These photographs are part of a body of works by singular and major figures, known and unknown, constituted to introduce students to the artists who were at the foundation of the art of the twentieth century. Taking a historical perspective, this collection positions gender issues, identified by the gender studies of the 1990s, as already present in artistic photographic practices, particularly very early ones, which were transgressive and ambiguous.
Rediscovered several years ago, Marcel Bascoulard is an enigmatic figure. The works he exchanged to eke out a living were shown in Paris in 2015, at the Halle Saint Pierre (Les cahiers dessinés) then in 2016 at Galerie Gaillard, in a retrospective in Bourges in 2018, and that same year at Punta della Dogana for the exhibition Dancing with Myself. Bascoulard spent his life dressed as a woman, wearing clothes he designed and made.
This is what Mathilde Marchant has written about him: “Of Marcel Bascoulard, the vagrant, the tramp, the curiosity of Bourges, what will be remembered are the drawings, the photographs, and the far from ordinary life. Rebellious, inquisitive, penniless, cultured, awkward, meticulous, anti-conformist, and talented: in short, a living legend. Here are few, often repeated, words about him: a father murdered by a mother who is finally committed to a psychiatric hospital (1932); an abandoned house, the cabin of a truck or a hut as a home (from 1936); a few classes at the Beaux-Arts; hundreds of Chinese inks of the town of Berry—ordinary ‘potboilers’ very much loved by the locals; photographic portraits in “women’s clothing” (from 1942); items of clothing made by him; many poems; a tricycle as a way of getting around; and a tragic death (1978).”
Although he himself never pressed the shutter, Marcel Bascoulard, the model-photographer, meticulously orchestrated and annotated all of his photographic portraits, with only one of each ever printed, to be seen only by those closest to him.