The founders: Maurice Rapin, Mirabelle Dors and Yak Rivais

a) Maurice Rapin (1924-2000)

  • With a scientific background, Maurice Rapin is considered a poet, theorist and painter
  • Born June 30, 1927 in a garage environment, Maurice Rapin has always felt a strong vocation as a painter, but to support himself, he went to the natural sciences. He is defending a thesis on “the metabolism of porphyrins observed using the fluorescence microscope”. At 20, he already graduated in science and obtained a scholarship at the Marine Biology laboratory in Roscoff, then he took up a position as professor of natural sciences at Lycée Carnot.
  • In 1952, he had 15 days free and created 12 paintings and exhibited in a gallery owned by André Breton who was called “A l’Etoile scellée”. He joined André Breton’s group and thereby received recognition that allowed him to start his career as a painter. In Breton’s group, he meets Mirabelle Dors. He married her in 1954. They both became angry with Breton when he joined the manifesto of “tachism” by abandoning the label “surreal”.
  • With Mirabelle Dors, Jacqueline and Jean-Pierre Duprey, Clovis Trouille and Magritte, he created the “Tendance Populaire Surréalistes” which was to lead, through publications and exhibitions, political combat and artistic activity (Mirabelle Dors and Rapin make surrealist publications and are joined by Magritte and Clovis Trouille.) There followed a long correspondence with Magritte for at least two years, as evidenced by the publication of the 42 letters.
  • In 1978, with Mirabelle Dors and Yak Rivais, he created the association “Figuration Critique” (Critical Figuration), for which he assumed the duties of Secretary and Treasurer, while Mirabelle Dors assumed the role of President. The first 3 years of Critical Figuration brought them terrifying difficulties. Rapin says they were the worst of his life. But the fair in 1992 was around 10,000 paying visitors, an extremely rare audience for a fair in those years. Following new financial difficulties in 1994, and after two years without exposure, the show was taken over by a new team. Mirabelle Dors died in 1999 and Maurice Rapin a year later in 2000
  • This text was established starting from a summary of texts of Lecointre Drouet, Etienne Ruhaud, and especially of the interview which Maurice Rapin granted to Jeanne Rivais in 1992 for the notebooks of painting n ° 268, and which are reported in the catalog of the Museum of Fine Arts of Mons, during an exhibition in 1992

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b) Mirabelle Dors (1913-1999)

  • born in 1913 (?) in Moldova into a French-speaking family, Mirabelle Dors entered the workshop of the sculptor Ludo at a very young age. She tries to animate surrealist groups in the East
  • In 1952, she came to France with her companion Ghérasim Luca (1913-1994), and she was welcomed by Breton
  • The presence in the Breton group is evidenced by a photo of the group of surrealists in the cafe in Place Blanche. See the photo below found on the site dedicated to André Breton
  • She met Maurice Rapin who in 1952 exhibited in the gallery “A l’Etoile Scellée”, owned by Breton’s wife
  • In 1954, she spoke out against the adhesion of surrealism to Charles Etienne’s “tachism”. It was in the same year 1954 that she married Rapin.
  • With Rapin and a few other artists of the group (including Clovis Trouille), she got closer to Magritte before founding the “Tendance populaire surréaliste”
  • The relationship with Magritte will last fifteen years, as evidenced by the book of their correspondence cited above
  • In 1977, she was President of the YOUNG PAINTING Salon for its 28th Salon. She will be excluded from this place following leftist political rivalries within the group.
  • In 1978, she founded with Rapin and Yak Rivais the Salon de Figuration Critique (Critical Figuration Salon), of which she was President from 1978 to 1994
  • “Enthusiastic and generous … rebellious and dissenting, she never accepted ready-made ideas, or dictates. For this reason, she separated very early from the surrealists whom she considered too sectarian. Of an immense culture, endowed with a flawless memory and a sharp intelligence, she created with Rapin a personal ethics and an esthetics to which she held all her life. She was a very convinced feminist activist ”. (Tribute from Jeanine Rivais in his blog, at the time of his death.)
  • Painter and sculptor, Mirabelle Dors brings out from her reliefs a profusion of shapes, faces or masks above all, which create a magical or nightmarish world. She also uses her reliefs, with Maurice Rapin, to generate -populations of images- “(General Dictionary of Surrealism and its surroundings. PUF, editor)

N.B. This brieve biography is a summary of the informations I was able to glean here and there in:

  • the very documented blog of Jeanine Rivais, who was for a time Secretary of the Critical Figuration group and who was very close to the couple. She did several direct interviews with one or the other, leaving us with first-hand information: jeaninerivais.fr
  • the literary blog of the writer Etienne Ruhaud
  • Last but not least, this big monograph dedicated to the couple (probably published in 1992), where one can find, in addition to the works of the two artists, a wealth of various information, and a very detailed autobiography of the life of Maurice Rapin.

c) Yak Rivais

  • Yak Rivais (pseudonym of Yannick Rivais) was born in Fougère in 1939
  • He is considered a writer who is mainly devoted to children’s literature
  • We can attribute to him no less than 76 novels and 12 essays
  • Although mainly known for his work as a writer, Yak Rivais was also a painter until 1982, a teacher until 1994, and again a painter since that date until now.
  • As an author, he began publishing books for adults as early as 1966. In 1984, Yak Rivais began writing for young people. His career then took off and he became a writer specialized in writing games. He received around 30 awards for his children’s books
  • His writings are essentially anchored on fantasy, storytelling in particular, and on word games.
  • He was President until 2007 of the Black Humor Awards
  • For artists who appreciate him and frequent him in Parisian art fairs, and whatever he can say on this subject, he is and will remain the founder of Critical Figuration with Maurice Rapin and Mirabelle Dors. Must we say (with humor) that he was there in the wrong place and at the wrong time. In any case, he is the one who will go with Rapin to file the statutes of the association at the Prefecture. In fact, he will only exhibit a few years at the very beginning of the salon …