A Look at Coco Chanel

Expressionist artist Lita Cabellut spent hours as a young girl exploring the Prado Museum, infusing herself into the works and worlds of the masters like Rembrandt, Velázquez, El Greco and Goya. The Spanish artist brings this classical background into her compelling contemporary works.

The Opera Gallery is currently showcasing the artist in an exhibit entitled “Coco, the Testimony of Black and White,” poignant paintings portraying the inimitable French fashion designer Coco Chanel.

The show brings together about 30 of the artist’s works with Lita Cabellut’s series of interpretations of one of the leading creative figures of the 20th century taking shape as monumental works with paintings measuring up to 280 by 200 centimetres.

Using a mixed technique on canvas, her portrayals of the late great fashion designer come into view. There is Coco Chanel black-gloved, elegant, drawing smoke from a cigarette. Coco Chanel as you might imagine her when she was a very young yet be-hatted woman. There she is in round and wide sunglasses, red lipstick all in black except for her signature necklaces dripping down her neck. And Coco Chanel looking wide-eyed and perhaps a little forlorn, bringing to mind the orphan who was taught to sew by nuns that she was.

It is fitting that Lita Cabellut, a gypsy born in Barcelona in 1961, chose to immortalize Chanel, who was an early symbol of the active, independent woman, for Lita Cabellut also embodies creativity and independence. She, like Chanel, began her childhood in poverty, born to a prostitute mother and an unknown father, and raised by her grandmother, a gypsy, who did not send her to school. Sent to an orphanage, she would go on to study at the prestigious School of Fine Arts of Amsterdam and later begin her instructive visits to the Prado Museum at the age of 13, where she particularly admired Rembrandt and Francis Bacon.

Bringing together the rigour of the figurative with her inherent expressivity, the artist seeks out subjects of character, like Coco Chanel and before her, Frida Kahlo, ultimately reflecting that all people have something in common, notable in the Chanel paintings, be they festive or forlorn. The portraits of Kahlo were exhibited at a show in the Opera Gallery of London during which all of the canvases were sold.

Exhibition from Oct. 14 through to Nov. 19.

Opera Gallery is open Mon to Sat 10 am-7 pm and 11:30 am-7 pm Sun, 356 rue St-Honoré (1st), 01 42 96 39 00, paris@operagallery.com, www.operagallery.com