Examining the technical and symbolic impact of pop art on the posters produced at the Atelier Populaire during the events of May 1968 in France, this paper highlights the use of pictorial devices associated with pop, such as the opaque projector and silkscreen, and explores the crossover between the production of the Atelier and the work of French artists including Bernard Rancillac, Guy de Rougemont and Gilles Aillaud.

The use of pop-derived graphics in the iconic posters of the Atelier Populaire to protest American-style capitalism and imperialism remains a salient, if under-examined paradox of the events of May 1968 in France. In 1960s France, American pop art was largely perceived to be an infantile neo-dada provocation, an attack on painterly technique via mass media images and the ideological agent of a foreign consumer society. Although some French critics were sympathetic, consternation over pop art’s mechanisation of painterly technique largely obscured the political relevance of its popular imagery and challenge to aesthetic hierarchies.1 Nevertheless, many of the artists and students who established the Atelier Populaire in the occupied lithography studios of the École des beaux-arts resorted to pop pictorial techniques such as the silkscreen and the opaque projector to incorporate photographic images in a moment of political crisis, building a critique of the mass media into images of political revolt. The use of these devices to reproduce photographic images in some of the most iconic posters from the events engendered debates within the workshop that pitted manual against mechanical representation, and collective practice against specialised tools and skills. Discussions over the production and content of the posters derived from recent artistic debates over pop art and the parameters of modern realism, revealing the political limitations of traditional artistic formats such as easel painting in the era of mass media. In some Atelier Populaire posters the high-low dialectic of pop art was inverted and painting became a symbolic and technical resource for political poster design. Examining the adaptation of pop forms in the Atelier Populaire highlights processes of transatlantic cultural transfer as well as the politicisation of art during the events of May 1968.2

The posters of the Atelier Populaire have been discussed in the context of art history, graphic design and cultural and political history. They have been compared with French lithographic posters of the nineteenth century, the posters of the Cuban Revolution, Soviet Rosta windows and the dazibao of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.3 While some scholars have noted similarities between pop silkscreen graphics and those of the Atelier Populaire, the specifics of this relationship have been obscured by the apparent contradictions of associating an anti-capitalist critique with pop art’s celebration of consumerist superficiality. Another important factor in the obscuring of the relationship between pop and the posters was the anonymity pact between participants, which suppressed the debates and circumstances of production in the workshops.4 However, since it has come to light that those working at the Atelier were also painters associated with groups such as the Salon de la Jeune Peinture and Figuration Narrative, aesthetic debates surrounding political engagement, the use of found imagery and mechanical painting techniques have come into focus as important ways of analysing the design and production of the May 1968 posters.

Histories of May 1968 have juxtaposed the cultural and political implications of the events. Many have viewed the student protests as a cultural rebellion focused on freedom of expression, sexual liberation, and autonomy from Gaullist technocracy and social norms. Given the failure to immediately topple the government of Charles de Gaulle and overturn the social order, these scholars construe the events as a youth ‘psychodrama’ brought on by sexual repression and the cultural backwardness of the Fifth Republic.5 However, others have argued that the political significance of the events lies in the alliances forged between protesting students and striking workers, the momentary supersession of these identities and societal roles, and the alignment of desires for cultural and political change.6 From this perspective the graffiti, political cartoons, protest chants and posters are poignant demonstrations of the extent to which cultural expression responded to and was transformed by political exigency. Art filled the void left by official culture and mass media during the strikes by occupying the empty channels of communication and mimicking them in form if not in content. According to cultural historian Kristin Ross, the speed of the unfolding events challenged artists and sidelined traditional beaux-arts mediums:

May ‘68 itself was not an artistic moment. It was an event that transpired amid very few images; French television, after all, was on strike. Drawings, political cartoons – by Siné, Willem, Cabu, and others – proliferated; photographs were taken. Only the most ‘immediate’ of artistic techniques, it seems, could keep up with the speed of events. But to say this is already to point out how much politics was exerting a magnetic pull on culture, yanking it out of its specific and specialized realm.7

Ross’s account is extremely useful for understanding the spatiotemporal demands placed on the artwork during the events. However, her suggestion that there was a concomitant turn away from specialised knowledge risks neglecting the technical and symbolic competencies that were brought to bear in the Atelier Populaire and affiliated workshops. The aim of this paper is not to assert a comprehensive re-reading of these posters as artworks rather than political ephemera, but to track the intersection of art and politics differently, in relation to pop. In turn this suggests a new understanding of the political adaptation of pop motifs in line with Lawrence Alloway’s comment that pop art was ‘de-aestheticized and re-anthropologized’ in commercial and popular culture of the later 1960s.8 That is, although the pop art of the early 1960s appropriated ‘low’ sources to forge a new form of gallery art, by the later 1960s mass culture began to use pop art motifs, reversing the direction of transmission and creating a feedback loop that artists continue to immerse themselves in today.9 In the non-elite and anti-capitalist mobilisations of the Atelier Populaire, pop and popular art converged to challenge both aesthetic and social hierarchies.10

Statistics on the post-war explosion in the French student population stand out in the vast literature on the ‘causes’ of May 1968 as indicators of looming crisis: the post-war baby boom and urbanisation caused the number of university students to rise from 123,313 in 1946 to 596,141 in 1971, a development that was met with an inadequate compensation in resources from the French government.11 For students, the lifeless concrete Nanterre campus built in 1964 in response to overcrowding at the Sorbonne had come to symbolise the failures of the French education system, bureaucratic sclerosis and the imposition of values from a bygone era. On 22 March 1968 a group led by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a charismatic student of German-Jewish descent, transformed a sit-in protest about curfews and co-ed dorm visitation policies at Nanterre into a challenge to De Gaulle and Gaullism. The stakes were raised by the brutal response of the CRS arm (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité) of the Police Nationale who violently suppressed the protests at Nanterre with tear gas and mattraques (night-sticks), resulting in the arrest of over 600 students. The Nanterre campus was closed on Thursday 2 May and the unrest spread to the Sorbonne where another disproportionate police response escalated the conflict and led to the school’s forced closure for only the second time in its 700-year history. Incitement in the Latin Quarter culminated a few days later with ‘The Night of the Barricades’ on 10 May, when 30,000 protestors blocked Boulevard Saint-Michel and the police sealed exits along the bridges and main thoroughfares. In the ensuing exchange of tear gas, paving stones, mattraques and Molotov cocktails local residents acted in solidarity with protestors by sheltering them in their homes. The night was covered on radio and television including Radio Europe 1 – the only station not controlled by De Gaulle and the only broadcaster to rally public sentiment to the student cause. On Monday 13 May students occupied the Sorbonne and established the environment of liberated speech and debate that would become a defining characteristic of the events. The same day France’s two largest trade unions went on strike, participating in a march of over one million from Place de la République to Place Denfert-Rochereau that called for de Gaulle’s resignation and was at that time the largest protest in French history. Although the trade unions had planned for a one-day demonstration, the workers continued their strike into the week and wildcat strikes spread throughout factories and the public sector until Monday 20 May when ten million went on strike and France had ground to a halt. On 14 May students and artists occupied the lithography studios of the École des beaux-arts, which had been on strike since 8 May, with the intention of creating prints in support of the revolution.12

Usines, Universités, Union. The first lithographic poster from Atelier Populaire
Usines, Universités, Union (Factories, Universities, Union) 1968
Lithographic poster

