It is following a visit to Pablo Picasso’s studio in1941 that Olivier Debré, an honoured artist and academician, moved from figurative painting to abstraction, and the influence of André Lanskoy that awakened his marked fondness for colour.
A major painter of colour fields of the Post-War period, this “European Rothko”, described his painting as “fervent abstraction” because it arouses emotions, emotion incarnated by him by the sign.
“I really tried to find how within a sign and without using conventions, I could express something without using illustration either.” Olivier Debré
After the majestic “Signes-figures” of the 1950s using a subdued palette and matter, the “Signes-paysages” from the 1960s appeared where the matter stretches, becomes fluid allowing light and transparency to emerge.
A painter of immense spaces, Olivier Debré’s work has taken shape in large scale stage sets: curtains for the Comédie Française (1987), for the Hong Kong Opera (1989) requested by the foundation Louis Vuitton, and for the new Shanghai Opera House.
“When I paint on the ground, there is a physical adherence that is sensual, almost sexual.” Olivier Debré
The painter’s work has also been the subject of a fantastic contemporary ballet: Signes directed by the choreographer Carolyn Carlson. A unique performance that associates painting, music and dance, presented at the Bastille Opera in Paris in 1997 and performed again in July 2013.
The planned Fondation Olivier Debré is due to open about 2015 on the site of the Tours art school.
Aalborg (Danemark), Museum of Modern Art
Amman, Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts
Boston, Fogg Art Museum
Buffalo, Albright Knox Art Gallery
Cardiff, Fine Arts Museum
Houston, De Menil Foundation
Luxembourg, Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art
New Delhi, National Museum of Modern Art
Paris, Musée national d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges-Pompidou
Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Québec, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Reykjavik, Art Museum
Rio de Janeiro, Museum of Modern Art
Saint-Louis, The Art Museum
Taipei, Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum
Washington D.C., Philips Collection
Genève, Fondation Gandur pour l’Art
Paintings by Olivier Debré, Philips Collection, Washington, 1959
International exhibition. Expo 70’, Osaka, 1970
Olivier Debré. De la peinture au dessin, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1975
Twelve Contemporary French Artists, exposition itinérante aux Etats-Unis : Allbright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo / The Rice University et la Fondation De Menil, Houston, 1982-83
Rétrospective, Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, 1995
Olivier Debré. Rétrospective, Art Museum, Reykjavik, 1996
Olivier Debré. Rétrospective, Museum of Fine Arts, Mexico / Modern Art Museum, Rio de Janeiro, 1997
Olivier Debré. Rétrospective, Kamakura (Japon) / History Museum, Pékin et le Modern Art Museum, Hong-Kong, 1998
Olivier Debré, œuvres de la dation, Musée national d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges-Pompidou, Paris, 2003
Olivier Debré, un abstrait lyrique, Musée d’Ixelles (Belgique), 2011
Les Sujets de l’abstraction, Peinture non-figurative de la Seconde École de Paris (1946-1962), Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Musée Rath, Genève, 2011