Michel Sima’s work with photographic portraits of artists began essentially in 1946. That year Sima followed the creative process for Pablo Picasso’s La joie de vivre. In doing so he not only documented the various stages in the artistic execution (as was his original intention), but also considered his work from the very outset as a holistic, personal representation of the artist and his oeuvre.
In the following years, he portrayed nearly all the artists at the École de Paris, artists such as Henri Matisse, François Picabia, Ossip Zadkine, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Cocteau, Tal Coat, Jean Arp, Marie Laurencin, Fernand Léger, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, André Derain, Kees van Dongen, Le Corbusier, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, and Alexander Calder.
Sima’s underlying affinity towards, and friendship with, those portrayed shone through in all of these artists’ portraits, not just in the photographs of Picasso. It expressed itself by capturing most sensitively the personality and work of each particular artist. The relationship established with both the work and the studio as part of his setup is also cleverly used to allow the portrayed artist to express himself, as it were.
The result is an idiosyncratic style of (artist) portraiture using the medium of photography, a unique documentation of the artists at the École de Paris, unequalled by any other photographer in
its cohesiveness and sensitivity.
Erika Billeter/Kuno Fischer (Hrsg.), Michel Sima - Künstler im Atelier, Benteli Verlag, Bern 2008 (ISBN 978-3-7165-1431-3), online order www.benteli.ch.