Just like the Place du Tertre in Paris, so Honfleur Port draws in crowds of varyingly-talented painters of all leanings who work under the respectful, or simply interested, scrutiny of tourists who simply love picturesque Normandy.

Fascinated by Honfleur, where he has lived since 1975, the watercolourist Jean-Louis Thibaut could not content himself with depicting the port alone, and decided to advocate with flare Eugène Boudin’s native town in all its slendour. The town is home to his studio where his surprising and brilliant watercolours take shape, born from a hyper-realist brushstroke of a rare quality.

It is true that s Jean-Louis Thibaut is not just any painter as he graduated from the 'Ecole Boulle' and 'Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs' in Paris. His works are exhibited in renowned salons and galleries both in Normandy and Paris, not forgetting the great interest shown by the international art market.

I must admit that I am amazed by his watercolours, not only because of their technical quality and incredible perfection in the details, but also because of the life and poetry that he succeeds in conveying within such a magic depiction of reality. Far from adopting the figurative, static style of photographs, Jean-Louis Thibaut brings to his portraits and landscapes an alternative light, as well as hitherto undiscovered sensations, and an atmosphere that is peaceful and yet sparkling with energy, delighting both the eyes and the mind.

André Ruellan
art critic

Sensitivity on top of it.

Hyperrealism is sometimes said to favour technique to the detriment of sensation. A watercolour virtuoso, Jean-Louis Thibault gives a completely different meaning to his work than that of a race to feat. It is emotion he is interested in. Whether painting on the motif or from a photograph, he immerses himself to the soul into the subject his hand will gradually transfigure and he imitates reality up to the point the viewers are deceived. Here is a portrait of an artist in love with life.

When entering Jean-Louis Thibaut’s wokshop in the rue du Dauphin in Honfleur, it is impossible not to admire the paintings that almost cover the walls. They display so much realism that magic works as soon as you step across the threshold. They deceivingly look like large format photographs. Only when getting closer can the viewer defeat the illusion. Yes, these are watercolours, but it almost takes a magnifying glass to be sure. When Jean-Louis Thibaut uses pastels, which are even more difficult to work with, it gets easier to guess the painter, but the result is just as much amazing. The artist also uses oil, and more and more often acrylic too, because drying time is very quick which facilitates his work.

A class-mate of Gérard Titus Carmel, Jean-Louis Thibaut graduated from Ecole Boulle and Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs. From 1967 to 1974 he worked as a model-maker for various advertising agencies and interior architecture agencies. Then he decided to devote himself to painting only. In 1975 he fell in love with Honfleur and settled down there with his wife. He has remained true to the place and keeps on depicting its warm and invigorating atmosphere. Weather permitting, he never misses an opportunity to go and work outdoors. With his pencils and paintbox, he transposes onto paper the tiny details his infallible eye perceives. He also takes a lot of pictures which he will use as a basis for the large formats that take several weeks of regular work to be completed. The metamorphosis is carried out in the secrecy of his workshop, eight hours a day.

Jean-Louis Thibaut enjoys living among objects that remind him of the good old times. A rather discreet and reserved person he admits (as if apologizing) to “a little unsociable nature”. This romantic gives special attention to simple people such as peasants, gardeners, fishermen or passers-by, that is characters who are anonymous but rich with real-life experience. He even goes so far as to reproduce a 1949 classroom photograph in the form of a splendid black and white wash drawing enhanced with Prussian blue. Guessing which is the face of the artist then becomes an entertaining game.

With his Breton fisherman looks Jean-Louis Thibaut is attached to seaside motifs and is second to none when it comes to restore the architecture of the great dream sailing ships such as the Amerigo Vaspucci which he portrayed in the most startling way. He has a remarkable passion for nature and declares himself much attached to the Cotentin seaside and the Chausey islands which are a dreamers’ paradise. Nonetheless, he has no pre-conceived ideas in mind when about to start painting and he may just as well work on a rural setting or on the most moving portrait of all, depending on the day’s inspiration or mood. Sometimes the subject comes up again several months later. His proven glaze technique has reached a rare degree of perfection and his skill at drawing serves him under any circumstances. One can only admire such dexterity.

Luis PORQUET, art critic
October, 2004