be their owner, to build a collection and become enslaved by it is for many an uncontrollable impulse. Among these, art book collectors constitute a distinct species: an art book is a special object of desire since it contains many other objects of desire - works of art. Many people, including numerous artists, become addicted to the collection of art books. The pleasure derived from it is not connected directly to knowledge or information. Leafing through an art book gives the owner a kind of pleasure that is entirely different from going to a museum or viewing the works themselves. The book lover has a dialogue with the artist, with his work and his life; he likes the rough cloth binding, the smooth chromo pages, the superb reproductions. The smell of the printing ink, the weight of the book, the sort of font - every detail and feature has a deep significance. Naftali Rakuzin is like this. This is what he writes about himself:

"I have always been surrounded with books. I cannot live in a room without a bookshelf, at least one. It is a physiological thing with me, not a cultural one...Here they are in front of me, like a wall. Those I have brought from Moscow and those I have bought here; books older than me that I inherited, and books I bought yesterday. I had to expend a lot of effort and money on getting some of them, and some I took from somebody but can't remember from whom. Here are books crumbling into pieces from excessive use, and others I haven't opened yet... When I look at them I remember when and where they were bought, the events and the people they are associated with. Here are the books with my father’s illustrations: Ibsen, Anatole France, George Sand. And here is 'Gulliver's Travels' with Granville's illustrations. The first painting I remember making as a child is a copy of one of the illustrations of this book: a giant wearing old-fashioned clothes, looking down on a crowd of dwarfs milling around between his legs... I return repeatedly to some of the art books here, while through others 1 may have browsed only once. Unpaid bills are lying next to the works of Lev Tolstoi (a central place, so that 1 should not forget), and for some strange reason an invitation to a friend's exhibition is lying between Flaubert and Don Quixote. For these children's books there was no room on the shelf so I had to put them on top of other books, but The Complete Etchings by Rembrandt are squeezed between Durer and Callot... Once every few years 1try to restore the order and arrange them by authors, periods, subject matter, but they do not obey me and order is not maintained for long. 1 buy new books for which there is already no room. 1 find them on my left and on my right, or all of a sudden, like this pile, on the heating. A large volume of Botticelli ‘s drawings may be lying just like this next to the telephone directory. A pile of old letters feels fine beside a book of Chinese Philosophy, and a Tom Wesselmann postcard seems to have stuck to Nabokov... My books greet me

with a wink early in the morning, when I have no interest in them, and look at me gravely in the evening, in the electric light, when I try to find something new in them. They are mine, I know them, each one of them has something to tell me. Like the yeshiva bucher who is committed to memorize the same chapters of the 'Talmud over and over again, so do I turn lo the same books time and time again.."'


Still Life


This description of the love of reading and book collecting is a typical example of the depiction of the scholar's study which serves him for learning and contemplation. One may think of the figure of St. Jerome portrayed in Durer's etching. This way of looking upon "still life", may reinforce the significance of silence, hush and stillness inherent in the term. But the second meaning of the word still in Hebrew refers to an inanimate object that is neither animal nor vegetable (mineral), which is the major subject of still life painting. The ambivalent English term "still life" also refers to lifelessness and stillness as well as to immobility. The genre of still life presents inanimate objects, household utensils, tools and food. Dead animals, debris and scraps are sometimes depicted too. The exclusion of the human form is common to all still life painting. In his article Chardin and the Text of Still Life Norman Bryson elaborated on this feature:

"First 1 need to make some preliminary observations about a striking and defining feature of the genre; its exclusion of the human form, and its seeming assault on the value and prestige of the human subject. This is expressed in three ways:

This is so from the earliest stages of the genre. In Greek painting there is 'megalography', the depiction of those things in the world that are great - the legends of the gods, the battles of the heroes, the crises of human history. And there is 'rhopography', the depiction of those things in the world that lack importance, the unassuming material base of life that 'importance' constantly overlooks. Moreover, 'importance' generates 'waste', that which is set aside or excluded. Still life takes on the exploration of what 'importance' tramples underfoot. Narrative - the drama of greatness is banished... The human subject that still lije proposes is a bodily, material entity, on a par with anything else in the material field. It is severed from value, greatness and singularity. This is the first of still life’s enduring insults to the humanist subject.

