Classic resurgence in contemporary painting: The filter of modernity

PhD in Art - visual arts / Supervisor Daniel Payot


Today, the rise of the classical is a reality in the art world, and the phenomenon is increasingly visible in contemporary painting. The classical reappears in very different ways from one work to another. Thus, what is at stake through this research is to observe how the classical distinguishes itself as it moves through the history of modern art which leads to the hypothesis of a “filter” of modernity. For that matter, the results are analyzed upon a set field framing the research, and leading to the painted work which for the circumstance is called “the pictured plane”.

These various process of the recurrence of the images are observed through their migration, regardless of their transformation and metamorphosis over time. Then, the research focuses on the ways the recurrence of these precedents (gathered in a present vivid time) places them again at the heart of the international art scene. Finally, this memory is studied through various settings according to history and geography.


The thesis is organized around six chapters.

The first one aims at defining the framework of our research which is conceptually built upon literary ideas. Then, the concrete observation is based upon paintings, some of them famous, whether classical, modern or contemporary.

The second chapter presents three study cases with paintings by Gérard Garouste, David Hockney and Martial Raysse. These three painters have all claimed a relation towards classicism.

In the following three chapters, the questions arise through the articulation between theoretical writings and chosen paintings. First, every theme is primarily based upon the writings of authors. Among them, those most frequently referred to are Honoré De Balzac, Hans Belting, Jean Clair, Thierry De Duve, Georges Didi-Huberman, Elie Faure, Catherine Grenier, Martin Heidegger, Nathalie Heinich, François Jullien, André Malraux, William Marx, Yves Michaux, Catherine Millet, Daniel Payot, Gaëtan Picon, Marcelin Pleynet, Marcel Proust, Aby Warburg, etc. Second, the research unfolds based upon a selected group of works that nurtures the coherence of the overall discussion. Among the numerous mentioned artists within a broad definition of the contemporary art time period, we explore the works of Francis Bacon, Balthus, Ali Banisadr, Giorgio de Chirico, Paul Delvaux, Stefano Di Stasio, Eric Fischl, Jeff Koons, Djamel Tatah, Zang Fanzhi, Wiley Kehinde, Antonio Lopez Garcia, Markus Lüpertz, Yan Pei-Ming, Yue Minjun, Mimmo Palladino, Guillermo Pérez Villata, Gerhard Richter, François Rouan, Jenny Saville, Zhang Xiaogang, Andy Warhol, etc.

The sixth and last chapter comes back to certain aspects of the overall questioning by confronting them, this time with the work of Philippe Guérin. This exercise allows the author of the thesis to redirect his research through an argumentation based directly upon his own practice.


Philippe Guérin

PhD in Art - visual arts, UNISTRA – ED.520 – Ecole Doctorale des Humanités, Strasbourg.

Supervisor : Daniel Payot, philosopher,

EA 3402 – Approches contemporaines de la création et de la réflexion artistique (ACCRA).


Résurgence classique dans la peinture contemporaine: le filtre de la modernité (


Hybridations confondues

in Kaleidoscopic city, 2017






"The second photograph was taken on a Sunday afternoon, in the centre of town, along the Yangzi Jiang river. The light is a little heavy in an atmosphere both sunny and grey, the uninterrupted traffic of boats animating the surface of the water. However, these movements are hardly visible from the banks so large is the river and immense the panorama. In the distance a few buoys, they are swimmers. One of them returns to the shore, where a child and two adults are standing, probably the parents. Again, I was impressed by this Chinese dimension, in which the very tall and the individual collide, solitary or in small groups, and hardly standing ou in this excess, that we feel is such because it is so different from our usual scale. Yet, there again, simultaneously and to my astonishment, I had a feeling of belonging by sliding among the townspeople who had come to enjoy this moment of peace very strongly perceptible. I therefore decided to shoot a few pictures. And the one illustrating my point in this article can evoke this View of Delft by Vermeer that I had presented a few days ago to the Chinese students of an architecture school in that same city of Wuhan."


