The thrill of life

Evelyne Axell

The 1960s were one of the most innovative periods of the 20th century. The exchange of ideas on liberalism, pop culture, femininity and self-consciousness created an extraordinary dynamic in which Evelyne Axell's creativity could flourish. The mythical artist does not just stand for her art, she stands for a way of being. Or what Pierre Restany calls the thrill of life.

Evelyne Axell - "Le beau châssis" (1967)

Axell was one of the few female pop artists in Europe. Despite her far too short career, she managed to distinguish herself with an extremely personal and original iconography. She initially started out as a theatre and film actress in the Nouvelle Vague scene. It quickly became clear to her that, as a female performing artist, she was subject to the male gaze, which would obstruct her creativity too much. She then devoted herself to painting, under the wing of René Magritte.

Above all, my world is an unconditional joie de vivre, in spite of its aggressive aspect. My motive is clear: nudity and femininity reflect a vision of the world in favor of a bio-botanical freedom, that is a freedom that resists both frustration and gradual binding, and one that is willing to accept only the restrictions it imposes upon itself.

“Le beau châssis” (“The beautiful framework”) is an unprecedented audacious work of art. It is not a painting in the classical sense. The painting appears to be on the back. What we see is only a shadow of the depicted. Sensual contours suggest an anonymous woman, normally subject to the viewer’s gaze, but this time she turns her back on us. Unlike the naked canvas, the framework is vividly covered in bright colors. The ambiguous title not only refers to the chassis, but is used in the French language as an objectifying reference to feminine beauty.


Axell creates a dreamy image with a touch of eroticism in which she incorporates surrealism and humor. Pin-ups and seductresses are objectified by her fellow male pop artists into excesses of the consumer society, a product of the masses. Axell manages to reclaim this image of the woman, a woman who is free and unbound.

Lot 340. See detail

Auction 21 May 2022

Contemporary, Modern and Old Masters

1st part at 1PM : lot 1 - 388
2nd part at 7:30PM : lot 389 - 602

Viewing days from 11 May 2022 until 18 May 2022
Open daily between 10AM and 7 PM