The second enduring insult comes from still life's ancient connections with illusionism. In Pompeian painting, still life is the genre where shadows freely appear, and the link between still life and trompe l'oeil is as old as the legend of Zeuxis and his still life of the grapes: so lifelike that the birds came to eat from the painted vine... Trompe l'oeil pushes to a maximum still life's idea of banishing the human subject from the world. To further its deception, it pretends that objects have not been prearranged into a composition destined for the human eye: vision does not find the objects decked out and waiting, but stumbles into them as though by chance. Thrown together as if by accident, the objects lack syntax: no coherent purpose brings them together in the place where we find them. Things present themselves as not awaiting human attention, or as abandoned by human attention. Hence the importance to still life and to trompe I'oeil of waste and debris. ..Hyperreal, trompe l'oeil so mimics and parodies the sense of the real that it casts doubts on the human subject's place in the world, and on whether the subject in fact has a place in the world. For the split second when trompe l'oeil releases its effect, it induces a feeling of vertigo or shock: it is as though we were shown the appearance the world might have without a subject to perceive it, the world without human consciousness, the look of the world before our emergence into it, or after our death...

Still life's third insult to the human subject is a variation on this: the subject who looks out at the scene of life is made to feel no bond of continuous life with the objects that fill the scene . It proposes and assumes a viewing subject who looks at things without from a field within the self and experiences disconnection. Still life assumes a position vis-à-vis the world in which 'self and 'things' remain fundamentally separated from each other. The individual viewer is presented as an island of consciousness looking out across a sea of objectified matter, as though the living connection between the human self and the world of things had been broken. Hence the morte in nature morte: there is no living bond between the watcher subject and the objectified field... This lifelessness is not only a matter of actual death (such as the portrayal of skulls or lifeless animals). The power to immobilize, to petrify appearances, and to objectify everything in the visual field belongs to the gaze of still life, which polarises subject and object. The universe inhabited by that gaze is quite naturally a universe of death."'


History of Art


The bond between still life and the gaze of death reinforces the tendency to attribute to paintings of still life values of timelessness and disconnectedness to history and events. It is a genre dealing with fixed, one may say timeless values, with everyman’s desires, pleasures and curiosity at any given time. Rakuzin's work does not deal with "important" or topical subjects either. He regards the book as an object to look at, as a worthy object to paint. "The book" is a commonplace, familiar subject, and is liked by all. Yet, the focused and scrutinizing gaze at the hook and its magnification amplifies and intensifies its value, which is great anyway, being a book of "high culture". The style of Rakuzin's paintings does not demonstrate an attitude regarding contemporary artistic practice. It can much better be described as turning one's back to the changes of taste in the art world. Yet, paradoxically, the central theme of the exhibition is the history of art and the analysis of works of art from the perspective of a painter gazing at a book or a bookcase. But even the gaze at the history of art is not hierarchical or systematic. It is a browsing, caressing look, joining together old and new, a bulky volume and a slim leaflet, Russian, Hebrew, French and English books, art books and fiction. The artist's predilection has set the choice, in accordance with pie-defined compositions and an associative sequence of thought linking events, time and place. Such painting was made twenty years ago, can be made in twenty years time, and in fact the date of its creation is of no contemporary significance. From this point of view this exhibition does not present art that is evidence of a style and a period, but standing parallel to art history and Zeitgeist.


