georges mathieu - portrait

Georges Mathieu

(1921-2012)

The French painter Georges Mathieu was one of the pioneers of the Lyrical Abstraction movement. He was also one of the first artists to paint in public, bringing together painting and performance art.

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The painter Georges Mathieu and lyrical abstraction

Georges Mathieu was born in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, on 27 January 1921. Born into a family of bankers, the artist began painting in 1942 after first studying literature, law and philosophy.

At the end of the Second World War, the artist Georges Mathieu fully devoted himself to a form of non-figurative gestural painting that he called “Lyrical Abstraction”, and which he ardently defended against geometric abstraction. As a painter, he became one of the leading thinkers behind this new form of abstraction. He also brought Lyrical Abstraction closer to the Action Painting movement, which was developing at the same time in the United States. In Paris, Mathieu immersed himself in the vibrant post-war art scene, exhibiting his work at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles and the Salon des Surindépendants in 1947. The painter also exhibited at the group exhibition H.W.P.S.M.T.B at the Galerie Colette Allendy in Paris in 1948, showing his works alongside Hans Hartung and Wols. Mathieu’s work was exhibited by a number of other Parisian galleries in the years that followed, such as the Galerie René Drouin in 1950 and the Galerie Nina Dausset in 1951 as part of the exhibition Véhémences Confrontées. The Studio Paul Facchetti showed his work in 1951 and 1952, and the Galerie Pierre followed suit in 1956. It was, however, the Galerie Rive Droite in Paris that primarily presented his work during the period from 1954 to 1971.

Georges Mathieu: Painting as performance

The artist Georges Mathieu created his first tachist works of art as early as 1950. During the period that followed, Mathieu began to title his paintings with references to historical events in France—he was particularly fascinated by the Middle Ages—such as La Bataille de Bouvines, which he painted in April 1954. Mathieu also brought painting closer to performance art and theatrical events known as “happenings”. The artist painted his work live in front of an audience. The painting Les Capétiens partout, for example, was painted in one hour and twenty minutes in front of Jean Larcade’s castle in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris. During these performances, Mathieu revealed his creative process to the public, exposing himself in the very act of creation. Without sketches or preparatory drawings, the artist painted his works in a free and spontaneous manner, using colours taken directly from their tubes. The juxtaposed marks in Mathieu’s work lost any literal meaning, but his gestural painting nevertheless brought him closer to Eastern artistic practices. André Malraux even qualified the painter as a “Western calligrapher”.

The painter Georges Mathieu’s international recognition

From the 1950s onwards, Georges Mathieu’s work crossed oceans to be shown in exhibitions in the United States and Japan. Mathieu’s work was presented in exhibitions by several galleries in New York—including the Perspective Gallery, the Stable Gallery and the Alexander Iolas Gallery—but it was, above all, the Kootz Gallery that would represent the artist in New York, presenting his work in exhibitions on an annual basis from 1954 to 1960. Mathieu was also exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1954 and participated in the group exhibition Art from France at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1956. In 1957, Mathieu’s paintings were exhibited in Japanese art galleries in Tokyo and Osaka. The artist travelled to Japan that year, where he was a triumphant success.

A globe-trotter, the painter Georges Mathieu travelled regularly, visiting countries all over the world. On a trip to the United States, Mathieu visited friends at the prestigious universities of Berkeley, Yale, Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also travelled to Brazil, Argentina, Lebanon, Israel, Canada, and throughout Europe.

Mathieu’s work was presented around the world in numerous shows, including notable exhibitions at the Kunstverein in Cologne in 1959, at the Grand Palais in Paris 1978, in New York in 1979 and 1985, in Montreal in 1979, in Rio de Janeiro in 1982 and in Singapore in 1984. A more recent retrospective of the artist’s work was held at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris in 2002.

The painter Georges Mathieu’s universe

Starting in 1962, the painter Georges Mathieu sought ways to transform his artistic “language” into “style”, hoping to contribute to a harmonious relationship between man and his environment. The artist created a whole universe of work using a variety of media, including furniture and jewellery. He also established various collaborative projects, including tapestries created in collaboration with the Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins, a series of plates created with the Manufacture de Sèvres, a new 10 franc coin created with the Monnaie de Paris, and a series of posters created with the airline company Air France. Mathieu also designed stamps, gates and fountains, as well as the plans for a factory in Fontenay-le-Comte in the Vendée region of France.

Mathieu created monumental sculptures, including the following notable examples in France: at the Neuilly Sports Complex (1982), at the C.E.S. in Charenton (1982) and at the Elf-Aquitaine Tower in the Parisian business district of La Défense. The artist also painted a number of monumental works of art for public spaces, such as La délivrance d’Orléans par Jeanne d’Arc in 1982 for the Orléans Town Hall and ceiling decorations for the Boulogne-Billancourt Town Hall from 1984 to 1985.

Mathieu’s work went through a period of transformation starting in 1985, as the artist arrived at a “cosmic juncture” in his art. Abandoning the central composition that had previously shaped his work, the artist let forms invade the entire surface of the canvas.

In parallel to his work as a painter, Mathieu became Director of Public Relations for the American airline company United States Lines in Paris in 1947 and then Editor-in-Chief of the United States Lines Paris Review from 1950 to 1953. The bilingual review, which he headed for ten years from 1953 to 1964, dealt with themes as diverse as “Art and Knowledge on both sides of the Atlantic” (1953–1954), “The Game” (1956–1957), “The Party” (1960–1961) and “Dandyism” (1962–1963).

The painter Georges Mathieu died on 10 June 2012 in Boulogne-Billancourt, France.

© Diane de Polignac
Translation: Lucy Johnston

georges mathieu - portrait 1960

Selected collections

Selected collections

Amsterdam, Fondation Peter Stuyvesant

Antibes, Musée Picasso

Bâle, Kunsthaus

Bennington, VT, Bennington College, Vermont

Boulogne-Billancourt, Mairie

Boulogne-sur-Mer, Château-musée de Boulogne-sur-Mer

Bourgueil, C.E.S.

Brive, Hôtel de Ville

Buffalo, NY, Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Charenton-le-Pont, C.E.S.

Chicago, IL, The Art Institute

Colmar, Musée d’Unterlinden

Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz Museum

Colorado Springs, CO, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

Dijon, Musée des beaux-arts

Dunkerque, Lieu d’Art et d’Action Contemporaine (LAAC)

East Lansing, MI, Kresge Art Center

Gand, Museum voor Schone Kunsten

Grenoble, Musée de Peinture et de Sculpture

Helsinki, Didrichsen Art Foundation

Houston, TX, Museum of Fine Arts

Ithaca, NY, White Museum, Cornell University

Jérusalem, Musée National Bezalel

Kansas City, MO, William Rockhill Nelson Gallery

Krefeld (Allemagne), Kaiser Wilhelm Museum

Kruishoutem (Belgique), Fondation Veranneman

Kurashiki (Japon), Musée d’Art de Ohara

La Chaux-de-Fonds (Suisse), Musée des beaux-arts

La Jolla, CA, Museum of Contemporary Art

Le Mont-Dore, Musée Joseph-Foret

Liège, Musée des beaux-arts

Lille, Palais des beaux-arts

Limoges, E.N.S.C.I.

Lodève, Manufacture nationale de la Savonnerie

Londres, Tate Gallery

Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles County Museum

Ludvigshafen (Allemagne), Städtische Kunstsammlungen und Wilhelm Hack Stiftung

Lyon, Musée des beaux-arts

Mannheim, Städtische Kunsthalle

Montréal, Musée d’Art Contemporain

Neuilly-sur-Seine, Complexe Sportif

New York, NY, Chase Manhattan Plaza

New York, NY, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

New York, NY, The Salomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Ontario, Art Gallery

