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Temps, 1946

gouache on paper

For the canvas Temps Herbin chose perfectly outlined motifs, as often in his work from the 1940s onwards. This gives the impression of a canvas from which the painter's craft seems to be excluded, although a few brushstrokes are visible. The dominant colors are complementary colors (red/green, yellow/blue, black/white), so the shapes stand out vividly on the canvas and are highlighted. Herbin knows the theory of color and light, having studied it himself when he was painting in a post-impressionist style.

What are the shapes that are particularly emphasized? Two shapes stand out: the round and the crescent moon. Between them, these two shapes recall the passage of time: the passage from daytime (the round sun) to nighttime (the crescent moon). From this point of view, the figures on the right, the two red circles and the blue semicircle recall a sunset, transitioning to the "rising" of the moon. But these shapes can also recall the different cycles of the moon, going over the month from a full circle to a crescent, passing through the semi-circle. In a more symbolic way, it is interesting to linger on the ribbon of red and green colors running on the upper, right, and lower sides of the composition. It forms an interrupted line, whereas if the ribbon had gone around the canvas, it would have formed a continuous line, without beginning or end. In Herbin's conception, time is not linear and does not follow an infinite course, it is made of cycles, of beginnings and ends. This green and red ribbon represents this conception in a more direct way than the other forms we have mentioned. It represents in a way the time of life.

The last important element to consider in this composition is the use of the plastic alphabet created by Herbin himself. Among the shapes that can be identified, the red circle represents the "E", the light green triangle the "P" and the fir green triangle "S". It is possible to find in the shapes letters of the word "time", the title written in the lower left corner of the composition. Herbin does not only paint with shapes and colors but also with words

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