Sophie Dherbecourt wants to propose a new definition of the female figure in art


COLORS showcases exceptional talent from all around the globe, focused on the most distinctive new artists and original sounds.


Sophie Dherbecourt wants to propose a new definition of the female figure in art

In line with French trumpeter Béesau’s debut A COLORS SHOW that dropped earlier this week, we spoke to his friend and collaborator, the Paris-based painter Sophie Dherbecourt, about her work and inspirations.

Read on to find out more about Sophie’s approach to depicting nude bodies, being influenced by everything from Ancient Greek art to 20th Century painter Tamara de Lempicka, why she sees her work as more sensual than feminine, and why she thinks collaboration is the most interesting way to work.

Your painting style has been called “poetic” and “strongly feminine.” Would you agree with this description?

I find it difficult when my work is described as feminine. I get why people say it, because we live in a world where there are so many systems and definitions for everything, but I think it’s a bit reductive to classify genders. I try to avoid doing that in my work. Instead, I mix things up and play with both femininity and masculinity. I would say my work is more sensual than feminine.

Your paintings mostly portray nude women situated in surreal scenes. What interests you in exploring nudity in this way?  

I want to propose a new definition of the feminine figure in art. When you go to museums, most of the paintings you see were created by men. Portraits of women are often very sexualised, it is very limiting to be surrounded by them. I try to deconstruct these representations, both in terms of their themes and their lines and forms. I’m very inspired by the women in my life. I observe how they construct themselves in order to figure out how I want to construct my compositions.

Coming back to nudity, instead of being sexual, for me it’s an invitation to women to consider the most powerful part of themselves—their vulnerability. As women, we have a very emotional and intuitive link to the world. It’s a real strength.

The figures you paint aren’t always nude—they also often wear striking outfits. Can you tell me about your relationship with fashion?

For me, fashion is art. When you look at paintings or portraits, you can usually tell when they were made just by looking at the clothes people are wearing. One of my dreams would be to draw a fashion piece for a brand I really, really love.

What are some of the key influences on your work? I’ve read that you draw inspiration from everything from Greek classicism to the work of Tamara de Lempicka, a 20th Century painter whose portraits of women similarly defied gender stereotypes. 

Ancient Greek art is very calm and beautiful—it presents places where people can rest and heal. Its depictions of heroes, gods, and goddesses are also very poetic. Greek art taught me that painting can be used as a tool to keep people and stories alive for eternity. This is what I want to do for my generation and the generations to come—to make them timeless.

“Nudity is an invitation to women to consider the most powerful part of themselves—their vulnerability.”

“For me, imperfections are what make things beautiful and unique.”

Discovering Tamara de Lempicka’s work was like being struck by lightning. I was fascinated by how she brought together neoclassical painting’s use of light with cubism’s pure lines and forms. I originally trained as a graphic designer, so her powerful and effective use of shapes really spoke to me. Our paintings differ in terms of color though: she came from an industrial era, so the colors she used were very cold, whereas I like to use warmer tones. Other artists that have had an impact on my work include Matisse—though I discovered in an exhibition that he got a lot of his color inspirations from the Algerian artist Baya, so I have to give credit to her—and Georgia O’Keeffe. The colors she used and topics that she explored were very powerful, sensitive, and tangible.

Georgia O’Keeffe is best known for her large-scale studies of flowers. You also include floral references in your work, depicting the anthurium flower in your paintings to symbolize unusual beauty. 

Anthuriums are strange flowers. They are sensual but in a provocative way. They aren’t perfect. For me, imperfections are what make things beautiful and unique. Francis Bacon used to paint a lot of self portraits where he’d accentuate all of the worst parts of himself until he looked like a monster. I hope that in the future I will find the courage to move even further away from contemporary standards of appearance and be able to create a new definition of beauty.

Earlier this year you had your first solo show, ‘Pathos of things’, at Galerie Au Roi in Paris. Tell us about the theme of the exhibition and the paintings that were included.

I always said I wouldn’t exhibit until I had a real story to tell. In 2021, I experienced depression. My emotions were so strong that I had to put them somewhere, so I channeled them into my paintings. Each painting depicts a different stage in the experience of depression: the collection starts with one painting about breaking down, and getting lost in sadness and loneliness, and progresses to others that represent refinding passion, love, friendship, and community. There were eleven paintings in total, it took me a year and a half to finish them all.

As part of the exhibition, you invited poets, musicians, and floral artists to interpret your works in their respective mediums. One of them was Béesau, who just released his debut A COLORS SHOW. When did you first meet him and what attracted you to his music?

I first discovered Béesau’s work in 2022. I could see myself in his music, because he mixes classic jazz references with contemporary, electronic sounds, just like I combine old and new influences in my paintings. We had a few friends in common, so it was really easy to get in touch with him. He also loves my work, and lives really close to my studio—everything aligned. I was a little scared at first to ask him to interpret one of my paintings, but he was so happy when I did. The collaboration was so free, we talked a lot, and had so much time to explore how we could make something beautiful out of both of our practices. I’m in love with collaboration. For me it’s the most interesting way to work.

“When Béesau talks with his music, it’s the real deal.”

Tell us more about the painting Béesau interpreted sonically. 

It was the ninth painting. When Béesau first saw it, he was really inspired by its dream-like aesthetic. He wrote a sonic story that reflected the viewpoints of the three different characters in the painting. He understood it so perfectly, no one else could have interpreted it better. Beesau’s not the best person with words, but when he talks with his music it’s the real deal.

Would you like to work together again in the future?

Of course! The collaboration-based format I used for my exhibition really worked. Every idea has its own timing, so I’m really excited to see what I’ll come up with in the future, and how I’ll find the right people to carry them out.

What are you working on right now? What are your ambitions for the future?

I just got back from four weeks in the south of France. The beginning of the year was so intense that I really needed to take some time to rest and find peace. That’s what I’ve been doing. Until now, I’ve always thought I’d like to be an independent artist without a gallery, but now I feel like I’m more ready to try and play the game of the art world. I think I’d like to try to do a few residencies, to have the time and space to create more, or to experiment with working with some brands. I really just want to keep evolving and creating for the right reasons.

Sophie Dherbecourt is a painter based in Paris. In early 2023, she presented her debut exhibition, ‘Pathos of Things’, at Galerie Au Roi in Paris. As part of the exhibition, she invited multidisciplinary artists to interpret her works in their respective mediums. One of them was Béesau, who released his debut A COLORS SHOW on 11th September. Watch Béesau’s show on our YouTube channel, and make sure to follow Sophie on Instagram to stay up to date with her work.

Text: Emily May
Photography: Raquel San Nicolàs (photo of Sophie and Béesau), Maxime Massare (all other imagery)


Open Player

This website uses cookies. By using this website and its content you accept these cookies.