There are both manuscript and typewritten versions of this original document on Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM-SP) letterhead. Perhaps because it was a draft of an official correspondence, the original reproduced in the ICAA archive is undated.
The text is by Belgian art critic Léon Degand (1907-1958), one of the critics that contributed to the magazine Art d’aujourd’hui and a staunch advocate of abstraction which was gaining ground in Parisian galleries in the period after World War II. In 1945, Degand arrived in France and began writing his artistic chronicles for Les lettres françaises, a publication directed by poet Louis Aragon. Degand received a measure of international recognition for his book Chagall: peintures (1942-1945). He served as director of MAM-SP from 1947 to 1951, when “Ciccillo” Mararazzo nominated him to direct the first edition of the São Paulo Biennial (1951). During those years, Degand published a number of articles that indicate his inclination for abstract art, among them “Do figurativismo ao abstracionismo” (see ICAA digital archive 1085735).
In reference to the debate between realism and abstraction, see the article “Em torno do terceiro Salão de Maio” published in Diário da Noite in which sculptor Victor Brecheret and painter Lasar Segall express their inclinations for the “human” figure (1085032).
In 1939, René Drouin (1905–1979), who was trained as an architect, opened a gallery on Place Vendôme in Paris in partnership with Leo Castelli. In the decades that followed, that gallery would hold major shows of work by Francis Picabia, Wassily Kandinsky, and Max Ernst. In the fifties, the gallery managed to avoid taking sides in the dispute between figuration (associated with the École de Paris) and abstraction. After moving to the United States, Leo Castelli (1907–99), who was born in Italy, became the greatest gallerist of the sixties, launching the international careers of a number of major contemporary artists.
The Fundo Ciccillo Matarazzo contains two other letters to René Drouin, dated September 15 and November 6, 1948, respectively; Ciccillo Matarazzo signed both. The second one is in Léon Degand’s handwriting, although there are typewritten copies. The Fundo Ciccillo Matarazzo, named for Francisco Matarazzo Sobrinho (1898–1977), has recently gathered and organized a databank for researchers. It contains documents from the personal archives of the creator of the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo, the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (MAM-SP), the Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paulo (MAC-USP), as well as other major cultural institutions in São Paulo.