…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
Vincent Willem van Gogh
This quote from a Dutch post-impressionist painter, one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art, is a favourite for Juliette Lotthé de Thomson. A French artist resident in Muscat, Juliette strongly relates to paintings of Vincent and is making it big in her own style.
Her work shows a talent to tackle technical challenges and the influence of her exposure to multiple cultures.
However, painting for Juliette is a life-long adventure but certainly not a linear one as she mentions.
Living in Oman has provided her with the perfect setting for her art.
“Its rich and diverse culture is a great source of inspiration, the quiet and peaceful way of life of the Omani citizens has allowed me to work without unwanted interference.”
Art and painting for her certainly reflects her joys and worries. “At the same time, the place I live, the places I visit, are a great source of influence and inspiration,” she adds.
Her kitchen where she has an ‘atelier’ is her favourite spot. “It is the heart of a home, the place that receives the morning light, and my timings are usually from 8 or 9 am to 1 or 2 pm, when the sun passes on the other side of the house.”
It is not easy for her to be far from her easel but it is necessary to open oneself to surroundings, places and events, feeding the creativity and recharging inspiration. When she is back, she usually has no idea of what is going to happen but as soon as she sits in front of her easel, an urge comes, through reflections.
“I know what I have to paint, what I want to express,” she explains and whenever is away on a break, it will be a real one with no painting.
Juliette tends to work in a series of various paintings around the same subject, until she feels that she has nothing left inside her on the matter.
That was how the series on the Ellis Island immigrants of 12 paintings, Alienated Series about people locked in asylums at the end of the 19th century came up. Her work on prayer mills, masks, French tassels or the Thai puppets look natural and surreal. These are works on accumulations, where the beauty is in the numbers, rather than the subject.
Some people might be impressed by photo-like painting for the technical aspect of it, she mentions. She says “technique is important but should never overshadow emotions. They must work together. Emotion without technique is limited but technique without emotion bears no virtue.”
Juliette is always researching ways to simplify and erase parts of the figurative to make it more geometrical and abstract constructions. This is seen in her paintings of ‘accumulations’, puppets series for example, or the prayer mills, and landscapes.
Being a portrait painter does not make her do only portraits. She loves to explore new subjects and work sometimes around a theme, which is the case for her paintings about Oman.
Her work includes coffee pots to pomegranates of Jabal Al Akhdhar, portraits of men, women, whose beautiful and colourful attires are a delight to paint. But what she looks for always is the expression. “The smiles and looks are just deep and unique,” she says.
Juliette happened to meet with Andrée François, the fellow artist, in Muscat who accompanied her work for 7 years. Over the years, she has exhibited and sold her work privately.
In December 2013, she held a solo exhibition at Al Madina Art Gallery and two years later held another exhibition at CFO, French Omani Centre.
Raised in a family of musicians, Juliette showed a passion for painting from an early age. Enrolled in art classes since she was 5, Juliette was encouraged to develop her skills by Menghini, painter and her art teacher at 15.
Classic university studies were followed by marriage and children, and moved from Europe to South America, North America and the Middle East. Juliette went back to her brushes in 1999, when she first moved to the Sultanate.