M o s c o w


Naftali Rakuzin was born and raised in the Soviet Union where he was educated to be a book illustrator. At the age of ten he began taking evening classes in life drawing and painting from nature, especially in

water color. At fourteen he look up painting and drawing with the painter Moses (Moisei) Chazanov, who was a kind of Russian Post-Impressionist. At twenty-two he graduated from the Polygraphic Institute in Moscow and began working as a book illustrator and designer. His father, Evgeni Rakuzin, who was a professional book illustrator, followed the footsteps of the father of Russian illustration, Vladimir Favorsky. Favorsky, hardly known in the West, developed a wood engraving technique, combining the tradition of popular art with the structure of a modern picture. His fine linear works made a great impression on the young Rakuzin. The secret Hebrew studies and Zionist inclinations which induced Rakuzin to emigrate to Israel in 1974 were acts of defiance against the USSR as well as against the destiny his parents had chosen for him. His immigration enabled him to embrace his vocation - painting. Rakuzin brought to painting the professional graphic know-how, diligence and working habits he had acquired in his native land.




During the eight years that Rakuzin lived in Israel, he made mainly drawings and etchings. He learned the technique of etching at the Jerusalem Print Workshop on a Ministry of Absorption scholarship, and worked some time as a printer. Between 1974-1981 he made about seventy etchings, including several series for Franz Kafka's The Trial and Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers. This is what he says about how he came to draw books:

"In 1978 I was about to start a series of etchings on Gogol and I put a postcard of 'The Last Day of Pompeii' by the Russian painter Karl Briullov on the bookshelf. It suddenly dawned on me that painting Gogol did not interest me; it was much more interesting to paint the postcard. I was startled by the idea. The painter Michael Burdzelian encouraged me, saying that this was precisely the conceptual crux of painting. He was much more updated than me as far as modern art is concerned…"

Rakuzin's method of drawing and etching is based on the traditional cross-hatching method as taught at the academies all over the world, especially in Russia; straight and uniform intersecting lines, mainly to convey the tone, at the expense of the volume. During the years of his stay in Jerusalem Rakuzin developed his personal style while being aware of outside influences. He was influenced by several Western artists. He first came across Giorgio Morandi's work in a huge-scale exhibition in Moscow, just before he emigrated to Israel. Later on he came across his works again when in 1977-78 the Israel Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art displayed eighty of Morandi's etchings. Morandi's painstaking technique, based on prolonged etching of the metal plates, and the meticulous care taken in drawing each line left a deep impression on him, "Nevertheless Morandi was always aware of what was happening in the art world around him. He was convinced that with Cézanne, painting and perceiving had assumed a new meaning, though he knew contemporary French art more through black and white reproductions than by direct experience. What this means, when speaking of an artist whose only interest lay in digging to the depths and eliminating the superfluous, was that Cubist investigations reached him, already filtered, as painting with light and dark tone values."

The deep regard for Cezanne's work characterizes Rakuzin's work too, as well as drawing with tones of

gray, but beyond the direct influence of Morandi's etching technique there is the model of life of the man himself : about fifty years of creative life, most of which he spent in the same house, painting almost the same set of utensils, returning to the same familiar landscapes of his beloved Bologna.

David Hockney's star shone in the sky of English art in the early sixties, gaining attention In Israel during the seventies. He was considered an English Pop Art painter, bur towards the end of the sixties he opted for stylized realistic painting, combining minimal design and flat surface paint with a predilection for decoration. The change in style affected Hockney's etching as well; a small book of etchings was published in 1970 with his illustrations of the Grimm Brothers' Six Fairy Tales, presenting perfect, almost classical drawing. Rakuzin bought this book and was deeply impressed.

