Famous French Artist Commits Suicide After Wife’s Death

(RepublicanJournal.org) – A controversial French artist has died by suicide, apparently overcome by grief after the death of his wife. The 88-year-old made his reputation by painting slogans in the street or signing his name on random objects. Much of his work was more protest than art, but it made him popular in France.

Benjamin Vautier, who was generally known simply as Ben, had an unconventional career as an artist. Born to French parents in Naples, Italy, on July 18, 1935, he was the great-grandson of a 19th-century Swiss artist also called Benjamin Vautier. Ben first became interested in art as a teenager in the early 1950s when he discovered the Dadaism movement, but quickly developed his own style.

Heavily influenced by leftist politics, he specialized in “street-based” art — graffiti, to most of us. One of his best-known stunts was to sign something — anything — that caught his attention, then say it was one of his artworks. As he sometimes signed other artists’ work, or even passers-by in the street, this could be controversial. Ben dismissed objections, though, calling it “an art of appropriation” and saying he wanted to “sign everything that has not been signed.”

This didn’t always make Ben popular with other artists, who tended to believe that practice and talent are important for an artist, but he did pick up a public following. His most popular works were humorous slogans, usually simple ones like “What are you doing here?” They might not have been up there with the Old Masters, but souvenir shops in his adopted home city of Nice sold notebooks and bags bearing copies of his work.

Ben had been married to his wife Annie for 60 years, and they had two children together. On June 3 she suffered a serious stroke and died two days later. Within hours, Ben had shot himself dead at the couple’s home. Their children released a statement saying he had been “Unwilling and unable to live without her.”

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