Bernard de Bages (1941), painter, assembler and etcher

‘Painting helps me breath. I can be found in my workshop every single day.’

Bernard de Bages
I paint on wooden panels that I assemble from old  boards. The touch and the scent of wood have a special attraction to me; it’s a sensual relationship. My favorite wood comes from the plane tree, but it is a heavy material, which is difficult to find.’
old boards
‘In the “Golf du Lion” where I live, the naval carpenters use plane tree precisely for it’s heavy weight to build the rudder of the Catalans boats. ’
Golf de Lion

‘In this tough region of the Mediterranean I feel at home. The rules are set by the wind the Mistral (the Tramontane). This wind can blow for three, six or nine days in a row without rest. It has a kind of magic to it, like a gigantic power, cleaning everything on its way. Then, the air is pure, the light wonderful and the colors intense.’


‘The Mistral does something to me. During these periods, I often apply the paint directly with my fingers on the wood, mostly primary colors. On the side I also draw portraits and childish scenes, just for fun. ’

‘After these extremely expressive moments, follow the reflection. I concentrate, pick up a nice “walnut wood” board on which I carefully and methodically set lines, blocks and intersections.’
blocks and intersections
‘A bit later, I put this introvert work aside and go on with more freedom.It is a rhythm, like the wind. The Mistral is followed by the Marin, a rather calm wind coming from the see, which softens the atmosphere with a light fog. The two elements are opposed but together they form a balance.’
la vie sentimentale de Néné, bourrelier de son état

One often has the feeling that several things happen simultaneously in Bernard de Bages’ paintings. Figures and forms seem to enter the boards and the etches: some reflecting jolly thoughts, other with a touch of melancholy. He himself recognizes something of the Middle Age simultaneous theatre.


‘Some scenes can be tragic, while holding a comical dimension. I have good laughs on my own in my workshop. It’s a fact that life is made out of unforeseen accidents. The best way to live in harmony is to go with the flow, to laugh and to cry about it. When one can tell about his sorrow with humor it’s even better, it’s the manner to outgrow it.’

* South of France, Languedoc-Roussillon



Interview by Mirthe Blussé

translation by Charlotte de Bruijn