Spending time with: Jean Corti – Mural Artist / Restorer


He has always known he would follow his desire to become an artist, and more precisely a mural artist, painting and restoring. A native of Ajaccio, who returned to live here after having spent his youth in Paris.
Do it with passion or not at all‘ – a quote that immediately comes to mind when listening to what he has to say.

Retrospectively speaking, this is a family affair.
His great-great grandfather Philippe Bassoul was an artist, and also his son Jean-Baptiste Bassoul whose paintings can be found in the Fesch Museum – without forgetting Jean’s own father, who was to follow the footsteps of his elders – we can easily perceive immersion from an early age.

In Ajaccio, he had the opportunity to meet Jean Bourgoin, from Monaco. They started to work together, following this, he went to Strasbourg to continue working with him – this was around 1990. Today, paintings and frescoes can still be found there. This is the start of what would be an important period of effort and undertaking, especially pictorial and restoration.
Other destinations would include Toulon, where he had the pleasure of benefitting from experience at the Atelier Boeuf, and creating ‘The Assumption’ for the Chapelle St Antoine de Notz. We also need to take into account, that he has at least twenty years of practice behind him presently.
Closer to home, and in the Castagniccia, he has also given flight to his passion with Jérôme Sanguinetti, at the church in San Benedetto. But, it is important to note that Jean delights in working in many different ways; not only restoration/painting, but also composing his own type of personal expression, which represents abstract compositions. Presentations include exhibiting with Mario Sepulcre and André Subrero in Ajaccio, and also at the Pénitencier de Coti-Chiavari, (of which I have written in length some time ago).
When asked which he prefers accomplishing, his answer is straightforward and honest; he prefers to use his inspiration and produce, adding that this does not alter his continual eagerness for restoration.

Let’s return to restoration for a moment, as there are phases involved in this meticulous task
– cleaning, to start off with – in order to preserve the decor without altering it
– stabilising the base – only then, can the restoration begin

Of course there is a time factor. Just to give you an idea of the span, we could take for example a whole church, with two people working together – this would entail at least six months of consecration. As for partial restoration, it can take anything from one week to six months. Finally, for a concept we’re talking about give or take, one week.

If I were to give you a list of places where his restorations/revivals have taken place, it would indeed be extremely long – however, indications are necessary, so here is an attempted listing, taking into account the above mentioned:
Villa Aurélien in Fréjus, Hôtel de Paris in Monaco, Palais Jacques Coeur in Bourges, Théâtre Jeu de Paumes in Aix-en-Provence, Borne Les Mimosas Lavandou, La Ferté-Vidame. In Corsica: Novella, Bogorno, Piana, Cuttoli-Corticchiato, San Lorenzo, Afa – and with Mario Sepulcre for the Sainte-Croix in Corte, and St Pierre de Venaco.
When asked which one has been the most difficult to date, his reply indicates the church in Poggio d’Oletta, where restoration was particularly meticulous, using whitewash and oil, and very thin brushes.

Interesting to remark, today in Corsica there would be less than ten restorers.

So, out of all the paintings he has restored, I was wondering if he had a favourite piece, one he looked back on with a certain satisfaction and affection – there is indeed, in a small manor in Normandy with an attached tower, and where he had to deal with minute pieces.
Being an artist, I imagined he would automatically have a special choice that held an exclusive place in his heart – ‘The Piano’ by Nicolas de Staël, to add almost immediately the masterworks of Turner. It’s not easy to name a preferred artist, as so many have had influence and impact – nevertheless, two stand out: Rubens and Nicolas de Staël.

To end this interview, I would like to add a historical anecdote which could very well hold your attention I believe. In Ajaccio, there is a commemorative plate behind Napoléon’s grotto, which Jean’s grandfather Toussaint Barbolosi (Peri) and the Corsican community living in Argentina, had made for the first centenary of the death of Napoléon I – Toussaint Barbolosi spent thirty-six years of his life in this country. This ornate and artistic plate had been ordered by Mme. Fleury Tronquois, and sculpted by Piat and Régnier, to be melted down in the workshops of Messrs. Etienne and Durand, specialists in works of art. The association had been initiated within the Corsican community out of fraternity, and the will to promote and remember their island of Corsica. Always moving to learn more about the Corsicans abroad, so many indeed left, with many returning when possible at some point in their lives.                                    

‘There have been murals on walls throughout the world since as long as there have been people on earth’ – the relation to the natural environment and setting permits them to become both social and cultural, thus resulting in an ‘objet d’art’. Passion is such a driving force .. it continues to amaze me what can be achieved by those who follow their dreams.




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