Considering the scale and violence of these events, the symbolic resonance of the ephemeral Atelier Populaire posters is all the more striking. Usines, Universités, Union (Factories, Universities, Union) (fig.1), the first lithographic poster produced in a print run of thirty, signalled the unity between workers and students and its claim for solidarity. The boldface U’s at the left side of the poster are uniform in scale, while the remaining letters of the three words take different fonts. The cursive script in ‘Universités’ suggests a blackboard scrawl and is distinct from the smaller print of ‘Usines’ and the larger block lettering of ‘Union’. The prints were intended for sale in nearby galleries and the proceeds were meant to support striking students and workers. However, amid the chaos of the events the demands of the street overtook those of the gallery: as artist Gérard Fromanger recounted, ‘the idea was to bring [the posters] to a supporting gallery for sale. But we didn’t make it ten metres in the street before the students snatched them and pasted them in the street themselves. We understood immediately: there was the idea! We went quickly back upstairs.’13

As the workshop gained momentum it began to draw participants from across the spectrum of Left parties and groups, ranging from the French Communist Party to Maoists, Situationists and Énragés. Striking workers, students, artists, intellectuals and hangers-on contributed to a festive atmosphere driven alternately by Rolling Stones records or North Vietnamese revolutionary chants. As Fromanger remembered: ‘we were the only ones who were working. It was very gratifying: the whole country was on strike except for us! We had never worked so hard in our lives!’14 Indeed, some devoted students and artists slept and ate in the studios. The workshops were run by general assemblies, which enforced collectivity and anonymity to keep police scrutiny at bay. Each night poster designs were submitted anonymously for debate and were voted on according to the questions ‘Is the political message correct?’ and ‘Does the poster transmit this idea well?’15 The debates ranged in duration from ten minutes to several hours, with some extending through the night. As the strikes spread, this model was replicated and poster ateliers were established in the École des arts décoratifs and in some occupied factories.16

École des beaux-arts: ‘Atelier populaire oui!’
École des beaux-arts: ‘Atelier Populaire Oui!’

Two hand-written signs tacked to the workshop wall (fig.2) announced the opposition between popular and bourgeois art that guided design and production in the studios: ‘Atelier Popuaire Oui’ and ‘Atelier Bourgeois Non’. With its refusal of bourgeois social norms and its invocation of the popular, this slogan juxtaposed the productive collective against the creative individual, declared the non-elite audience for the posters, and established the studio as a non-hierarchical space. The opposition of popular and bourgeois art was developed further in a statement ratified on 16 May and dispersed in tracts on 21 May, which targeted predominant notions of bourgeois art. The authors wrote ‘privilege confines the artist to an invisible prison’, isolating them with notions of ‘creative freedom’ and artistic autonomy. By elevating artists above workers, the authors continued, the bourgeoisie and the Ministry of Culture promoted the myth that:

(1) [the Artist] does what he wants to do, he believes that everything is possible, he is accountable only to himself or to Art.
(2) He is a ‘Creator’ which means that out of all things he invents something that is unique, whose value will be permanent and beyond historical reality. He is not a worker at grips with historical reality. The idea of creation de-realises his work [irréalise son travail].17

For the authors of the manifesto a meaningful relationship with historical reality was to be forged not through the use of modern techniques, but through an engagement with the problems facing the working class:

We want to be clear that it is not a better relationship between artists and modern techniques that will better align them with all other categories of workers, but an opening to the problems of the workers – to the historical reality of the world in which we live.18

Although the statement’s workerist position was intended to influence the direction of the poster workshop, the language echoed that of a manifesto written three years earlier by Gilles Aillaud, Eduardo Arroyo and Antonio Recalcati. The three painters formed the organising committee of the Salon de la Jeune Peinture – one of Paris’s annual painting salons that was also a politicised painting collective. From its inception in 1953 the Salon was loosely associated with the French Communist Party and it promoted figurative painting as an antidote to the formalism of art informel, which was otherwise dominant in the French avant-garde. In 1965 Aillaud, Arroyo, Recalcati and others assumed control of the organising committee of the Salon and brought its political undercurrents to the surface, taking aim at beaux-arts conventions and the privileging of individual expression over political engagement.19 The Salon sought to challenge what they viewed as the aestheticism of the neo-avant-garde and they stated their objective to ‘move the debate from the realm of aesthetics – the realm of the relations between art and the history of art – to the realm which interests us, that of the relations between art and history’. The central question for artists, the committee wrote, was ‘in what measure, however small, can painting participate in the historical revelation of truth?’20

Gilles Aillaud, Eduardo Arroyo and Antonio Recalcati, Vivre et laisser mourir ou la fin tragique de Marcel Duchamp
Gilles Aillaud, Eduardo Arroyo and Antonio Recalcati
Vivre et laisser mourir ou la fin tragique de Marcel Duchamp 1965

Aillaud, Arroyo and Recalcati exhibited a painting at the Galerie Creuze in 1965 which spelt out their rejection of the neo-avant-garde legacy in no uncertain terms. With a title taken from a 1954 Ian Fleming James Bond novel, Vivre et laisser mourir ou la fin tragique de Marcel Duchamp (Live and Let Die, or, The Tragic End of Marcel Duchamp) (fig.3) was a campy suite of eight paintings that showed the artists attacking, murdering and throwing the older French artist Marcel Duchamp down a flight of stairs. For Aillaud, Arroyo and Recalcati, Duchamp and the readymade represented the epitome of privileged aestheticism, giving the artist the agency to choose what might constitute art simply through the act of naming it as such. In precise renderings that verge on Oedipal undoing, Aillaud, Arroyo and Recalcati restored functionality to the objects that Duchamp had claimed for his art: Fresh Widow 1920 (see Tate T07282) becomes the blacked out window in a room where the artist is being interrogated, Fountain 1917 (see Tate T07573) is remounted to the bathroom wall and The Large Glass 1915–23 (see Tate T02011) provides a vantage onto an outdoor courtyard space that reasserts the picture plane as Albertian window onto the world. The penultimate panel shows Duchamp’s nude, emasculated body thrown down a staircase, a pendant piece to his Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 1912 (Philadelphia Museum of Art) represented in the first panel. In the final scene the artist is finally brought to his grave in a casket draped in an American flag and carried by likenesses of the artists and Duchampian heirs Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Martial Raysse, Arman as well as critic Pierre Restany, each dressed in military uniform.21 In this last panel with its incongruous and disjunctively rendered visages, American pop artists and French nouveaux réalistes are cast as neo-avant-garde imperialists. In this case, and in contrast to the Salon’s interests in engaging a working class audience for art, pop stood for the retrenchment of art as elitist.

