Georges Mathieu Biography

Georges Mathieu




Born in Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais) in 1921, Georges Mathieu studied literature and philosophy before switching to art at the age of twenty-one. After painting realistic landscapes and portraits, Mathieu developed a highly distinctive Abstract Expressionist personal style, which grew out of an emotionally driven, improvised and intuitive act of painting.

In 1947 Mathieu joined forces with Camille Bryen to organize an exhibition of the Tachist-oriented work he designated 'non-figuration psychique'. The paintings of Mathieu's Bryen called 'lyrical abstractions' are what he considered to be beyond the constraints of tradition and formal regulative systems. He placed Mathieu alongside Fautrier and Dubuffet as an important exponent of French Informel. Up to 1951 Mathieu continued to organize group shows, using them to demonstrate- as one of the first Europeans to do so- the importance of American Abstract Expressionism. Georges Mathieu was particularly interested in Jackson Pollock and his spontaneous gestural handling of paint. Beginning in 1954, Mathieu staged the painting of large-scale works as theatrical events, culminating in his using 800 tubes of paint to create a painting measuring 4 x 12 metres in front of an audience of 2000 at the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt in 1956. Somewhere between Happening and Action Painting, Mathieu succeeded in producing a decoratively linear style of painting, reminiscent of calligraphy.

Mathieu continued to perform his Action Paintings throughout Europe and, in 1957, in Tokyo to universal acclaim; his works were shown at special exhibitions in Paris and New York in 1950 and 1952. Mathieu participated in numerous international one-man exhibitions, including 'documenta II' in 1959. Early in the 1960s Mathieu also did sculpture and designed furniture, tapestries and frescoes. An art theorist as well as an artist, Georges Mathieu made a name for himself as the founder of Tachism in the essay 'Au-delà du Tachisme' (published in 1963).