In connection with the opening of his Paris exhibition in 1974, Hockney said to Pierre Restany: "To go back to what you quoted me saying - a lens is not as good as a pair of eyes - in relation to recent trends like let's say hyperrealism or photorealism. I confess I find that kind of painting rather boring. Perhaps because it comes closer to recent abstract painting, because it does away with drawing. My own painting is very much based on drawing: as I just said I draw far more than 1 paint. I draw all the time, and 1 think now that drawing is more interesting than photography"'' Young artists around the world derived a great deal of reassurance from Hockney's passion for drawing and printmaking. The option he presented was: you can be a figurative artist and still be modern. It is not by chance that the title of the book David Hockney by David Hockney featutes as the only artist's name in Rakuzin's large pencil drawing and in an etching from 1980 tided Kaleidoscope of Modern Art. The seventies were the years conceptual art was dominant. Few are aware of the contribution of Pop-Art to the elucidation of the principal issues expressed so distinctly by conceptual art. When Roy Lichtenstein painted a Picasso reproduction applying the etude color separation technique used in printing comics, he suggested that high, individual art is also a product in a culture of mass production. This work is a further step in the way art defines itself, being conscious of the process of its own production. In one of Rakuzin's drawings from 1981, Homage to Saul Steinberg, he shows an upright Steinberg book on whose cover there is a characteristic brown paper-bag mask. Steinberg is hard to define as an artist, because his work shifts between the spheres of illustration, caricature and concept. Rakuzin undoubtedly knew Steinberg's drawings of his working table showing rulers, pencils, inkstands, and other small objects. "As neatly arranged as in the showcases of a police agency, the implements of Steinberg's art represent another plane of his autobiography, the objects of his deepest emotional attachment - his erotica', as he likes to call them."' Drawing Steinberg's book, Rakuzin also shows us a chapter of his own biography and an object of his "erotica" collection.

Those years in Jerusalem (1974 - 1981) were a formative period in which the fundamental patterns of Rakuzin's work were established: his preoccupation with books and bookshelves; his concern with the history of art and with self-conscious art; the careful, assiduous graphic art, attentive to every detail; the deep interest in construction, grid, in intellectual laying of the paint based on color separation. All these

features began to emerge in the drawings and etchings of the late seventies and early eighties.




In 1979 Rakuzin went to New York and stayed with his friend Vitali Komar, one member of the pair of artists Komar and Melamid. He had heated discussions with them about conceptual art. These discussions reassured him that he was justified in feeling that the unhurried pace and diligent work were an essential component of his work. He found out that life in New York was hard and unwelcoming. Besides, he felt European. In 1982 he went to Paris for a six month sojourn after which he returned to Israel. In January 1983 he settled in Paris with his family. His emigration to France derived from his wish to study and see art, to be close to galleries and museums, and enhance his career as an artist. It turned out that the second immigration was more difficult than the first. He was required to learn a new language, French, adjust to an unfamiliar surroundings and support a family. But the greatest difficulty was connected with the decision he made in 1984 to start painting in oil. Under the influence of some of his Russian artists friends he decided to change direction, abandon the drawing of books and focus on painting still life and dark and traditional interiors. The conversion to oil painting was long and frustrating. For four endless years he grappled with the process, but the tools and the images did not obey him, and the results were poor. The gallery owners where he used to exhibit were not satisfied either: Fred Lanzenberg from Brussels, and James Mayor from Paris pressured him to go back to the drawing of books. Another gallery owner, Enrico Navara, commissioned two lithographs from him in 1989: "I sat for two months and painted a bookcase and felt I was greatly enjoying it. It was after five years in which I had not painted books. During that time I painted busts, a flowerpot on a table with books in the background. When I painted a flowerpot in Chardin's style, there was a Cézanne book in the background, When I wrote the name Cézanne I realized that 1 did not need the flowerpot any more.''

In 1988 Soviet art began to be displayed in the West in the wake of Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika program. Some Russian artists Rakuzin had known in Moscow, such as Ilya Kabakov, Grisha Bruskin and Erik Bulatov, began to exhibit and live in Paris. He renewed his connections with them, especially with Bulatov. These artists, like Vitali Komar and Alexander Melamid several years before, brought to the West a new outlook on underground art in the Soviet Union. Some of them were previously graphic designers, which enabled them to make a living without having to display their work in public. All of them used figurative images based on technical know-how and experience in making posters, theater sets and illustrations. They responded ironically to images of propaganda and mass culture in the USSR. All of them were preoccupied with issues of image and text, had a sad cynical outlook on Soviet society, and a certain confidence in their artistic pursuit without depreciating themselves vis-à-vis Western art. Rakuzin, who was feeling cut-off from the French cultural milieu, regarded their arrival, and particularly their immediate acceptance, as an encouraging sign to pursue his own course. Rakuzin's art feeds, then, on several sources, and the aim of this exhibition is to display these sources as they appear in his work from the last ten years,


The Exhibition


There are thirteen paintings and sixteen drawings in the exhibition. The drawings play an important role in Rakuzin's oeuvre; prior to every painting he makes a large drawing, which may take as long as a month. The painting is made according to the drawing, without looking at the book or the bookcase again. Transferring from one medium to another is a dominant feature of his work: Cezanne painted from nature; the painting was then photographed and transferred to a transparency; the transparency became a plate which was printed in a book; Rakuzin draws the reproduction from the book; and a painting is made after the drawing. The painter Erik Bulatov commented on this: 'The effect was stunning. Examining the carefully reproduced reproduction of a reproduction, we find ourselves in the end face to face with reality itself which we could not have arrived at by any possible means. It is as if we had arranged beforehand to be in the house of art, inside, within its space.

And suddenly a window is thrown open, and there is real sky, roofs, the space we live in…”.

The use of a simulacrum of the original brings to mind a super realist painting based on photography. Just as in super realist painting, the picture is an enlargement and intensification of a small original. It is based on a gaze scrutinizing every detail; such a gaze is liable to arouse a sickly manic perception, because it is focused everywhere, and penetrates the entire space of the painting. It differs from the daily, casual, browsing, unfocused gaze. The sharp-focused gaze combined with the enlargement and intensification produces an effect of alienation and defamiliarization, , turning the book into an unaccustomed, ominous object The defamiliarization and alienation are in sharp contrast to the paintings' air of intimism, the careful touch of the brush and the soft tones. The tension between the common and familiar (heimich) on the one hand and the strange, threatening and alienated (unheimiich) on the other hand makes the paintings a trap of contradictory feelings and of unresolved tension between pleasure and horror. However, unlike American super realist painting of the seventies and eighties, Rakuzin's painting shows no interest in the artificial, the banal or kitsch. The paintings deal with the key issues of art history, with the text and context of art loving and book loving, and are always executed with earnestness and sobriety: "I paint a portrait of every book. In fact, the whole painting is a kind of self portrait. At first I did not want to write the titles of the books; I felt that my collection was a personal thing. I was kind of shy at the time; I did not want to show my hooks, because they are so personal. Therefore, when I look at each of the paintings I see my own portrait in them."

The painting Introduction to Painting (p. 22) is one of the most significant paintings in the exhibition .

Johannes Vermeer's masterpiece "The Art of Painting, known also as ' The Artist in His Studio' which appears on the book's cover, is one of the best known paintings in the world. Just as in Diego Velasquez's painting Las Meninas, painted only ten years earlier, the protagonist is the artist. But unlike the Velasquez painter, Vermeer's painter (maybe Peter de Hooch) shows his back to the viewer while painting his model, the muse. This artist has no face; he is identified solely with his work. He himself and his studio become emblems of the Art of Painting. Ii is therefore not surprising that this painting was chosen to illustrate the cover of the book ” Introduction to Painting.” The painting presents the viewer with the question: where is the painter who painted the painter? Following the process of transferring from one medium to another previously discussed (a reproduction of a reproduction], the painting presents a series of ironic glances; the viewer sees how the painter Rakuzin looks over the shoulder of the painter Vermeer who in his turn looks over the shoulder of the painter in the painting, who looks at the model. The painter Paul Cezanne occupies a key position in Rakuzin's work. Cezanne and Nicolas Poussin are his favorite French painters. The painting Cezanne - The Early Years (p. 15) testifies to the connection between Rakuzin's work and the history of still life. On the cover of the book with this title there is a segment of one of Cezanne's early still lifes titled The Black Clock, painted approximately in 1870. The objects in the painting are a clock without hands (this clock must have belonged to Emil Zola, Cezanne's friend and the first owner of the painting], a vase, an orange, a cup and a bright pink-mouthed shell: "In retrospect, this may seem to have been the first still life since the eighteenth century which was so great and grandly meaningful a picture. The fact that there was apparently no single detail in it that admitted a responsibility to petty descriptiveness had everything to do with this enormous distinction."