In a manifesto written to accompany the painting, Aillaud, Arroyo and Recalcati described their opposition to ‘la technique picturale et la personnalité technique’ (pictorial technique and the technical personality):

If one wants art to cease being individual, better to work without signing than to sign without working … [Duchamp’s] power over things is such that he doesn’t even touch them; by the pure decree of his choice he sticks a bicycle wheel on a pedestal and has it enter just as it is into the temple, i.e. the museum.22

The group elaborated in a subsequent text:

Marcel Duchamp’s abrupt rupture with oil painting does not, in effect, bring any change of perspective. From the cubist object, entirely constructed by the constituting action of the painter, to the manufactured object that has only been touched from a distance as by a signature, there is no supersession of the traditional and demiurgic notion of the ‘creative act’.23

The manifesto of the Atelier Populaire clearly reprised the Salon de la Jeune Peinture’s denunciations of aesthetic autonomy and bourgeois creativity and indeed Gilles Aillaud was the principle author of both texts. However, the transposition of the Salon’s theory of political engagement onto a collectivised poster workshop operating amid a political crisis was fraught with a rhetorical and pragmatic challenge. Although the poster workshop appeared to politicise art, the ideas articulated in the Jeune Peinture statements could no longer be presented as an ethic of painting. Jeune Peinture’s critique of bourgeois individualism was echoed in the Atelier Populaire’s collectivism, but the scale and drama of the protests laid bare the spatiotemporal constraints of handmade paintings such as Vivre et laisser mourir ou la fin tragique de Marcel Duchamp when faced with the speed of events unfolding in the street. In order to keep apace and to print in volume, the Atelier Populaire had to adopt one of the neo-avant-garde ‘modern techniques’ – silkscreen printing – alluded to in their manifesto. It was a way of working which brought them closer to pop art, graphic design and transatlantic cultural transfer, all of which they had criticised.

Alain Jacquet, Dejeuner sur l'herbe 1964
Alain Jacquet
Déjeuner sur l'herbe 1964
Martial Raysse, Made in Japan: tableau turc et invraisemblable
Martial Raysse
Made in Japan: tableau turc et invraisemblable

Scholars have described the use of the silkscreen at the Atelier Populaire during May 1968 as an anomaly, because the technique was little used by artists and was not taught at the École des beaux-arts.24 Nonetheless the silkscreen was not foreign to France, as the American military had introduced it as a tool to make signs and label equipment after liberation from German occupation. Although it was not associated with fine art, the silkscreen did find artistic applications during the 1950s. Art historian Victoria H.F. Scott has noted that Fernand Léger made pioneering use of the silkscreen in France in his illustrations of Paul Eluard’s incantatory anti-occupation poem Liberté in 1952.25 Beginning in 1964 Alain Jacquet and other artists associated with the Mechanical Art or Mec’art group also used the silkscreen to create pop-inflected representations of works such as Edouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (fig.4). Instead of incorporating mass media images, Jacquet used the silkscreen to retool canonical works from the French avant-garde tradition, modernising their form if not their content. Martial Raysse similarly used enlarged photographic reproductions of Old Master paintings in his Made in Japan series. However, in works such as Made in Japan: tableau turc et invraisemblable (Made in Japan: Unlikely Turkish Painting) (fig.5) Raysse’s source images were not incorporated wholesale, but excerpted and collaged to make a new composition. Although his work from the 1960s is often associated with pop art, Raysse’s work was motivated by an exploration of the ways in which reproduced images affected the perception of both canonical Old Master and modernist painting.26 For Pierre Restany – a critical proponent of Mec’art – and others, their approach to silkscreen and photomechanical reproduction was distant from American pop. Restany wrote ‘as opposed to their American colleagues the Mec artists do not try to obtain a flat ready-made, but rather try to act on the organic structure of imagination’.27

Despite these precedents it was Guy de Rougemont, an abstract painter and sculptor who had recently returned from an extended trip to New York, who introduced the technique of silkscreen printing to the Atelier Populaire. Rougemont studied at the École des arts décoratifs in Paris from 1954 to 1958, fought in the French-Algerian War, and then travelled to New York in 1965, where his planned week-long visit became an eighteen-month stay. In New York his work was influenced by both pop art and minimalism and he befriended American artists including Marisol, Frank Stella, Robert Indiana, Larry Poons, Rauschenberg and Warhol.28 Rougemont’s subsequent work sought to overcome the divisions between fine and decorative arts and the boundaries between mediums imposed by the beaux-arts system by merging painting, sculpture and decorative arts in abstract spatial arrangements.29 Rougemont was drawn to the occupied École des beaux-arts for this reason, and out of a desire to ‘settle his account’ with the French government following his traumatic experiences during the French-Algerian War.30 Having recently completed a series of large prints for an exhibition in Japan with one of the only commercial silkscreen printing shops in Paris, Paris-Arts in the fifth arrondissement, Rougemont knew that the technique was better suited to the needs of the group assembled in the occupied lithography studios. He was asked to organise a silkscreen workshop and he fortuitously found Éric Seydoux – an apprentice at Paris-Arts who agreed to lend his skills and to help procure materials. Seydoux had also encountered silkscreen printing in the context of American art: he had studied at the Art Students League in New York between 1963 and 1967 and returned to Paris to pursue professional silkscreen printing because he considered it to be the technique that was ‘the most youthful, the most modern, the most promising’.31 Seydoux remembered that he and Rougemont demonstrated the silkscreen technique in the occupied lithography studio, creating a raised fist as their first design: ‘at that time the posters were printed using lithography, at very slow speeds. Nobody knew the silkscreen technique. With Guy’s materials, that night we printed the first poster in front of a transfixed audience and at great speed’.32 Compared with lithography or offset printing, the silkscreen was rudimentary, fast and industrious. Fromanger remembered:

Rougemont was there, who had just returned from New York and knew the silkscreen technique, along with a young printer, Éric Seydoux, who brought the first silkscreen to the Atelier Populaire and started to make prints. There were 200 people watching including 15 to 20 painters, and we found it to be magic, a miracle. We understood that we didn’t need the offset machine.33

In order to facilitate the creation of poster workshops in occupied factories and in the provinces, the Atelier Populaire distributed a text that detailed the steps of the silkscreen printing process. These instructions figure prominently among the founding documents of the Atelier Populaire, indicating the centrality of the silkscreen to the function and identity of the poster workshop. Far from a neutral medium, the industriousness of the silkscreen enabled the conceptualisation of the studio as a factory, and of posters as a form of counter-media able to respond to and shape the events.34

Pouvoir populaire 1968
Pouvoir populaire 1968
Silkscreen poster
La Lutte continue 1968
La Lutte continue 1968
Silkscreen poster

Although the posters that emerged from the Atelier Populaire and the other workshops are diverse in conception, design and execution, the motif of the hand and machine in opposition reappeared. This trope expressed the plight of factory workers while also conveying the tensions between artisanal and mechanical representation put forth by Jeune Peinture. While the lithographic poster Usines, Universités, Union called for solidarity between workers and students while maintaining the distinctions between them, subsequent silkscreen designs fused these identities with the depiction of hands and clenched fists as symbols of empowerment. In Pouvoir populaire (fig.6) a student, farmer and factory worker, shown holding a book, fork and hammer respectively, appear to share a single body. Another poster, La Lutte continue (fig.7) turns the iconic saw-toothed factory roofline and smokestack into a bicep, forearm and clenched fist raised in solidarity. The emphasis on manual labour in Pouvoir populaire and the anthropomorphism of La Lutte continue convey the tension seen in many posters between the mechanical and artisanal aspects of their production: although the Atelier was conceived as a factory and the posters were produced in a process akin to an assembly line, the designs retained a crude, tactile quality that highlighted ephemerality and material vulnerability in the street. Furthermore, the emphasis on handwork supported a representation of labour that, as other observers have noted, seemed to evoke the Popular Front of 1936 more than the occupations of technologically advanced Renault factories at Cléon, Flins or Boulogne-Billancourt.35

La Chienlit, c'est lui! 1968
La Chienlit, c'est lui! 1968
Silkscreen poster

The speed and responsiveness of the silkscreen was reflected in one of the foundational posters of the Atelier Populaire, La Chienlit, c’est lui! (fig.8). The poster appropriated a remark de Gaulle uttered upon returning from a state visit to Romania as the strikes were escalating around 14–18 May. De Gaulle’s comment, ‘reform, yes, this chaos no!’ – which used the Rabelais-era, vernacular phrase chienlit that literally translates as ‘shit-in-bed’ – was repeated on the radio by the information minister George Gorse on 19 May. Gorse’s statement, a slur meant to describe the protesters as lazy, drew a response from the Atelier Populaire the same day, whose poster identified de Gaulle, depicted in rough silhouette, as the chienlit.

