Grande Anthropophagie bleue, Hommage à Tennessee Williams [Great Blue Anthropophagy, Homage to Tennessee Williams] (ANT 76), 1960
|Dry pigment and synthetic resin on paper mounted on canvas
160 x 108 inch
Musée national d'art moderne, Paris, France
The work appears like the tangled swirls of the great battle the model joined on its surface. With the blue which covered over her body’s prints? Some time before, Yves Klein had seen Joseph Mankiewicz’s film, Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), based on the play of the same title by Tennessee Williams. He was struck by one scene in particular. It takes place under a burning sky in a Mediterranean village embracing a steep cliff facing the motionless sea. A crowd of children and teenagers, armed with jagged daggers made from tin cans, throw themselves like starving birds on one of the characters, who disappears as his flesh is stripped, torn to bits, and hacked to pieces. The scene fitted the ritual of the immaterialized body perfectly.
Yves Klein anticipated that one day models would be asked not just to be the living brush, but to be embodied in the work itself with their own blood. The Grande Anthropophagie can be interpreted symbolically as a painting made with flesh and blood. In June 1959 Yves Klein quoted this line by Percy Bysshe Shelley: “The blood of sensibility runs blue.”This same fluid covers and blurs the model’s print. “The purest presence is spilled blood” (Bonnefoy). The image of what the Christian Church calls transubstantiation: true presence.
So, is Grande Anthropophagie an image of glorious flesh? No doubt. Yves Klein suggests this interpretation by linking his immaterial art to the belief in transfigured flesh. After all, isn’t the act of the cannibal part of the mystery of the Eucharist, where one subsumes Christ’s body and blood, which are really transformed into bread and wine? “An anthropophagus era is drawing near,” writes Yves Klein. “Fearful in appearance only, it will be the practical realization of a universal practice ever since these famous words: ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.’”
Anthropometry, the real—and not symbolic—presence of the model in the flesh. This is her body. Can we doubt it? One need only approach one of her prints and, “nature and spirit,” it awakens. Its origin takes shape once again, for the life lying there is permanent. We are touched by this flesh. (...)
The model catches us just as fire did when breathing life into the cardboard landscapes. An image that escapes us and carries us beyond. In this flesh we always sense the visible locked up behind, in the embrasure, as if art were capable of conjuring up this mystery without explaining it. The immaterial that Yves Klein pursues is already in the world, a latent Eden. The woman and the flame, denuded, acquire their flesh element and their sole splendor. The anthropometries glorify the model into a glorious being. Wonderful incarnation."
Excerpt from the book "Incandescence" by Frédéric Prot, 5 continents editions, Milan, Italy, 2012