The simple division of the surface in the segment of the painting that appears on the cover is compatible with the structure of the bookcase. The simplicity of the painting, the serenity it reflects and the reminder of time that had frozen, associates it wonderfully with the sealed books and the atmosphere of the bookcase. "I would like my books to talk to each other like in Andersen's fairy tales, when the toys begin to live at night," says Rakuzin. He also says: "What interests me is painting a landscape inside the small space of the table." This statement refers to paintings like Constable (p. 25) or Seascape by the Dutch Coast (p. 16), which show a panoramic view on two pages of a book lying on a table. These are paintings of a different type: unlike the subject of the bookcase, depicting the "entire world", this single book is placed in the center of the picture, leaving almost no margins and filling its entire space. Here the book has become a real fetish, an admired object, an amulet that enables the worshipper - the artist - to revive his beloved, the painting, by reconstructing it. There is something infinitely silly in repainting a Constable landscape from a reproduction in a book. The painting is divided in two by the slit in the middle of the book, exactly in the middle of the haywain crossing the river, and every intelligent viewer can see immediately that the attempt to reconstruct the original painting is doomed to fail. But how heroic is this failure and how touching...

Especially outstanding is a new series of nine drawings titled Sights of London (pp. 20-21) in which there is a new drawing format, owing to the double layout of the book. The series, this time made after photographs taken through a wide lens, at times from the air, illustrates the absurdity inherent in scale: a vast, wide expanse of landscape is presented on the table, creating a false visual and spatial perception. We dive into that space, wishing to merge with it, but soon enough we realize that the landscape is illusory and that what is on the table is nothing but a book.

These drawings bring Rakuzin's drawing talent to a peak: The combination of the soft touch of the pencil, with the precision of the tonality and the sharp perception create a new picture, different from the original, projecting an intangible atmosphere. In general, the atmosphere of the drawings and paintings is sensed only by looking at the original, and any reproduction renders them lifeless. The painting The Poor Power (La Puissance Pauvre) (p. 18) was created after Rakuzin revisited Moscow on the occasion of an exhibition in 1995. The painting on the book cover, Courtyard in Moscow by Vasily Polenov, from 1878, is well known to every Russian, because as Rakuzin says "it used to hang in almost every kitchen in Russia". The painting is composed around the format of the book and appears to be in the shade. Here too there is a contrast between the depth and emptiness of the space of the painting and the claustrophobic space of the bookcase. The painting Moscow Streets (p. 24) is somewhat autobiographical too, because the artist was born in one of the alleys leading to one of the streets in the picture. Nevertheless, this picture, like other Rakuzin's works, does not display any sense of nostalgia or sentimentality, and conveys no sign of emotion. Like the rest of them, these paintings are also executed with great restraint and diligence which intensify their alienated and ominous character. Only acquaintance with the artist’s biography impairs the works' meanings beyond the explicit facade of the picture.


The bookcase is the Home


The exhibition displays a painter's obsession for a subject. It is not an ordinary exhibition, since few artists devoted their best creative years to such a serious, ungrateful subject. At times the bookcase seems to look like an apartment building, at others like a treasure house, quite often like a grave yard. The paintings have a severe and solemn beauty, conveying a metaphysical, inexplicit atmosphere. This is a heroic struggle with an almost inhuman task: to depict an ardent love for a book, for the collection and for art history. Yet the imprints of this struggle are so restrained, expressed with such delicate tones. Through this kind of painting Rakuzin succeeds in connecting with his past as a Russian, a Jew, an Israeli, a Frenchman, and above all with his history as a painter. This art emerges from yearnings, and creates new yearnings. In the event of rearranging his hooks he discovers mote contexts, associations and secret clues. In the tranquility of his atelier, between his easel and the laden bookshelves, he looks back on the essence of his life: "Morandi had a tremendous influence on me. In fact he painted only one picture all his life. I have only recently found out that he was born and died in the same house. He had roots. So did Chardin and Cezanne. 1, on the other hand, emigrated twice, and I have to speak three languages. Books are the only permanent element in my world. They are the world and the home 1 carry around with me."