Libérons l'O.R.T.F 1968
Libérons l'O.R.T.F 1968
Silkscreen poster
L'Intox vient à domicile 1968
L'Intox vient à domicile 1968
Silkscreen poster

State control of the media soon became an explicit subject matter of the posters. When the television workers at the ORTF (the national media corporation) went on strike on 20 May, the Atelier Populaire produced a series of designs that juxtaposed the television and the poster as tools of oppression and emancipation. In Libérons l’O.R.T.F. (Let’s Liberate the O.R.T.F.) (fig.9), the mediations of television and poster screen are suggested by their superimposition in the poster graphic, which depicts a jailed revolutionary complete with Phrygian cap – the hat worn by freed slaves in ancient Rome and adopted by sans-culottes during the 1789 Revolution. In L’Intox vient à domicile (Propaganda Strikes Home) (fig.10), the double-barred Cross Lorraine – a symbol of the Resistance and of de Gaulle – becomes a television antenna and instrument of propaganda. On vous intoxique! (You Are Being Poisoned!) (fig.11) shows a butcher’s diagram dividing a prostrate human body into radio, television and mutton, with the Cross Lorraine serving as eyes. The poster plays on the stock comic-book trope of drunkenness, leveraging the double meaning of ‘intox’ as propaganda and intoxication.

On vous intoxique! 1968
On vous intoxique! 1968
Silkscreen poster
Toute la presse est toxique 1968
Toute la presse est toxique, lisez les tracts, les affiches, le journal mural 1968
Silkscreen poster

As the strikes entered their third week and the international press began to lose sympathy for the protestors, the posters increasingly became news outlets in their own right. Faced with a state-controlled ORTF, hostile foreign radio broadcasts and fatigue among the general public, the poster workshops produced their own narratives: ‘Toute la presse est toxique’ (All the press is toxic), announced a poster from early June, ‘lisez les tracts, les affiches, le journal mural’ (read our statements, our posters and the Journal Mural) (fig.12). The Journal Mural, produced between 13–21 June (figs.13–14), was an alternative publication produced by the Atelier Populaire to be pasted on walls as well as circulated. In this way the posters, which had been printed for convenience on newspaper provided by striking workers, shifted in form and content in relation to materials. The first issue responded to Prime Minister Georges Pompidou’s call for fraternity among citizens with an account of police attacks on students and a call for the formation of a ‘université populaire d’été’ (popular summer university) in the park. The third issue detailed the conflict between the striking workers at Renault and their union over the occupation of the factory, as well as instances of worker-student solidarity such as the funeral of Gilles Tautin – a high school student who drowned in the Seine while fleeing a police charge near the Renault factory at Meulan. These wall-newspapers juxtaposed second-hand reports in the official media with the immediacy of the street and first-hand observation of events, effectively ‘mediatising’ the walls of the Latin Quarter, as philosopher Jean Baudrillard later argued.36

Journal Mural 1 1968
Journal Mural 1 1968
Journal Mural 3 1968
Journal Mural 3 1968

Despite the silkscreen processes and engagement with print media in the posters considered so far, it is the photographic posters that bear the closest relationship to pop art. In these photographic posters pop art’s collapsing of manual and mechanical representation – the cause of such consternation to the Salon de la Jeune Peinture – enabled a synthesis of the counter-media function of the Journal Mural with iconic representations of solidarity such as Pouvoir populaire. By diverging from Jeune Peinture’s conception of realism as an engagement with the proletariat as the subject of history via the manual labour of representation, these posters propagated a photographic realism that depended on the mass media representations of events.

Tous unis camarades jusqu’à la victoire 1968
Tous unis camarades jusqu’à la victoire 1968
Photographic poster

The photographic posters of the Atelier Populaire were produced with the photo-silkscreen or an opaque projector. The photo-silkscreen entailed the direct exposure of the silkscreen by the photographic source image, while the opaque projector involved manually tracing a projected photograph on paper and then transferring it onto the silkscreen template. In early June, Éric Seydoux and artist Éric Beynon procured the emulsion and equipment necessary for the production of photo-silkscreens. In their first efforts they used a glass passageway at the École des beaux-arts to expose photosensitised screens with images of striking workers.37 In Tous unis camarades jusqu’à la victoire (All Comrades United Until Victory), a courtyard of striking workers at the Renault Billancourt factory is shown in an accurate rendition of their workplace (fig.15). Sufficient detail is provided to distinguish labourers from suited professionals and to reproduce the Renault lettering on the factory, yet they are also abstracted enough to suggest the unity declared in the title. Such posters featuring photographic details of modern factories contrasted with the atavistic representations of saw-tooth rooflines and smokestacks in posters promoting worker-student solidarity such as Université populaire OUI (fig.16); the use of photographic source images lent posters such as Tous unis camarades jusqu’à la victoire an actuality that corresponding artisanal designs sometimes lacked.

Université populaire oui 1968
Université populaire oui 1968
Silkscreen poster
Roy Lichtenstein Look Mickey 1961
Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997)
Look Mickey 1961
National Gallery of Art, Washington

There were, however, photographic posters produced before the arrival of the photo-silkscreen at the École des beaux-arts. These were made by manually tracing the outlines of photographic images projected onto paper using an opaque projector, and transferring the resulting design onto silk. In the United States the opaque projector was associated with Roy Lichtenstein’s subtly altered comic book frames and the somewhat paradoxical ‘handmade readymade’ images that resulted (fig.17).38 The device was introduced to French artists in 1964 when the art dealer Ileana Sonnabend procured an opaque projector for the French artist Daniel Pommereulle, who then introduced it to artists associated with Figuration Narrative such as Hervé Télémaque and Bernard Rancillac.39 The mechanical incorporation of found images via the opaque projector accelerated these artists’ engagement with highly publicised and politically charged subjects such as protests against the Vietnam War in the years leading up to May 1968. Indeed, Rancillac’s use of the opaque projector to develop a photo-based realist painting style had a strong impact on the Atelier Populaire posters that he designed using the same device.

