Cécile Desserle portrait


" A cathartic revelation of my intimacy, all these women talk about me in their own way and are the words of a long love letter to the love of my life. "

Cécile Desserle dans son atelier


Painting has always been a part of my life. From age 11, I went to evening classes at the Fine Arts school, slipping away from my family home where my ceramicist parents were already feeding into my inspiration. Guided both by the urgency and the dire necessity to capture the world, I wanted to preserve the memory of the images that I was exposed to, especially as I had been told as a child that one day, I would be blind. Gradually, painting took root in me. From the Fine Arts School of Avignon where I sneaked into students’ classes even though I wasn’t yet old enough, to workshops at the Sorbonne, painting became my world, my pleasure. I found where I belonged.

Cécile Desserle artiste peintre


Over the course of time and exhibitions, I had the feeling that I was gradually entering into experimental mode, indefinitely questioning my work, drawing inspiration from moments of life that were so extreme that they became the markers, the central theme to my artistic approach.

The discovery of bullfighting (la corrida) is one of them: shaken by the fear of the show, whilst being aware of its beauty, I saw it as an echo of life, where tragedy and beauty clash, where human nature can be both monstrous and beautiful. For me, bullfighting was indicative of this duality and the passionate beauty involved. The passing of my grandfather which occurred at the same time therefore became a part of my first corrida painting. You can see his ripped hospital sheet, which had become a cape, covering him in light, just like Nimeño (a French matador).


While bullfighting symbolises the transition from shadow to light, from the dark bullpen to the centre of the dazzling arena, it also alludes to a perpetual movement of colours and of wonder, a real dance of shapes and substances, equally powerful and short-lived. Capturing the memory of fleeting moments therefore became an obsession which has not left me since.

Cécile Desserle parle d'amour


While living my life as a woman and a mother, love was my driving force. My encounter with flamenco dancing and the gypsy world allowed me to express it. Flamenco is more than just a dance, it is a language of love, a story of desire and fear: the fear of losing a loved one, the fear of death… I remember this elderly gypsy lady that I often bumped into in this café in Aigues-Mortes… She talked to me about her lovers, her men… Whether these romances were made-up or genuine, it didn’t matter… This is the amorous woman that I wanted to depict in my paintings. You can see her stories, flamenco, the dancers’ emotions… So many ways for me to talk about love, like declarations to the love of my life.

Cécile Desserle dans son atelier


By doing my best to capture the movements of Flamenco, I wanted to get as close as possible to these women performing romanticised stories through a ritualised dance.

In this search for truth, the time came for me to explore another aspect. I wanted to paint women in their day-to-day life, expose their struggles, their passions… Allowing people to see a woman living her life, a sensual woman, and in turn an amorous, epicurean, sexual woman… I wanted to go beyond intimacy and speak of the freedom, the energy, and the vitality of the present moment. Charmed and moved by the strength that my models emit, I wanted to see them live intensely, and secure their freedom onto the canvas, for eternity.

Cécile Desserle avec ses modèles


Behind a painting, there may be a dream, an encounter with somebody who grabs my attention, someone that I admire. Abdellatif Kechiche, who I worked with for “La vie d’Adèle”, captured this magnetism, this way of painting women who attract me. This is sometimes linked to illumination, almost like love at first sight: a nape of the neck, a strand of hair that falls, a look, a way of walking… A fleeting moment which stirs my imagination and tells a story. This emotional load then guides my brush stroke. Driven by this appearance, I can feel her skin, her breath… Not knowing where this woman will take me, I begin breathing life into her.

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