En poursuivant votre navigation sur ce site, vous acceptez l'utilisation de cookies. Ces derniers assurent le bon fonctionnement de nos services. En savoir plus.


"San Sebastian" at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. (Publication No.3)

Alfred Courmes is shown at Orsay museum, in Paris,

from Sept. 24th, 2013 to Jan. 2nd, 2014, as part of the exhibition



(two paintings shown:  "Ex-voto à San Sébastien" and "St Sébastien at the waterlock ".)




 “About my San Sebastian paintings, there is right from the start the will of a rigorous work of painting. I wanted to paint naked men. So I did some facing the viewer, some turning their back. I placed them, while composing the canvasses, within a context and a “history”. I gave them some identity connecting them to the “legend” of San Sebastian. This Saint is very popular, and has been used by painters of the Renaissance period as an excuse to paint naked men”. (*)



34 Saint Sébastien hui19348.jpg
74 Saint-Sébastien de dos à l'écluse Saint Martin hui197446.jpg











"San Sébastien at the waterlock", 1974 (130 x 89 cm), private ownership© adagp


"San Sébastien", 1934 (165 x 59 cm)National museum of Modern Art, Georges Pompidou museum, Paris.© adagp

The San Sebastian of 1934 has been acquired in 1984 by the Georges Pompidou museum in Paris. It is regularly shown in the permanently exposed paintings of the museum. It has been lent last autumn to the Leopold museum of Vienna ( Austria) for the exhibition “Nackte Männer”.

nouvel obs mars 1988 photo seule.jpg

This painting has served as a model for the choreographer Bob Wilson, to make the costume of San Sebastianin 1988, danced by Michael Denard, in his ballet “The martyr of San Sebastian”.



35 Saint Sébastien min1935273.jpg

On the left:

- Serge Lifar in the choreography “les Matelots” by Boris Kochno, music by G. Auric

- San Sebastian, 1935. 

 On the right

- press release of the “Nouvel Observateur, march 1988.(french)

"...This costume is worn by Mickael Denard. Wilson, as it seems, would have liked it to be  more close to the one of the painting. He accepted it, nevertheless, when one had explained to him that the male appendix, for a dancer, would have been quite jerky and demonstrating some lack of class. (extract of a press release in “Liberation, Brigitte Paulino-Net March, 1988, french).



34 Jambes de Saint-Sébastien marin min1934262.jpg




First drawing of San Sebastian, 1931. © adagp      The legs of San Sebastian,, 1934, private ownership© adagp


Traditionally, San Sebastianis described as the chief of a noble group inRomeduring the third century who, while defending the Christian martyrs, was in turn submitted to torture. As to image, he is represented as a soldier or a cavalry man. I decided to represent him as a sailor. I made him wear a nice sailor sweater with blue and white stripes, and the beret with the red pompom, supposed to bring luck as everybody knows. (extracts of talks in view to publish a book, Soleils Noirs Editor, project which did not come through).

Alfred Courmes is the son of a Marine Officer. He lived in many port towns, includingToulon (Var). As a young man he spent time in non advisable quarters of the town while being accompanied by the Ordnance officer of  his father, supposed to look after him!


As from 1934, Courmes lives near the Saint Martin canal in Paris, 10th arrondissement.


34 Saint Sébastien à l'écluse Saint Martin hui1934264.jpg

3299891319.png “My “San Sebastian at the waterlock” has also been an excuse to paint a man and his anatomy. I placed him in my day to day surroundings. At that time I had no canvas. I painted him on the back of the old wooden door of a cupboard which had become useless.(*).



The first version of “San Sebastianat the waterlock” was painted in 1934. Painted on a wooden door, it was exposed the same year at the “Carnegie Institute” in Pittsburgh (U.S.A.) then sold in United States. No news since then. The archives of Alfred Courmes mention that it would have been purchased by the Modern Art museum of New York, where no record has been kept of it. But after 60 years spent in the United States, he returned to France in 2002, bought by a collector in an American gallery.


The “San Sebastian at the waterlock” shown at Orsay museum in Paris, in the exhibition “Masculin-Masculin” has been painted in 1974. This painting is not listed in the exhibition catalogue because the decision to show it has been taken too lately.




60 L'écluse Saint Martin min1960414.jpg

 59 Saint-Sébastien à l'écluse enc1959461.jpg







The next release will be again devoted to theSan Sebastian subject, including the most famous of all, “45% de B.A.” done in 1961.   

61 45 % de B.A. hui196139.jpg

Don’t forget to enter among the blog followers, or to deposit your e-mail address if you wish to be informed of next issues.

(*) :  (Extract of talks in 1986, preparing a book for  Soleils Noirs Editor, project which did not come through)

To know more :

- About the purchase of the San Sebastian by the Georges Pompidou museum:

The “San Sebastian”, 1934 (french), by Alfred Courmes. Christian Derouet in “Les cahiers du Musée d’Art moderne” n°15, 1985


- On San Sebastian: link to wikipedia


The “San Sebastian” of 1934 of the Georges Pompidou museum has been shown:


- 1937   “Independents” exhibition

- 1977    Briance Gallery from October to November (31 paintings)

- 1977    FIAC

- 1979    London. Serpentine Gallery. French Art.

- 1979    Grenoble. Museum of paintings. From May 16th to August 20th.

- 1989    Roubaix museum. April 29th to June 11th (extended up to June 25th)

- 1989    Poitiers. From July 3rd to September 4th.

- 1989    Georges Pompidou museum. From September 12th to October 22nd  (except on  October 5th due to strike of museum staff)

- 1991    Berggruen Gallery

- 2013    Vienna (Austria), Leopold museum, from Oct 19th, 2012, to March 4th, 2013.


Publications :


- Jean-Marc Campagne, Alfred Courmes, Prospecteur de mirages entre ciel et chair,

  Photos by Robert Doisneau, Jacqueline Hyde, Marc Vau, Editor Eric Losfeld, 1973,

  page 33.


- Saint Sebastien dans l’histoire de l’art depuis le XVème siècle, foreword  by François Le Targat, Editor Jacques Damase, 1979, p.166-167  


- Vitalie Andriveau – Gilles Bernard, Alfred Courmes, foreword by Michel Onfray, Editor Le Cherche Midi, 2003, P. 134


- Christian Derouet, Le “Saint Sebastien», 1934, d’Alfred Courmes, in “Cahiers du Musée National d’Art Moderne » n°15”, Paris, Georges Pompidou museum, 1985, p.32-41


On Masculin-Masculin exhibition :


- Masculin-Masculin, the naked man in Art from 1800 to nowadays, catalogue of the exhibition, Editors Flammarion and Orsay museum.


Les commentaires sont fermés.