Bernard Rancillac, Enfin silhouettes affinées jusqu'à la taille 1966
Bernard Rancillac
Enfin silhouettes affinées jusqu'à la taille 1966

Late in 1965 Rancillac began using the opaque projector to combine found images in acrylic paint to forge a method that he termed ‘dialectical realism’. His exhibition L’année 1966 held at the Galerie Blumenthal-Mommaton in February 1967 featured paintings made over the previous year that used the opaque projector and masking tape to abstract and remix mass media images into politically charged compositions. Enfin silhouettes affinées jusqu’à la taille (At Last, a Silhouette Slimmed to the Waist) (fig.18) juxtaposes an image from Paris Match of South Vietnamese soldiers drowning a Viet Cong prisoner to the waist and an advertisement for women’s underwear that defined the waist. As the images occupy opposite ends of the canvas they are brought into an unusual proximity, demanding that the viewer confront the contradictions of the modern industrial world. Rancillac explained the dialectical realism of the painting: ‘the viewer is forced to choose a visual and hence political orientation. Comfort here, torture over there’.40 Art historian Sarah Wilson has argued that in these works Rancillac imitated the graphic effect of silkscreen printing in order to convey his contemporaneity while staying within the limits of hand painting. She has written: ‘the imitation of a silk-screened effect through the use of masking [tape] offered technical equivalents for his uncompromising stance, his sense of urgency’.41

Rancillac’s synthesis of painting and photography was the subject of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s catalogue essay, titled ‘L’image de l’image’, for the exhibition at Blumenthal-Mommaton. Bourdieu argued, echoing Roland Barthes’s skepticism of the photographic ‘reality effect’, that Rancillac’s painting subverted the deracination and passive consumption of photographic images in newspapers and photographic weeklies.42 Bourdieu wrote: ‘just when so many photographs strive to mimic painting comes a painter who lends his genius to the mimicry of photographs … this painting that makes a pleonasm of the image denounces the image which make a pleonasm of the world’. By forcing a second reckoning with the photographic image in painting, Bourdieu continued, ‘the image of the image reveals the inherent blunder of quotidian vision, of the distracted gaze that gives a false immediacy [transforme en ‘actualité’– inactuelle] to all that it encompasses’.43 While Bourdieu argued that Rancillac’s merging of mechanical and manual representation forced a confrontation between the photographic reality effect and the mediating function of art, Rancillac considered his painting to have détourned the techniques of pop art in order to ‘radically renew the expression of present-day reality’. While Rancillac considered the realism of Jeune Peinture to be ‘ancien figuration’, the role of mechanical techniques in his method of ‘dialectical realism’ was to forge a style that was both technically modern and politically engaged.44

Cuba Colectiva 1967
Cuba Colectiva 1967
Oil on canvas

In an interlude that would have an important impact on the Atelier Populaire, Rancillac travelled to Cuba in the months following his L’année 1966 exhibition along with Aillaud, Arroyo and Recalcati as a member of a contingent of French artists and intellectuals who participated in the Salon de Mayo. This transposition of the French Salon de Mai in Havana resulted in the collectively produced mural Cuba Colectiva, measuring a massive eleven by five metres (fig.19). The mural is a cacophonous hand-painted spiral of images and text that manifests a wide range of political orientations and artistic competencies. However, as art historian Thomas Crow has detailed, the trip exposed the French artists to Cuban revolutionary billboards and posters that subsumed flattened photographic images of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and others into public graphic displays.45 While the trip to Cuba left divisions between the members of the Salon de la Jeune Peinture and painters like Rancillac intact, it confirmed the street-level relevance and graphic potential of ready-made photographic images suggested in Rancillac’s ‘dialectical realism’ works of the preceding year.

Autour de la résistance prolétarienne 1968
Autour de la résistance prolétarienne dans l’usine occupée vers la victoire du peuple 1968
Photographic poster

Entering the convulsive atmosphere of the Atelier Populaire less than one year after the Cuba trip, Rancillac applied his technical knowledge of the opaque projector to poster designs that combined manual and mechanical representation to flatten and abstract photographic source images. For instance, in Autour de la résistance prolétarienne dans l’usine occupée vers la victoire du peuple (Around Proletarian Resistance, In the Occupied Factory, Towards the Victory of the People) (fig.20), the raised fists echo the iconography of solidarity conveyed in hand-drawn posters, despite their photographic source. Indeed, the pop-inflected abstraction of photographic images through the synthesis of hand and machine, as well as the ‘dialectical realist’ method of juxtaposing images and political vantages, subtends what has become one of the most iconic images associated with May 1968: Rancillac’s depiction of student leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Produced in two versions – Nous sommes tous des juifs et des allemands (We Are All Jews and Germans) (fig.21) and Nous sommes tous ‘indesirables’ (We Are All ‘Undesirables’) (fig.22) – Rancillac used an image of Cohn-Bendit by the photographer Jacques Haillot (fig.23) which captured Cohn-Bendit singing the Marseillaise in the face of a helmeted CRS officer upon emerging from a meeting with administrators at the Sorbonne on 6 May. As the strikes reached an apex on 21 May the government ordered the revocation of Cohn-Bendit’s French passport while he was on a lecture tour in Berlin, sparking more protests on his behalf in Paris. That day Rancillac was asked to design a poster of Cohn-Bendit with the text ‘we are all Jews and Germans’, referring to the anti-Semitic and xenophobic pronouncement of the right-wing weekly Minute on 2 May – ‘this Cohn-Bendit, because he is Jewish and German, takes himself to be the new Karl Marx’ – which was repeated in a milder version on 3 May by Georges Marchais, Secretary of the French Communist Party, who denounced ‘these groupuscules led by the German anarchist Cohn-Bendit’.46

Nous sommes tous des juifs et des allemands 1968
Nous sommes tous des juifs et des allemands 1968
Photographic poster

The night of 21 May Rancillac returned to his studio in the Latin Quarter and using the opaque projector drew the Haillot photograph by hand before transferring the design to silk with drawing gum and returning it to the Atelier Populaire for printing.47 However, when he arrived at the studio the next morning the text of the poster had been changed from ‘We are all German Jews’ to the anodyne ‘We are all undesirables’ in an apparent effort by those in the workshop aligned with the French Communist Party to avoid further tensions with Marchais and the party leadership. As the poster was mounted and carried on placards during a rally to protest Cohn-Bendit’s interdiction, however, the chant among the crowd reverted to the original slogan, which Rancillac took as a sign of the power of the street over those at the Atelier. In his physical absence Cohn-Bendit was evoked in reference to the subjective annihilation of the Holocaust and, according to philosopher Jacques Rancière, given ‘a form of visibility conferred upon something that is supposedly non-visible or that has been removed from visibility’.48 Cohn-Bendit’s abstraction in the figure of a ‘German Jew’ was doubled in Rancillac’s graphic in which, to follow Alloway again, ‘the fading or loss of detail that occurs within silk-screened images is like life itself when it has been photographed and reproduced’.49 By abstracting a press photograph of the events and soliciting identification with ‘an impossible subject’, Rancillac’s poster eloquently subverted the state media’s representational regime.50 Furthermore, the striking axial opposition of the officer’s helmet with Cohn-Bendit’s jubilant and exposed face echoed the formal device underlying Rancillac’s ‘dialectical realist’ method, providing a powerful confirmation of its political relevance in the street.

Nous sommes tous indésirables 1968
Nous sommes tous indésirables 1968
Photographic poster
Daniel Cohn-Bendit 6 May 1968
Daniel Cohn-Bendit 6 May 1968

Art historian Michael Lobel has argued that Lichtenstein’s use of the opaque projector to project and paint drawings of comics signals an ambivalent merging of body and machine, springing on one side from the ‘dream of pure, unmediated vision, couched in the technological language of the machine. On the other the belief in a perceiving subject whose imperfect corporeality denies access to such transcendence’.51 Although his works are often imbued with a gritty materiality, Warhol similarly disavowed hand painting stating, ‘in my artwork hand painting would take much too long and anyway that’s not the age we live in … mechanical means are today … silkscreen work is as honest a method as any’.52 Rancillac’s conflation of machine and handwork in paintings such as Enfin silhouettes affinées jusqu’à la taille registers Lichtenstein’s ambivalence while stopping short of Warhol’s disavowal. However, the final step of silkscreen printing sent his process into quasi-industrial production at the Atelier Populaire, ushering it from the realm of fine art to that of graphic design and street politics. This fusion of the manual and the mechanical in the opaque projector and the silkscreen allowed the Atelier Populaire to convey a politics in the street-level billboard spaces of display that French artists such as Daniel Buren, the Affichistes and the Situationists had cultivated over the past decade. Following Rancillac’s description, it also constituted a détournment of pop art’s conflation of painting and media image in service of a popular art negotiated with and for a dissenting public.

While the use of pop techniques by Rancillac and others in the Atelier Populaire may seem contradictory, they provided a source of artistic engagement that functioned beyond the limitations of the canvas and the confines of the gallery. By bringing the symbolic density of painting together with the ephemeral visibility of graphic design, the Atelier Populaire turned pop art’s high-low dialectic on its head and highlighted a persistent dilemma of modern political art that Gilles Aillaud voiced in December 1968:

must one conclude that in order to play even the smallest role in ideological struggle art must reduce itself to the simplest of forms? It would be strange to think that in order to be effective art must divorce itself from the majority of its means. The last and most positive of our experiences thus poses more problems than it solves.53


