Coulon, Berthe

Grande levée du corps
  • Grande levée du corps
  • Foule de pélerins se rendant à Compostelle
  • Les oiseaux sans nid
  • La maison du crime
  • Foule vert foncé
  • Les colloqués
  • Portrait of Berthe Coulon

Grande levée du corps

Berthe Coulon, "Grande levée du corps", ca 1970, oil on canvas, 206 x 214 cm, photo : Claude Bornand, Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne


Coulon, Berthe,

(1897-1979), Belgium


Berthe Coulon (1897–1979) was born in Brussels, Belgium, in a very cultured environment. Her father was an artist and her mother, a musician, loved painting. She studied and later taught piano and art history at the Université libre de Bruxelles. In 1923, she married Gaston Verhuyck, a famous impresario. The couple socialized with great composers such as Maurice Ravel, Erik Satie, Arthur Honneger, and Béla Bartók. Coulon was a gifted performer, but refused to play in public throughout her life.

At the age of seventy, she suddenly started painting, without ever having trained. For twelve years, she devoted herself to painting, producing more than 350 large-format canvases.

Her favourite subject matter was the depiction of dense crowds at sporting events or during pilgrimages. Her canvases are painstakingly filled with faces that all have the same expression. The events in question — plays, cycling races or football matches — are a pretext for the creation of closely packed, colourful crowds, who in turn become our focus. We see these crowds framed and placed at a distance by barriers and bleachers, creating a staged effect. The variations on this theme symbolically evoke the author’s feelings of confinement, loneliness, and her anxiety about overpopulation.

Coulon used oil paint, which she applied in precise flat areas of pure colour, refusing to follow the rules of perspective in her compositions.


Exhibition(s) at the Art Brut Collection