Fabienne Verdier

An interview with the painter who learned her trade in China—then applied it on an epic scale in France.

Issue 31

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Arts & Culture

“My transgression was to understand that I had to cut off the handle of my brush.”

A few years ago, Fabienne Verdier dislocated her shoulder trying to carry a paintbrush so heavy she couldn’t move it around without hurting herself. “It was because of all my crazy experiments, I didn’t pay enough attention,” she says with a mischievous giggle.

What kind of paintbrush can put a shoulder out? Verdier invented it. The 57-year-old artist, who spent 10 years learning the art of calligraphy from old masters in China, works with an unusual set of oversized devices inspired by the traditional Chinese brush. They are giant, handleless brushes made from up to 25 horsetails and capable of holding over 25 gallons of paint. Verdier suspends them from the ceiling of her studio in Le Vexin, an hour north of Paris, and maneuvers them with bicycle handlebars mounted onto the f...

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