« Hybridations confondues », in Kaleidoscopic city, C. Mazzoni, L. Fan, Y. Liu, Shanghai, published by La Commune, Paris, 2017, p. 205, 23

The Depth of the Surface

by Philippe Guérin, Teaching Reform Series on Architecture & Art Design in University,  2011, China


Looking back on the School of Architecture’s Experiment in Joint Teaching

Every year at the beginning of the fall semester, the School of Architecture holds in Arts Education Internship. During this period, second year students throw their easels on their backs and follow the instructor to a place of magnificent scenery and begin to capture the word in their art. 2010 was a little different than usual, as we invited Professor Philippe Guérin…


… After the course, I took the opportunity to take a survey and found that the vast majority of both students and teachers felt Professor Guérin’s reaching was quite interesting, different from their usual way of doing things, and brought many opportunities for imagination and speculation. In my mind, this is the virtue of joint teaching: the coming together and communication between different cultures bring new horizons to our education content, and exposure to a new education method gives our instructors new inspiration...


... Most importantly, thanks to all the students who took part in the activity, since it was their active participation that made the fruit of this activity able to be published in this form for the enjoyments of its readers!


Gong Kai, Professor, and Vice President of the School of Architecture, SEU, 2011 march 18th




Participating in this European contribution, to which you invited us and in which we still believe, represents a gesture of accomplishment and inner conviction which you, Chinese teachers and young students, will be able to put to good use in the future as a "breeding ground" in order to recreate links with your own culture - a culture that has unfortunately been mistreated at the end of the nineteenth and during the twentieth century. This "transplantation" will perhaps also be beneficial to us, all the more so as we will strive to achieve it with a little bit of knowledge and perfect honesty. The hybridisation of cultures has prevailed throughout history. in my opinion this fusion was the most important part of our project, and I firmly believed that we would manage to speak a common language. That common language is what allowed for dialogue and for our exchanges to be so interesting, despite the fact that our points of view on our own situations in China and Europe sometimes diverge. On the contrary, Thes différences of opinions can bring additional précisions and pertinence to our present exchanges, and maybe even help have a clear view of the issues that will drive us in the future.

Meeting with students in Nanjing School of Achitecture, Southeast University -  workshop, Sept. 2010
Meeting with students in Nanjing School of Achitecture, Southeast University - workshop, Sept. 2010


... The atmosphere of trust, curiosity and mutual understanding in wich we work today promotes and allows for the existence of this cultural and pedagogical exchange. Improvements ans proposuals for futher thought will nonetheless be necessary for the experience to continue. Thus, this work is first and foremost a tangible tool witch records the exchange and fuels the dialogue to alow us to develop our projects with an even greater degree of cooperation. It will also make the observation and the analysis of mid-term and long-term results of the Chinese students more relevant.

Firstly, our curiosity, with pertains to the tecniques they use and master, will apply more precisely to the thought process surrounding their future works and freedom they will allow themselves. Secondely, it ill be the task of our colleagues to transform these pedagogical methods accordingly with the needs of Chinese architecture schools, nedless to say, these needs will be evolving very quickly, especially it comes to art and culture.


Philippe Guérin

Teaching Reform Series on Architecture & Art Design in University. 2011

Southeast University of Nanjing, China

Le corps à l’édifice

by Philippe Guérin, Repères Cahier de danse, Novembre 2006

Under construction

Le corps à l'édifice / Projet pédagogique à l'ENSA Paris-Malaquais / Paris VIII - Chorégraphe Christophe Haleb - Crédit photographique Eric Garault -  Performence dans la cuisine collective de Ville Evrard, 2006
Le corps à l'édifice / Projet pédagogique à l'ENSA Paris-Malaquais / Paris VIII - Chorégraphe Christophe Haleb - Crédit photographique Eric Garault - Performence dans la cuisine collective de Ville Evrard, 2006