The French modernist artist Jean-Charles Blais was born in Nantes (Loire-Atlantique) on October 22, 1956. At eighteen he was enrolled at the "École des Beaux-Arts" in Rennes, where he studied art for five years between 1974 to 1979. Beginning in the early 1980s Jean-Charles Blais focused on the art of the Nouveaux Réalistes, Pop-Art and Arte Povera of Mario Merz, especially the works of the so-called "affiches arrachées", i.e, "torn posters," which had a fundamental influence on Blais' work.
Jean-Charles Blais began to paint on recycled materials, including posters, cans, cardboard boxes and sheets of newspaper. In 1982, he painted only on torn off posters, using the irregular surface to guide him in the painting of his characters, The surface defects, which removed an element of freedom, determined his compositions. His first characters are generally large men who occupy a large part of the pictorial space. The faces are always hidden, a characteristic which transforms the figures into heavy silhouettes. Later works of this genre subsequently refined the appearance, but the identity of the subject is still missing. In the art of Jean-Charles Blais of this period, his figures are no longer characters but objects, their bodies are pieces of painting.
The 1984 painting Le Fumeur, or "The Smoker," is of this latter category. We do not have a silhouette, but a large figure, with a small head, any personality hidden by a large hand holding a cigar and a great puff of smoke billowing forth from the hidden mouth of the anonymous smoker.
The piece is a pastel on paper, 32 cm x 26 cm.