Prints : Berthet

"Un soir à l’Atomium" - Philippe Berthet

"Un soir à l’Atomium" - Philippe Berthet


Philippe Berthet is renowned for his drawings of women. Moreover, he has a marvellous sense of graphic composition that enables him to incorporate, with grace and conviction, one of his lovely ladies, a Vespa, a thousand and one paving stones and, of course, the Atomium in one seamlessly composed image. The resulting print is further enhanced by a delicate and sophisticated approach to colour.

The artist behind “Privé d’Hollywood” (with a scenario by Yann) has a marked flair for conveying the particular ambience of the ’forties and ’fifties. While he has a predilection for American settings, it seems obvious that his works could equally well be set in the Europe of the same period; especially since many of the hopes and the dreams of the old continent had American overtones. The Atomium, a symphony of metal composed as a hymn to progress, represented such a dream. “For us, it is first and foremost our Eiffel Tower, ahead of representing an atom molecule” explains the artist behind “Pin Up.” “Along with 1515, year of the battle of Marignan, 1958 is one of those rare dates that holds real significance for me. Not only does it bear witness to the mania for everything “Atomic” that characterised the time, but it stands primarily as a resolutely modern piece of sculpture.”

It’s a source of some surprise to Philippe Berthet that the ambassadors of “Atomic Style” in the land of bande dessinée are André Franquin (who would, no doubt, have loathed being confined to a particular era, especially one that is considered to be over) and Yves Chaland (“Bob Fish”, “Freddy Lombard” and “Jeune Albert”), the artist who came closest to the Holy Grail of a modernised “Ligne claire” style. “Franquin was the forerunner” says Berthet, “and Chaland was the one who most restored its spirit. I can’t help feeling that this “style” died at the same time (1990) as its most ardent exponent.”

If it is true that the artist responsible for “Pin Up” is the kind of person who takes on all challenges, he happily confides, in relation to the Atomium, that “It’s an “inspiring” theme by reason of the wealth of images that come with it, but also “paralysing” for the same reason.” He made one of those discoveries that are revealed through observation. “The Atomium is first of all a circle, and thus a curve. I felt that showing a young woman on a Vespa (a cult object in its day, and itself all curves) was apt. I just needed to place it in the right setting. Those plump cobblestones and the curving lines of those puddles, so typically Belgian, were the obvious choice. The observer is free to imagine how this young tourist, of German-Dutch background, whose clothes are from Paris and who sits astride an Italian moped, is brought to discover the Atomium for herself. She evokes, at first glance, an allegory of the new Europe.”