Jacques Dupin, French poet and art critic

In 1985, Mr. Dupin visited New York to judge the authenticity of several paintings.

Jack Manning/New York Times/file

In 1985, Mr. Dupin visited New York to judge the authenticity of several paintings.

NEW YORK — Jacques Dupin, a poet, art critic, and cultural eminence in France whose influence straddled the avant-garde literary world and the commercial market in paintings and sculptures by major 20th-century artists, died Oct. 27 at his home in Paris. He was 85.

Family members who confirmed his death said he had been ill for several years.


Mr. Dupin was for a long time one of the directors of the renowned Galerie Maeght in Paris, which represented Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, Alberto Giacometti, Francis Bacon, Wassily Kandinsky, and other modern artists. As both a poet and an art dealer, he had a wide circle of friends. Bacon and Giacometti painted his portrait. The American poet John Ashbery, another friend, translated a seminal monograph written by Mr. Dupin in 1961 about Giacometti, which was published in English in 2003.

Mr. Dupin’s closest relationship among artists was with Miro. He wrote Miro’s official biography and more than 10 volumes of catalog monographs on his work. After Miro’s death in 1983, Mr. Dupin was empowered by Miro’s family as the only person authorized to authenticate his work, which had become the frequent target of fraudulent copiers.

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In 1985 Mr. Dupin made a well-publicized visit to New York to judge the authenticity of several paintings said to be by Miro that were scheduled for auction. An article in The New York Times described him examining one piece, valued at $50,000. ‘‘With a piercing gaze, Dupin scrutinized the painting’s colors, its signature, its composition, its brush strokes,’’ The Times wrote. ‘‘ ‘It’s a fake,’ he quietly declared. ‘It’s not even a very good fake. It’s terrible.’ ’’ He explained the process he used in making such calls, then added, ‘‘When the fake is good, my job is interesting.’’

Mr. Dupin’s poetry, beginning with his first collection in 1950, earned him a parallel rank among France’s postwar avant-garde writers. In 1966 he was a founder of L’Ephemere, an influential poetry quarterly whose other founders included Andre du Bouchet, Yves Bonnefoy, and Paul Celan.

American writer Paul Auster, author of ‘‘The New York Trilogy’’ and other novels and memoirs, was a protege and friend of Mr. Dupin’s, as well as one of his rare English translators.


Auster’s translation of ‘‘Fits and Starts: Selected Poems of Jacques Dupin’’ was among only a handful of collections to introduce his often difficult work to readers in the United States. ‘‘Uncompromisingly hermetic in attitude and rigorously concise in utterance,’’ Auster wrote, Mr. Dupin’s poetry ‘‘demands of us not so much a reading as an absorption.” In an interview Friday, Auster said he had been an ardent fan of Mr. Dupin’s poems since he stumbled on them at his local library as a young man. During a sojourn in Paris in the early 1970s, he said, he sought out the poet, who not only bought him dinner but also, soon afterward, gave him use of the guest room in his apartment, which Mr. Dupin and his wife, Christine, often lent to struggling writers, political refugees, and others. Auster stayed for a year, he said, writing most of the poems later included in his book ‘‘Unearth.’’

‘‘Jacques was a model of integrity and a man of immense generosity, especially toward young artists,’’ Auster said. ‘‘I don’t think I have ever had such a great friend.’’

Jacques Dupin was born in 1927, in the small town of Privas in the south of France, where his father was the psychiatrist on staff at a state-operated mental hospital. He was an only child.

Mr. Dupin was a teenager when his family moved in 1944 to Paris, a city he once described as having been left ‘‘a desert’’ in the wake of its wartime occupation. The poet Rene Char helped him publish his first collection of poems in 1950. A year after that he married Christine Rousset.

Besides his wife, he leaves their two daughters, Helene and Elizabeth, and three granddaughters.

His poetry, which has been described as intentionally ambiguous, emerged in a stark postwar period of reevaluation at all levels of French society, art included. ‘‘It’s succinct, laconic, impersonal,’’ said Mary Ann Caws, a professor of French literature at the City University of New York.

In some ways, she added, Mr. Dupin’s poetry was the opposite of Mr. Dupin himself. ‘‘I knew him as a friend,’’ she said, ‘‘and he was an awfully decent and warm man.’’

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