  • 1. On the French response to pop art see Hiroko Ikegami, The Great Migrator: Robert Rauschenberg and the Global Rise of American Art, Cambridge MA and London 2010, especially chapters one and two. Also Laurie J. Monahan, ‘Cultural Cartography: American Designs at the 1964 Venice Biennale’ in Reconstructing Modernism: Art in New York, Paris and Montreal 1945–64, Cambridge MA and London 1992, pp.369–416, and Clémence Bigel, ‘Le Pop Art à Paris: Une histoire de la reception critique des avant-gardes américaines entre 1959 et 1978’, MA thesis, Université Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne 2013.
  • 2. Rather than a notion of ‘cross-cultural influence’, I draw on the concept of cultural transfer developed by Michel Espagne: ‘Transférer, ce n’est pas transporter, mais plutôt métamorphoser, et le terme ne se réduit en aucun cas à la question mal circonscrite et très banale des échanges culturels. C’est moins la circulation des biens culturels que leur réinterprétation qui est en jeu … la catégorie de l’influence, dont l’étymologie suffit à montrer la dimension magique, devait être remplacée par une approche critique des contacts historiquement constatables et des adaptations ou réinterprétations auxquelles ces contacts avaient donné lieu’. Michel Espagne, ‘La notion de transfert culturel’, Revue Sciences/Lettres, no.1, http://rsl.revues.org/219, accessed 2 November 2015. See also by the same author Les Transferts culturels franco-allemands, Paris 1999 and L’Histoire del’art comme transfert culturel, Paris and Berlin 2009.
  • 3. See Atelier Populaire présenté par lui-même, Paris 1968; Laurent Gervereau, ‘L’Art au service du mouvement’, in Geneviève Dreyfus-Armand and Laurent Gervereau (eds.), Mai 68: Les mouvements étudiants en France et dans le monde, Nanterre 1998, pp.160–71; Victoria H.F. Scott, ‘Silkscreens and Television Screens: Maoism and the Posters of May and June 1968 in France’, PhD dissertation, SUNY Binghamton, 2010; Sami Siegelbaum, ‘Authentic Mediation: Art, Media and Public Space in May ‘68’, Kunstlicht,no.3, 2011, pp.38–49; Noit Banai, ‘Sensorial Techniques of the Self from the Jouissance of May ‘68 to the Economy of the Delay’ in Daniel J. Sherman and others (eds.), The Long 1968, Indianapolis 2013, pp.293–323;Michel Wlassikoff, L’Affiche en heritage, Paris 2008.
  • 4. Laurent Gevereau has written: ‘Certains parlent de l’influence des affiches cubaines ou de l’école polonaise (Tomaszewski, Lenica, Cieslewicz). D’autres évoquent la gravure expressionniste ou les fenêtres Rosta de Malevich ou Maïakowski, pendant la guerre civile en Russie (contrairement à une idée répandue, il faut attendre 1919 et surtout 1920 et 1921 pour que le graphisme russe change.) D’autres encore pensent au dessin ramassé et drôle d’un Savignac ou à l’utilisation du graffiti par Dubuffet. Il nous semble en tout cas que les travaux du pop-art et l’utilisation par Andy Warhol de la sérigraphie (portraits de Marilyn Monroe en 1967 par ce procédé) ont dû avoir une influence.’ See Gevereau 1998, pp.160–71.
  • 5. See Raymond Aron, La Révolution introuvable, Paris 1968.
  • 6. See Jean-Pierre Duteuil, Mai 68: Un mouvement politique, Paris 2008.
  • 7. Kristin Ross, May ‘68 and its Afterlives, Chicago 2002, p.15.
  • 8. ‘In 1965–1966 one aspect of the term [pop art] shifted again, away from the second phase of its use, which is what the dictionary recorded. It was returned to the continuous and nonexclusive culture which it was originally supposed to cover. The term leaked back to the environment, much as Allan Kaprow’s term Happenings spread to apply to everything and anything. Both words were taken up and used so promiscuously that pop art was de-aestheticized and re-anthropologized.’ Lawrence Alloway, American Pop Art, New York 1974, p.18. As early as 1958 Alloway was theorising British pop art as part of a network of mass media communications: ‘the definition of culture is changing as a result of the pressure of the great audience, which is no longer new but experienced in the consumption of its arts. Therefore, it is no longer sufficient to define culture solely as something that a minority guards for the few and the future (though such art is uniquely valuable and as precious as ever). Our definition of culture is being stretched beyond the fine art limits imposed on it by Renaissance theory, and refers now, increasingly, to the whole complex of human activities. Within this definition, rejection of the mass produced arts is not, as critics think, a defense of culture but an attack on it. The new role for the academic is keeper of the flame; the new role for the fine arts is to be one of the possible forms of communication in an expanding framework that also includes the mass arts’. Lawrence Alloway, ‘The Arts and the Mass Media’, Architectural Design, vol.28, no.2, February 1958, pp.84–5.
  • 9. For more recent analyses of this feedback loop see Sarah Doris, Pop Art and the Contest Over American Culture, Cambridge MA 2007; Hal Foster, The First Pop Age, Princeton 2012; and Thomas Crow, The Long March of Pop, New Haven 2015.
  • 10. According to cultural theorist Stuart Hall the contrasting uses of popular culture show the term to refer less to concrete attributes than to a ground that is contested in processes that legitimise social hierarchies: ‘Popular culture is neither, in a “pure” sense, the popular traditions of resistance to these processes; nor is it the forms which are superimposed on and over them. It is the ground on which the transformations are worked.’ See Stuart Hall, ‘Notes on Deconstructing “the Popular”’ in John Storey (ed.), Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, New York 1998, p.443.
  • 11. See Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, ‘1968: The Crisis and Renewal of Capitalism’, The New Spirit of Capitalism, New York 2005, p.170.
  • 12. For a thorough and recent account of the initial unfolding of the events see Julian Bourg, From Revolution to Ethics: May 68 and Contemporary French Thought, Montreal 2007.
  • 13. ‘L’idée était de l’apporter dans une galerie amie pour la vendre. Mais on n’a pas fait dix mètres dans la rue, les étudiants se les ont arrachées et les ont colées sur les murs eux-mêmes. Alors nous avons compris : évidemment, c’est ça l’idée, c’est à ça qu’il faut que ça serve ! Nous sommes vite remontés.’ Laurent Gervereau, ‘L’Atelier Populaire de l’ex-École des Beaux-Arts : Entretien avec Gérard Fromanger’ in Dreyfus-Armand and Gervereau 1998, p.184.
  • 14. Ibid., p.187.
  • 15. See Atelier Populaire présenté par lui-même, p.10.
  • 16. The ateliers differed in their political orientation. On the communist emphasis at the Atelier Populaire and at the École des arts décoratifs see Gervereau, ‘L’Art au service du movement’.
  • 17. ‘1. Il fait ce qu’il veut, il croit tout possible, il n’a de comptes à rendre qu’à lui-même ou à l’Art. 2. Il est “créateur” c’est-à-dire qu’il invente de toutes pièces quelque chose d’unique, dont la valeur serait permanente au-dessus de la réalité historique Il n’est pas un travailleur aux prises avec la réalité historique. L’idée de création irréalise son travail.’ Ibid., pp.8–9.
  • 18. ‘Précisions que ce n’est pas une meilleure mise in relation des artistes avec les techniques modernes que les reliera mieux à toutes les autres catégories de travailleurs, mais l’ouverture aux problèmes des autres travailleurs, c’est-à-dire à la réalité historique du monde dans lequel nous vivons’. Ibid., p.9.
  • 19. On the influence of Louis Althusser’s writings on the Salon de la Jeune Peinture see Sami Siegelbaum, ‘The Riddle of May ‘68: Collectivity and Protest in the Salon de la Jeune Peinture’, Oxford Art Journal, vol. 35, no.1, 2012, pp.53–73; and Francis Parent and Raymond Perrot, Le Salon de la Jeune Peinture: Une histoire 1950–1983, Paris 1983.
  • 20. ‘Déplacer le débat du plan esthétique, c’est-à-dire du plan des rapports entre l’art et l’histoire de l’art, pour le placer sur le seul plan qui nous intéresse, celui des rapports entre l’art et l’histoire’; ‘dans quelle mesure, si petite quelle soit, la peinture participe-t-elle au dévoilement historique de la vérité? Quel est le pouvoir de l’art aujourd’hui dans le devenir du monde?’. Catalogue du 17eme Salon de la Jeune Peinture, Paris 1965, unpaginated.
  • 21. My interpretation of this work is indebted to Jill Carrick’s article ‘The Assassination of Marcel Duchamp: Collectivism and Contestation in 1960s France’, Oxford Art Journal, vol.31, no.1, 2008, pp.1–25.
  • 22. ‘La Fin Tragique de Marcel Duchamp’, reproduced in Gérald Gassiot-Talabot, Pierre Gaudibert and Bernard Lamarche-Vadel (eds), Figurations (1960–73), Paris 1973, p.10–14. Translation provided in Carrick 2008, p.13.
  • 23. ‘La brusque rupture de Marcel Duchamp avec la peinture à l’huile ne s’accompagne, en effet, d’aucun renversement de perspective. De l’objet cubiste, entièrement construit par l’action constituante du peintre, à l’objet manufacturé touché seulement, comme à distance par la signature, il n’y a pas de dépassement de la notion traditionnellement démiurgique de “l’acte créateur”’; ‘la nouveauté ne remet rien en question. Excitante et calmante, elle force la sensibilité et par conséquent l’exténue. La nouveauté énerve; elle retire à la vie le nerf de la guerre’. ‘Comment s’en débarrasser, ou un an plus tard’, Aujourd’hui, Paris 1966.
  • 24. Art historian Didier Semin has written: ‘Cette esthétique nous paraît désormais un hapax, une exception sans descendance. Elle l’est en effet, mais on aurait tort de mésestimer son impact sur l’époque, ou sa résonance avec elle.’ Didier Semin, ‘Karl Marx, Savignac et Saint Françoise’, Les Affiches de mai 68, exhibition catalogue, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dole, Dole 2008, p.38.
  • 25. Victoria H.F. Scott has noted that this work implicitly associated the silkscreen with the notion of liberty. See Scott 2010, p.131.
