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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

José Roosevelt

José Roosevelt

"I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1958. An autodidact, I held my first exhibition at the age of twenty, in Brasilia. Already, my compositions were full of dream-like and symbolic images. In 1988, I had the opportunity to show my paintings and drawings in Europe. Two years later, I set up my atelier in Lausanne, Switzerland. Since then, I have shown my art in several countries: Switzerland, France, Italy, Belgium, Denmark and the United States. But painting is not my only activity: I have illustrated many books – notably Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – written and drawn some graphic novels, drawn a Tarot card deck, and published two catalogues of drawings and one of paintings."

José Roosevelt

José Roosevelt, painter, illustrator and author of graphic novels, is born in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), in 1958.
As he writes his graphic novel "L'Horloge" ("The Clock"), he creates a character named Juanalberto, who will give the name to this website. Juanalberto is a sort of mutant little man with a duck head, a clear homage to the great Carl Barks (1901 - 2000), he who inspired life to Donald Duck and his world through some masterpieces of the comics books, between 1942 and 1966.
Roosevelt begins his carrier with the comics. He learns how to read with the books written and drawed by Barks and try to do his first own comics at the age of eight.

Roosevelt is 15 years-old when he turns towards the painting. He is fascinated by the surrealism of Dalí, that he just discovered, and the fantasy art in general (Bosch, Brueghel, and the contemporary like Woodroffe and Roger Dean). He decides to try this mode of expression and paint his first canvas, in a completely auto-didactic way. He visits the museums and the art galleries and reads hundreds of books about painting history and technicals.

The comics-form stories pass to second plan: Roosevelt works almost all the time with the oil colours and create new paintings. However, from time to time, the first pages of a new graphic novel come to life, but most of these projects do not go beyound the first pages. Notwithstanding, they are full of mistery and fantasy, and their main quality is the will of testing the possibilities in this domain. Also, his influences have changed: from Barks and Hergé, they become more "adult": Kirby, Moebius, Drucker, Druillet. The french magazine Métal Hurlant (Heavy Metal in the U.S.A.) shows to him a new way to tell stories in a comics-book form.
Anyway, painting becomes the main activity of Roosevelt from 1977. Soon he does his first solo exhibition, in Brasília (october 1979). This exhibition is composed of thirty surrealist pictures, painted mostly in acrylics on canvas. Since the following year, the artist dedicates exclusively to his painting searchs. The new exhibitions show works of surrealistic inspiration side by side to photo-realists urban landscapes (in the manner of Ralph Goings and Don Eddy) and optical compositions inspired by the work of Chuck Close. The critics are, in general, enthousiastic. Roosevelt sells his canvas and is asked for some commands.

In 1985, it is the end of the searchs: the surrealism becomes definitively the basis of the Roosevelt's work. He develops an original laguage, a personnal mythology where the image of the human body is explored with a special attention to the details. Around the human subjects, we can see to grow pears and apples, dead trees, ancient books, flags, masks, fearies, framed paintings, over strange landscapes and bright skies. All of this composed with the rigour and balance inherited from the Renaissance art. The painter - now a confirmed profesional - begins to work with two of the most respected marchands in Brazil, Oscar Seraphico and André Blanchard.
In paralell of the painting, almost as a diletant work, a graphic novel is written and drawed by Roosevelt, between 1983 and 1986. Its title is "A Cidade" ("The City") and it is a black and white fable of 136 pages, inspired by the Albert Camus' theater play "L'Etat de Siège". "A Cidade" is the first novel that he will publish, five years later, in its french version "La Ville".

In 1987, the artist is invited to show his works in the Galerie Bleue "the swiss fantastic realism gallery". It is an opportunity to him to visit the Old World for the first time. He arrives in Europe in 1988 and stays fourteen months: he goes to Paris, Florence and Rome in order to visit the museums and the places of high artistic interest. Meanwhile he showed his paintings and watercolours in two other new successful exhibitions, in Fribourg (Switzerland) and Rome. The contact with the old and modern masters pieces is very profitable to Roosevelt's painting technics.
In this period, he knows Fabienne, who will become his wife two years later. In 1990, Roosevelt installs his atelier in Switzerland, at first in the Fribourg canton, after in Lausanne.

In the helvetic land, the artist practise essentialy oil painting and drawings. Many galleries and other exhibition rooms over Switzerland welcome his pictures, mainly in the cities of Yverdon, Fribourg, Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Geneva, Nyon... Roosevelt takes part of three group exhibitions of the International Centre of Fantastic Art of the Gruyères Castle, signing the posters of two of them (1991 and 1993). He does various illustrations: a Tarot card deck (1993), some novels (amongst them "Alice in Wonderland", in 1996) and posters to cultural manifestations, as the feary trips conceived by the Auge magicien, Hubert Audriaz.

Between 1997 et 1999, Roosevelt writes and draws "L'Horloge" ("The Clock"), graphic novel that he defines as a homage to the art of painting and literature. This work, divided in 12 chapters containing 12 pages each, is published by Les Editions Paquet, in three parts, between april 2000 and january 2001.
Besides his experience with the publication of "La Ville" ten years before, it is only now that Roosevelt will really join - as a professional - the world of the authors of graphic novels: he takes part of many festivals (most of all in France), he autographs his books in specialized bookshops, make exhibitions of the original drawings and paintings of "L'Horloge"...

Roosevelt is charmed of discovering the public of the "ninth art". He find it passioned, authentic, fresh, not yet devasteted by the distressing snobism that is typical of an important part of the fine arts panorama.
This enthousiasm is accompained by a new kind of inspiration: now, Roosevelt feel like writing other stories, fables with strange characters in magical worlds, without deviating of the line builded in "L'Horloge". In 2000, he writes the text of a new graphic novel, "La Table de Vénus" ("The Venus Slab"). Les Editions Paquet publish the first part of this work, which presents Juanalberto and his friends for the second time, in october 2001.

"La Table de Vénus" is, finnaly, published in its complete version by its author himself, after the rupture with his former editor in 2002. This big book (176 pages, 36 x 27 cm) is made in a limited edition of 1000 exemplairs and carry the label "Les Editions du Canard". The following year, another graphic novel is published under the same label, "Derfal le Magnifique". Also in 2003, Roosevelt pre-publishes in his website another long novel, "A l'Ombre des Coquillages" (Under the Shadow of the Shells"). In this same year, the new parisian edition house "La Boîte à Bulles" propose to publish all his graphic novels and a new edition of them is arriving to the bookshops. Till today, the books written by Roosevelt are available only in french language.

Even if the graphic novel occupies more and more an important place in the production of the artist, he did not abandoned the painting. He continues to take part of group exhibitions, like those of the Society of Fantastic Arts of Paris and the annual salon of the National Society of Fine Arts of France, and, more seldom, he produces solo exhibitions, mainly in Switzerland and France.

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