Simon Hantaï and the Reserves of Painting

Molly Warnock

The Hungarian-born French painter Simon Hantaï (1922–2008) is best known for abstract, large-format works produced using pliage: the painting of a crumpled, gathered, or systematically pleated canvas that the artist then unfolds and stretches for exhibition. In her study of this profoundly influential artist, Molly Warnock presents a persuasive historical account of his work, his impact on a younger generation of French artists, and the genesis and development of the practice of pliage over time.

Simon Hantaï and the Reserves of Painting covers the entirety of Hantaï’s expansive oeuvre, from his first aborted experiments with folding around 1950 to his post-pliage experiments with digital scanning and printing. Throughout, Warnock analyzes the artist’s relentlessly searching studio practice in light of his no less profound engagement with developments in philosophy, psychoanalysis, and critical theory. Engaging both Hantaï’s art and writing to support her argument and paying particular attention to his sustained interrogation of religious painting in the West, Warnock shows how Hantaï’s work evinces a complicated mixture of intentionality and contingency. Appendixes provide English translations of two major texts by the artist, “A Plantaneous Demolition” and “Notes, Deliberately Confounding, Accelerating, and the Like for a ‘Reactionary,’ Nonreducible Avant-Garde.”

Original and insightful, this important new book is a central reference for the life, art, and theories of one of the most significant and exciting artists of the twentieth century. It will appeal to art historians and students of modernism, especially those interested in the history of abstraction, materiality and Surrealism, theories of community, and automatism and making.



  • $89.95 cloth, 9780271085029
  • $89.95 ebook
  • 280 pages
  • 130 illus., 41 in color, 9 x 9.5 in.

about the author

Molly Warnock's research and writing address the visual arts primarily in Europe and the United States from early twentieth-century modernism to the present. Another key area of interest and expertise is aesthetic philosophy and critical theory since Kant, including the theory and criticism of photography, video, and film. She is especially interested in the perceived possibilities and impossibilities of painting in a period of extraordinary theoretical ferment and the proliferation of new practices, now including the efflorescence of digital technologies.

Her current book projects include a study of artistic practice and theory in the context of the Paris-based journal Tel Quel. Recent essays include "Tel Quel and the Subject of American Painting" (Tate Papers, December 2019); “Full Disclosure: Molly Warnock on Gilles Aillaud’s Rhinocéros, eau et rochers, 1969” (Artforum, summer 2019); “Pieter Schoolwerth: The Painting of Délire” (in Pieter Schoolwerth: Model as Painting, New York: Sequence Press and MIT Press, 2019); and “Bishop’s Expressiveness” (in James Bishop: Malerei auf Papier / Paintings on Paper, Munich: Sieveking Verlag, 2018).

She was educated at The Ohio State University (2000) and the Johns Hopkins University, where she completed a joint PhD in The Humanities Center and History of Art (2008). She is a reviews editor for ASAP/J and a frequent contributor to Artforum.