Huguette Caland

Body Parts


Not on display

Huguette Caland 1931 – 2019
Original title
Bribes de Corps
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1202 × 1202 mm
frame: 1246 × 1243 × 57 mm
Purchased with funds provided by the Middle East North Africa Acquisitions Committee 2019


Body Parts 1973 (Bribes de corps) is part of a series of paintings using the same title, made between 1973 and 1976. Caland combined self-portraiture with images of her lovers and friends in this series of abstracted images of the body. Modernist in shape and form, this work evokes the soft lines of the figure without identifying which ‘parts’ of the body are shown. It shows two forms gently colliding, using two highly contrasting shades of the same tint. It is unclear if they belong to the same body or are from two people. A light triangle at the top of the image where the forms peel away from one another is echoed by a dark triangle at the bottom of the image. This work is a rare example in which the artist employed a more muted palette.

The painting was created while Caland lived in Paris from 1970 to 1987. She has observed that this period was her ‘most productive time’ as a result of being socially isolated in a new city (quoted in Abillama and Tomb 2012, p.317). She has also stated that she made her most important works during this period. The soft forms in Body Parts were achieved by covering the canvas in thick oil paint, sometimes using sharpie markers to outline the lifelike shapes and emphasise their contours.

In her works of the 1970s and 1980s Caland experimented with colour, line and form. Her paintings echo the colour fields of abstract expressionism, while presenting their own distinctive play on pictorial representation and personal abstraction. The Body Parts series sits within a tradition of closely cropped modernist images where unidentified body parts fill the frame with their smooth planes, creating anthropomorphic landscapes. This approach recalls the work of American photographers Imogen Cunningham (1883–1976) and Edward Weston (1886–1958), while the colourful palette, subtle sexuality and bodily imagery are similar to the work of American painter Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986).

Caland has said that her work is influenced by the Byzantine mosaics and rugs that occupied her childhood home in Beirut. She has cited the importance of tapestries and embroideries for the textures and colours of her paintings. Her compositions are never planned ahead of time, otherwise, she has explained, ‘the emotion is gone. If a line is removed, it cannot be repeated. I cannot make drafts. I have no preconceived plans.’ (Ibid., p.318.)

In a series of pencil drawings made in 1972, Flirt (Tate T15164T15173), Caland anticipated the imagery of the Body Parts paintings. The drawings use simple line to present close-ups of unidentified parts of the body that could read as lips or genitalia, making contact with other bodily forms. Caland continued her free-spirited depiction of the body throughout the 1970s. Her paintings are done in a language of minimal bodily abstraction, with sexual connotations and undertones that combine portraiture with formal experimentation. She has also created a range of multimedia work, including kaftan designs, woven tapestries and dyed cloths.

Further reading
Nour Salame Abillama and Marie Tomb, ‘Huguette Caland’, in Art from Lebanon: Modern and Contemporary Artists 1880–1975, vol.I, Beirut 2012.

Elizabeth Shoshany Anderson and Clara Kim
May 2017

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