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Alain Pontecorvo’s Success Story

A Painter Rooted In Tradition

A keen eye and a willingness to rethink mundane subjects and scenes of everyday life is what separates Alain Pontecorvo from his contemporaries. This artist continues to enjoy a prosperous career of international renown with works exhibited in dozens of countries on three different continents. KAZoART has always been an admirer of his enchanting style which is why it was an honor to listen as he recalled the inspirations and experiences that have never ceased to nourish his creation. Without further ado, here is Alain Pontecorvo’s Success Story.

 The Birth of A Passion

It all began when Alain Pontecorvo was only three years old. In a small Italian restaurant with his parents, he became impatient and entertained himself with the paper menu in front of him. The back was blank, and he, eager to draw, asked his father for a pen. His first drawing was of a car. The rendering was so realistic that all the customers ran up to little Alain to admire the sketch of a child who, from that day on, never stopped drawing.

Alain Pontecorvo at work / ©

For a few years, Pontecorvo studied at the Arts Décoratifs de Paris. Prior to being drafted into the military, his time in Paris was artistically rich and productive. Even amid the Algerian war in Oran, he managed to surround himself with friendly soldiers who gave him a desk and materials to do what he loved most: creating. 

After returning from military service, he went to the Estienne School and attended evening classes, where he was soon at the top of his class. For a year he perfected his skills in the field of typography, as it was of particular interest to him.

It was at this point that his career converged with advertising, a field in which he would have great success for nearly fifteen years. He first began as a young art director at Havas before collaborating with a dozen other agencies. The most notable agency being the infamous Roux-Séguéla.

Advertising has taught me a lot about graphic art, layout, and forms in space. I even created my own typeface, which I call the Pontecorvo.

Meeting and subsequently collaborating with Jacques Séguéla was a turning point in Pontecorvo’s professional and personal life. He had the opportunity to rub shoulders with many influential people and movers and shakers in the modern art scene and spent fifteen hours a day on film sets. In no time at all, he was part of a close-knit circle of creatives. Albeit wildly entertaining, this period in Pontecorvo’s life distracted him from his own art. Without completely giving up on his career, Alain Pontecorvo decided to step back and return to his first loves: painting and drawing.

Pontecorvo’s Style

Alain Pontecorvo takes a camera and sketchbook with him wherever he goes. It is his way of capturing fleeting moments that he will later immortalize.  

My goal is to paint what no one sees. We have marvels in front of us. A street corner with cars, for example. Nobody looks at that. Yet if we stop and look, there’s all the stories in the world.

Alain Pontecorvo with his painting Lumière de septembre / ©

Appreciating the seemingly mundane moments, his still lifes, portraits, urban landscapes and interiors explore recurring subjects in a thousand and one ways. Pontecorvo encourages us to focus our attention on elements that might appear trivial but in fact generate interest if we take the time to linger on them.

Whether it be a passing cloud, people in the street, cars stuck in traffic, or trees changing in the seasons, the key element in all of Pontecorvo’s work is light. His work on shadow and light is precise, mastered. The chiaroscuro portrayed on a subway platform, for example, demonstrates the depth of his technicality. 

I stop and take a picture before the moment disappears. I then transform and recompose. An image will only stay in my head for ten seconds. If I don’t capture it then, it’s over.

Petite vue plongeante du treizième étage

Oil Painting (55 x 46 cm)

L’ombre de l’immeuble

Oil Painting (146 x 114 cm)

What KAZoART has to say: We are Alain Pontecorvo enthusiasts! His appreciation for the mundane moments is inspiring and his ability to transform them into enchanting paintings is what makes him so extraordinary.

Often commissioned, his work also entails portraiture. Painting someone you do not know well is no easy feat. To overcome this challenge, Pontecorovo searches for the dominant attitude in his subject and extracts it. Contrary to the practice in classical portraiture, the idea is not to immortalize someone through their portrait, but to bring out the sitter’s personality. Candid moments are most welcome as the subject’s guard is down, their eyes are elsewhere, and they’re not aware they will be forever viewed in that very moment. 

Alain Pontecorvo, Les enfants au ballon (Oil Painting – 146 cm x 97 cm)

International Fame and a Renowned Reputation 

Marlène Jobert, Catherine Deneuve and Serge Gainsbourg were just a few of the many personalities Alain Pontecorvo had the pleasure of meeting during his career as an advertising executive. During a dinner at Jacques Séguéla’s house, Catherine Deneuve asked him if he could design the poster for the film Hôtel des Amériques (André Téchiné, 1981) in which she was the lead actress alongside co-star Patrick Dewaere.

A professor of graphic and plastic arts for several years at the Atelier de la Passerelle, Pontecorvo taught his students how to observe nature in order to get the best out of it. He also guided young artists as they studied and learned from the great masters of painting and sculpture. Pontecorvo himself has always admired the work of Velasquez, Rembrandt, Schiele, and is still moved by that of Manet, Klimt and Lucian Freud.

There are a lot of artists who seek to be modern, original. There’s no need to say ‘I must find something that will make a difference’. For me, the most important thing is to work hard and often, and to be honest with ourselves and one another.

Le buddleia

Oil Painting (162 x 130 cm)

Alain Pontecorvo’s works have been exhibited across the globe but notably in the Parisian Galerie de l’Europe, the Musée de l’Imprimerie in Lyon and the Olivier Brice Museum in Montpellier. In 2008, he even had the opportunity to exhibit at the National Art Club of New York. He has also shown in public and private collections in Germany, Saudi Arabia, Great Britain, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, and in many cities in the United States.

Alain Pontecorvo’s artwork

Soleil sur le boulevard

Oil Painting (90 x 90 cm)

Campagne, lecture et chaleur

Oil Painting (90 x 100 cm)

Lecture du quotidien

Oil Painting (50 x 90 cm)

What they're saying: KAZoART Customers