  • 26. ‘J’ai eu beaucoup de déception en voyant un jour les oeuvres véritables. Cela m’a appris quelque chose : les méthodes modernes d’incorporation de l’espace pictural dans l’imprimerie ont beaucoup d’importance. On fait une oeuvre non seulement avec un pinceau ou une truelle, mais aussi avec une machine à imprimer, avec un appareil photo, avec n’importe quel moyen moderne que le monde met à notre disposition. cela m’a condiut à inventer mon propre métier.’ Martial Raysse quoted in Alain Jouffroy, Martial Raysse, Paris 1996, p.24.
  • 27. Pierre Restany, ‘La Mec-art: una pittura meccanica alla ricerca d’una iconografia moderna’, Essere,no.4, November 1967, http://www.archiviogiannibertini.org/en/component/content/98.html?task=view, accessed 20 October 2013.
  • 28. Rougemont remembers travelling throughout France with Warhol and Fred Hughes to visit Baron Philippe de Rothschild in the 1970s. Guy de Rougemont, interview with the author, 15 June 2012.
  • 29. See Daniel Marchesseau (ed.), Rougemont: Espaces publiques et arts décoratifs, Paris 1990.
  • 30. Guy de Rougemont, interview with the author, 15 June 2012.
  • 31. ‘la plus jeune, la plus moderne, la plus prometteuse’. Stéphanie Durand-Gallet, ‘Éric Seydoux, Sérigraphe Maître d’art’, Arts & Métiers du Livre, no.271, March–April 2009, p.24.
  • 32. ‘A ce moment là, les affiches de l’Ecole étaient tirées en lithographie, à des cadences très lentes. Personne ne connaissait la technique de la sérigraphie. Avec le matériel de Guy, le soir même nous avons tiré une première affiche, devant une assistance médusée, avec des cadences qui paraissaient très rapides.’ Éric Seydoux, email correspondence with Victoria H.F. Scott. I thank Victoria H.F. Scott for sharing this email with me.
  • 33. Gérard Fromanger remembered: ‘Il y a là Rougemont, qui vient d’arriver de New York et connaît la sérigraphie, et un jeune sérigraphe, Eric Seydoux, qui apporte le premier cadre de sérigraphie de l’atelier populaire des Beaux-Arts et qui commence à tirer des planches. On est 200 devant lui, parmi lesquels 15 ou 20 peintres, et on trouve ça magique, miraculeux. On se rend compte qu’on n’a pas besoin de machine offset.’ Gérard Fromanger, ‘L’art c’est ce qui rend la vie plus intéressante que l’art’, Libération, 14 May 1998, p.43.
  • 34. As art historian Francis Parent has observed, the technicité of the silkscreen made it well suited to the moment: ‘La sérigraphie, elle … suppose une esthétique relativement plus pauvre, mais une technicité sommaire dans sa réalisation et peut supporter des tirages considérables. Tous éléments qui auraient dû placer d’évidence cette technique comme princeps dans la situation d’alors.’ Francis Parent and Raymond Perrot, Le Salon de la Jeune Peinture: Une Histoire1950–1983, Paris 1983, p.80.
  • 35. ‘Les affiches de l’Atelier Populaire des Beaux-Arts sont plus proches d’une expression ouvriériste de mai empruntée à 36, que de l’insolance libertaire du printemps 68.’ See ‘Le Style de mai’ in Les Affiches de mai 68, exhibition catalogue, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dole, Dole 2008, p.46.
  • 36. ‘The real revolutionary media during May were the walls and their speech … The street is, in this sense, the alternative and subversive form of the mass media, since it isn’t, like the latter, an objectified support for answerless messages, a transmission system at a distance.’ Jean Baudrillard, ‘Requiem for the Media’ in The New Media Reader, Cambridge MA 2003, pp.283–4.
  • 37. See Scott 2010, p.152.
  • 38. Art historian Hal Foster has described pop art’s confounding of manual and mechanical representation as a paradox of ‘the handmade readymade’. See Hal Foster, ‘Roy Lichtenstein, or the Cliché Image’, The First Pop Age: Painting and Subjectivity in the Art of Hamilton, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Richter, and Ruscha, Princeton 2014.
  • 39. Hervé Télémaque has stated: ‘On doit la présence de l’épiscope à Paris à Ileana Sonnabend: elle connaissait son usage grâce à Lichtenstein, à New York. Elle arrive à Paris et s’intéresse à Daniel Pommereulle, qu’elle perçoit comme un Français pur à l’esprit froid, un fils de Duchamp. Elle fait venir de New York à son intention un épiscope et il l’utilise pour trois, quatre tableaux magnifiques. Comme je le fréquente à cette époque, Daniel – qui ne sait pas dessiner – me montre l’épiscope et me dit “Ileana m’a fait venir cet instrument magique”. J’en achète donc un, très simple, une boîte de rien du tout que j’ai ensuite revendu à Rancillac. L’épiscope est un instrument passif mais c’est en même temps, un magnifique “composeur”. J’ai comris qu’on pouvait composer avec l’épiscope, agrandir, agir par là, à droite, à gauche, mais ce n’es pas un instrument pour aider à dessiner puisqu’il annule l tout-subjectif. Tu mets une photo dessous, mal projetée. Mais son côté négatif est intréssant puisque cela oblige à passer ensuite au dessin. Mon tableau Piège 1964 illustre clairement mon “passage” à l’épiscope et son utilisation par notre génération d’artistes: véritable outil de travail ne risquait-il pas d’être un asservissement? Pour ma part, je le l’abandonne quelques années après.’ Jean-Paul Ameline and Bénédicte Ajac, ‘Entretien avec Hervé Télémaque’ in Figuration Narrative: Paris 1960–1972, Paris 2008, pp.332–3.
  • 40. ‘Le regardeur est obligé de choisir un parti de vision et par conséquent d’engagement. Ici le confort, la tourture là.’ Bernard Rancillac, Le regard idéologique, Paris 2000, p.216.
  • 41. Sarah Wilson, The Visual World of French Theory: Figurations, New Haven 2010, p.81.
  • 42. Barthes wrote: ‘It is the category of the “real”, and not its various contents, which is being signified; in other words, the very absence of the signified, to the advantage of the referent, standing alone, becomes the true signifier of realism. An “effet de reel”, (a reality effect) is produced, which is the basis of that unavowed “vraisemblance” which forms the aesthetic of all the standard works of modernity.’ Roland Barthes, ‘The Reality Effect’ in Tzvetan Todorov (ed.), French Literary Theory Today, Cambridge 1982, p.16.
  • 43. ‘Quand tant de photographes s’ingénient à singer la peinture vient un peintre qui prêt son génie à singer la photographie … Cette peinture qui fait pléonasme avec une image, dénonce que cette image fait pléonasme avec le monde’; ‘[L’image de l’image] fait voir la bévue inhérente à la vision quotidienne, au regard distrait qui transforme en “actualité” – inactuelle tout ce qu’il saisit.’ Pierre Bourdieu, ‘L’image de l’image’ in Bernard Rancillac: L’année 1966, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Blumenthal-Mommaton, Paris 1967.
  • 44. Rancillac considered works such as Vivre et laisser mourir ‘ancien figuration’. Bernard Rancillac, interviews with the author, 25 March 2011 and 9 June 2012. In Le regard idéologique Rancillac contrasted the engagement of Figuration Narrative with pop’s passivity: ‘ainsi, les artistes engagés de la Nouvelle Figuration européen ont-ils tiré des artistes pop américains l’essentiel de la technique du report photographique, qui n’a rien à voir avec le rendu photographique, mais qui a radicalement renouvelé l’expression du réalisme en l’actualisant.’ Bernard Rancillac, Le regard idéologique, Paris 2000, p.188.
  • 45. On Cuba Colectiva see Carrick 2008. On the relevance of Cuban graphic design and Jim Fitzpatrick’s Photostat poster Viva Che for the Atelier Populaire see Thomas Crow, The Long March of Pop: Art, Music and Design 1930–1995, New Haven 2014, pp.336–40.
  • 46. ‘Ce Cohn-Bendit, parce qu’il est juif et allemand, se prend pour un nouveau Karl Marx’; ‘ces groupuscules dirigés par l’anarchiste allemand Cohn-Bendit’. See http://www.arte.tv/fr/1929636,CmC=1929644.html, accessed 22 October 2015.
  • 47. Bernard Rancillac, interview with the author, 8 June 2012. ‘Nous sommes tous …’ was thus not made, as is sometimes stated (see Laurent Gervereau), with the photo-silkscreen but rather using the opaque projector and hand-drawn silkscreen design.
  • 48. Jacques Rancière, ‘The Cause of the Other’, Parallax, vol.4, no.2, April 1998, p.30.
  • 49. Lawrence Alloway, American Pop Art, New York 1974, p.114.
  • 50. Rancière 1998, p.30.
  • 51. Michael Lobel, Image Duplicator: Roy Lichtenstein and the Emergence of Pop Art, New Haven 2002, p.103.
  • 52. Andy Warhol quoted in Benjamin Buchloh, ‘Andy Warhol’s One-Dimensional Art’, in Neo-Avantgarde and Culture Industry, Cambridge MA 2003, p.496.
  • 53. ‘Faut-il en conclure que pour jouer un rôle si petit soit-il, dans la lutte idéologique, l’art doit se réduire à ses formes les plus simples? Il serait étrange de penser que pour être efficace il doive s’amputer de la plus grande partie de ses moyens. La dernière et la plus positive des expériences que nous avons faite pose donc plus de problèmes qu’elle n’en résout.’ See ‘Le style de mai’, in Les Affiches de mai 68, exhibition catalogue, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dole, Dole 2008, pp.50–1.


A version of this paper was presented at the Global Pop symposium at Tate Modern on 14 March 2013.

Liam Considine is Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History at Hamilton College.

Tate Papers, Autumn 2015 © Liam Considine

Tate Papers (ISSN 1753-9854) is a peer-reviewed research journal that publishes articles on British and modern international art, and on museum practice today.

How to cite

Liam Considine, 'Screen Politics: Pop Art and the Atelier Populaire', Tate Papers, no.24, Autumn 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/24/screen-politics-pop-art-and-the-atelier-populaire, accessed 15 August 2018.

Tate Papers (ISSN 1753-9854) is a peer-reviewed research journal that publishes articles on British and modern international art, and on museum practice today.