Jean Duquoc is a French-born painter who draws inspiration from the land, seas and skies of Brittany. Duquoc was born in Nantes in northwest France in 1937. He enjoyed a happy childhood with his father who was an intellectual art and music lover and his mother who he revered was of rural background who loved farming and the outdoors.
In his early professional life, Duquoc was in advertising and art publishing and distinguished himself as a creator of art calendars in the medium of contemporary painting and reproduction art. It was at the age of 40 that he became a professional artist and is entirely self-taught.
Duquoc developed the need to paint in order to tell the story of Brittany where he lives. It is one of France’s most rugged regions and is a fascinating mix of spectacular coastline, ancient towns, magical islands and inland woods. While geographically part of France, Brittany’s soul remains its own much like Duquoc. He is closely tied to this region and likes to depict the more traditional Breton way of life in his paintings.
Duquoc’s first exhibition was in Guingamp, Brittany in 1972, and he has since exhibited extensively throughout Europe, the United States and Canada where his paintings have been acquired by private and corporate collectors. He has also participated in numerous professional art shows in France, England, Italy, Germany and Switzerland.
Recognized as a talented colourist, Duquoc has been published in many books and magazines throughout the world including Escales, Bretons and The Washington Times. In 1992, he was featured in the French documentary Our Land, Shared Emotion, profiling pastel-works of old rigging ships. In 2000, his painting Chemin Rouge Vers la Mer was selected as the official poster for the American Heart Association’s 2000 Gold Heart Gala. He has been the guest of honour at international events including the World’s Customs Organization 50th Anniversary in Brussels, Belgium.
“I developed the need to paint in order to tell the story of Brittany,” he recalls. Finding resonance with Van Gogh, Gauguin and the Fauves, Duquoc turned to simplified, lyrically abstracted forms and raw, unmixed colors in acrylic paint and oil pastels. Through the years he has sought to harness what he calls “color at its source.”
“My country is a very strong country and calls for strong colors,” he observes. “It is a country of strong contrasts. It is a meeting of land and sea. The result is impassioned, vivifying landscapes that convey not only emotional intensity but spiritual transcendence.”
Theme Focus: The Red Sun
A number of Duquoc’s recent paintings incorporate the theme of a red sun. For Duquoc, the red sun is a symbol of rebirth and a window to eternity. The artist incorporates the red sun into his paintings in memory of his brother, a dedicated ecologist. For Duquoc, the red sun radiates “the light of unity, of heaven and earth, but also the light of disruption.” Several of his paintings celebrate the spirit and strength of a French peasant woman, Marie, a close friend of the artist, who has since passed away.
An embodiment of the strength and beauty of a life lived close to the land, the heavy woman in traditional Brittany dress strides powerfully through the wind swept fields, toward the setting sun. She is always depicted from the back, walking away from the viewer, making her endless pilgrimage toward death, infinity, and the unknown. She represents the passing of a way of life. Duquoc is a poet as well as a painter, and gives expression in both words and painting to the passing of an era, the yielding of time-honored traditions to the pressures of modern life. He believes deeply in the importance of giving back, of making the world better for future generations. His greatest gift is giving expression to a land and an era, which while passing, remains timeless.