Yves Laloy

1920, Rennes – 1999, Cancale


Born in Rennes where he trained to be an architect, Yves Laloy was forced to leave the city in 1955 because of insulting letters he sent to the chief of police. He thus abandoned his career and his family and travelled through North Africa by bike, and in Egypt in particular, where he was imprisoned, accused of being a spy. In 1961, continuing an artistic and mystical quest, he embarked on a journey to the frozen wastes of Newfoundland, where he experimented with the difficult conditions under which sailors live. “Stay on terra firma: never! Better to have your head in the clouds and pass for an artist”. Like his adventurous journey, his works, which defy pigeonholing, are rooted on different shores. For almost 40 years, he would devote his time as much to the representation of figurative compositions filled with strange creatures and enlivened by phonetic games as to the painting of extremely complex geometric pictures. Described as a surrealist artist by André Breton, who greatly admired his work, Y. Laloy refused to affiliate with the movement. Yet he remained close to the Surrealists, especially by way of linguistic wordplay and the association of images for which he is best known.
At the Musée des beaux-arts and at the Frac Bretagne, we find two witty pictures which play with homophones. On the one hand, two round faces, like peas, have small fish for eyes. In this picture, which was chosen by A. Breton to illustrate the cover of Le Surréalisme et la Peinture, we can see either “little gold fish” or “little green peas” (1959).
At the Frac Bretagne, Tel est faune et moi dès queue possible (1959-1960) which stems from the same phonetic game sees this mythical creature with its tail shaped like a telephone formulate a daily injunction. A little further on, however, we find a composition titled Sans titre (1952), which Y. Laloy painted a few years earlier in a quite different formal language, that of abstraction. Made up of diagonals and obtuse angles, this assemblage of colorful shapes was compared by A. Breton to the sand pictures made by the Navajos, even though Y. Laloy had never travelled to their lands, or made any claim to such a reference.

Les petits pois sont verts… les petits pois sont rouges, 1959

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes

Oil on canvas

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes


Sans Titre, around 1952

Frac Bretagne

Oil on canvas

Private collection


Tel est faune et moi dès queue possible, 1959-1960

Frac Bretagne

Oil on canvas

Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes