When Ingres painted the youthful Caroline Rivière 210 years ago, he couldn’t have imagined that a simulacrum of his oil on canvas would one day grace the Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. Enter Julien de Casabianca, a French artist who was inspired to create a second life for the mademoiselle on a wall near his office after he viewed her portrait at the Louvre in 2014. “She was painted at 13 and dead at 14. I had a ‘Prince Charming’ compulsion to liberate her from the museum. I did it for fun,” he said in an e-mail. “But when I saw the passersby reaction in the street, I understood: There is something here, something to do full time.”
His technique is to point, shoot, cut, and paste: he captures figures with his phone, prints out images on a Canon ipf8400se, uses a blade to carefully slice around the silhouette, and then affixes the portraits to walls with a mix of wallpaper and wood glue and the help of a sponge roller. When de Casabianca adhered Rivière’s image to a wall of rough-hewn concrete — ephemeral beauty unleashed! — his Outings street art project was born.
Since that fateful moment, de Casabianca has left his mark in 46 cities, with predominantly classical artworks drawn from museums in those cities punctuating gritty contemporary settings. The result is an arresting mix of urban placemaking and visual storytelling, fitting traits that honor his background as a journalist and filmmaker. The Boston area might get to see his brand of tactical urbanism up close if de Casabianca’s plan to bring the Outings project to town in 2017 sees the light of day.