July 30, 2021

an invigorating exhibition for the designer of Asterix

During his lifetime, Albert Uderzo had never had the right to a retrospective. Modesty of the comic book author, reluctance of French museum curators … It was not until the death of the designer of Asterix, which took place in March 2020 at the age of 92, for such an honor to be finally returned to him. And again, not in a prestigious public establishment, like the Belgian Hergé was entitled to the Center Pompidou in 2006 or the Grand Palais in 2016. It is the Maillol Museum in Paris, owned by the Dina Vierny Foundation, directed by the iconoclast Olivier Lorquin, who agreed to lend his walls to exhibit the plates and illustrations of the man with the 385 million albums sold, excuse the little.

“Oumpah-Pah”, character search, 1958.

Whatever, the exhibition is a success, and it is a feeling of reparation that dominates at the sight of some 250 originals loaned by the Uderzo family and the National Library of France, to whom the author, born in 1927 in Fismes (Marne), had donated, in 2011, plates of three albums of the adventures of the little Gaul. “I had spoken about this idea of ​​exhibition to my father when he was alive, he said that it would not interest anyone, smiles Sylvie Uderzo, only daughter of the designer and curator of the event, produced by the Artcurial Culture agency. But we didn’t want to let him go like that, a lot of Asterix readers asked us to pay him homage. Bringing him into the museum is a real satisfaction. “

Unsurprisingly, the scenographer Hubert le Gall has chosen a chronological approach to retrace the author’s journey. We thus discover with emotion the school notebooks of young Alberto, born color blind and with six fingers on each hand, adorned with magnificent reproductions of fish or characters already completed. Many early works also attest to his influences, his admiration for Walt Disney, Calvo, Milton Caniff or Franquin, whom he considered to be the best of them. Never exhibited, his press illustrations, produced in the 1950s for France Sunday or France-Evening, show a real talent for realistic drawing, which he will develop with the series Tanguy and Laverdure, created in 1959 with Jean-Michel Charlier.

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Before experiencing success with Asterix, invented in 1959 with his “Brother” René Goscinny, who died prematurely in 1977, Albert Uderzo had sought a lot. His various characters – Clopinard, Arys Buck, Belloy, Luc Junior, Jehan Pistolet or even Oumpah-Pah – have not survived beyond a few albums or publications. The author even committed a junior version of the American comic book Captain Marvel ! But all these heroes are represented at Maillol, which makes it possible to follow the author’s graphic evolution, which will ultimately flourish with the refractory Gauls. “My father loved to do everything and he had the genius to switch from one style to another. But the cartoon remained his primary vocation “, observes Sylvie Uderzo, who admits a weakness for the Indian Oumpah-Pah.

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