Crumb’s LSD-inspired heroes, rampant sex and undisguised attacks on political correctness, have made him an icon of US counter-culture although the 68-year-old has spent the last 21 years in the village of Suave in southern France.
The exhibition, Crumb, de l'Underground à la Genèse (Crumb from Underground to Genesis) which runs until 19 August, brings together more than 700 original drawings dating from 1960 to the present day. Many of the works on display were loaned by a handful of private collectors in Europe and the US and include his hippy-era characters like Fritz the Cat and his cartoon take on the Bible.
Starting with the underground magazine Zap Comic, which Crumb sold on the streets of San Francisco, the show traces his career up to and beyond his reworking of the Book of Genesis.
Crumb’s drawings first appeared in France in 1970 on the covers of Actuel magazine and had an enormous influence on French artists like Moebius and Joann Sfar.
Exhibition curator Sebastien Gokalp says part of Crumb’s appeal is his absolute lack of self-censorship.
“Crumb was totally in tune with the spirit of the times,” he said. “[He] dealt with issues that touched everyone at the time, but that no-one was talking about : love, sex, drugs, violence.”
After the success of Genesis, Crumb felt he may have gone too far and last year decided to publish a book about senior sex, based on his own love life, with the French title Parle moi d”Amour.
The exhibition is not without controversy as it includes too highly controversial comic strips called When the Niggers take Over America and When the Goddam Jews take over America.
Gokalp says even Art Spiegelman, who tackled the holocaust in his famous comic work, Maus, told Crumb that this time he had gone too far.
Crumb remains unperturbed. “I could not see myself drawing all my life Fritz the Cat, Mr Natural or Big Yum Yum,” he says.