Orléans, Mairie

Orléans, Musée des beaux-arts

Osaka, Gutaï Pinacotheca

Ottawa, Art Gallery of Creater Victoria, D.C. National Gallery

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale

Paris, Fonds National d’Art Contemporain

Paris, Maison de la Radio

Paris, Manufacture nationale des Gobelins

Paris, Monnaie de Paris

Paris, Musée d’Art moderne de Paris

Paris, Musée de la Publicité

Paris, Musée national d’Art moderne – Centre Pompidou

Phoenix, AZ, Phoenix Art Museum

Pittsburgh, PA, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute

Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Museum

Ravenne, Museo d’Arte

Reykjavik, Musée de Reykjavik

Rio de Janeiro, Musée d’Art Moderne

Rome, Galleria d’Arte Moderna

Saarbrucken (Allemagne), Moderne Galerie

São Paulo, Musée d’Art Moderne

Seattle, WA, Art Museum of Seattle

Sèvres, Manufacture nationale de Sèvres

Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie

Tel-Aviv, Musée de Tel-Aviv

Tokyo, Musée d’Art Moderne

Toulouse, Musée des Augustins

Urbana, IL, Kramert Art Museum

Vascœuil, Château de Vascœuil

Victoria, B.C., Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

Vienne, Museum des 20 Jahrhunderts

Villafames, Museo d’Arte Contemporaneo

Villeneuve d’Ascq, LaM – Lille Métropole Musée d’art moderne, d’art contemporain et d’art brut

Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art

Wadsworth  Atheneum Museum of Art

Washington D.C., Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden

Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection

Zürich, Kunsthaus

Selected exhibitions

Selected exhibitions

Librairie Dutilleux, Douai, 1942

Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, Paris, 1947

Salon des Surindépendants, Paris, 1947

L’imaginaire, group exhibition, Galerie du Luxembourg, Paris, 1947

H.W.P.S.M.T.B., group exhibition, Galerie Colette Allendy, Paris, 1948

White and Black, group exhibition, Galerie des Deux Îles, Paris, 1948

Group exhibition, Galerie du Montparnasse, Paris, 1948

Group exhibition, Perspective Gallery, New York, 1949

Galerie René Drouin, Paris, 1950

Véhémences confrontées, group exhibition, Galerie Nina Dausset, Paris, 1951

Signifiants de l’Informel
, group exhibition, Studio Paul Facchetti, Paris, 1951

Studio Paul Facchetti, Paris, 1952

Stable Gallery, New York, 1952

Kootz Gallery, New York, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960

Salon de Mai, Paris, 1954

Galerie Rive Droite, Paris, 1954, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1969, 1971

Arts Club, Chicago, 1954

Alexander Iolas, New York, 1955, 1959

Galerie Pierre, Paris, 1956

Institute of Contemporary Art, London, 1956

Art from France, group exhibition, San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, 1956

Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1957

Galerie Kléber, Paris, 1957

Shirokiya Gallery, Tokyo, 1957

Daïmaru Gallery, Osaka, 1957

Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, 1957

Galerie Helios Art, Brussels, 1957

Selecta Gallery, Rome, 1957

Schmela Gallery, Düsseldorf, 1958, 1965

Art Latin Gallery, Stockholm, 1958

Chichio Haller Gallery, Zurich, 1958

Kunst Museum, Basel, 1958

Galerie Internationale d’Art Contemporain, Paris, 1958, 1959, 1960

Musée des Beaux-Arts, Liège, 1958

Kunstverein, Cologne, 1959

Atelier Riehentor, Basel, 1959

Galleria San Babila, Milan, 1959

Galleria del Cavallino, Venice, 1959, 1960

Haus Lange Museum, Krefeld, 1959

Musée des Beaux-Arts, Neuchâtel, 1959

San Stephan Gallery, Vienna, 1959

Musée de l’Athénée, Geneva, 1959

Galerie Jacques Dubourg, Paris, 1959, 1961

Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro, 1959

Galería Bonino, Buenos Aires, 1959

Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo, 1960

Galleria Notizie, Turin, 1960

New London Gallery, London, 1960

Ateneo, Madrid, 1960

The Presidential Palace, Beirut, 1961

Schmela Gallery, Düsseldorf, 1961

Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, 1961

Galerie Hilt, Basel, 1962

Bezalel Museum, Jerusalem, 1962

Neue Galerie im Kunstlerhaus, Munich, 1962

Galleria Boussola, Turin, 1962

Galleria l’Ariete, Milan, 1962

Galleria La Loggia, Bologna, 1962

Tel Aviv Museum, Tel Aviv, 1962

Dominion Gallery, Montreal, 1963, 1970, 1973, 1976, 1979, 1987

Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1963

Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 1963

Arts and Culture Gallery, Geneva, 1963

Galerie Argos, Nantes, 1964, 1967, 1970

Gimpel Fils Gallery, London, 1964, 1968, 1972

Galerie Arditti, Paris, 1964

Gimpel & Hanover Gallery, Zurich, 1965, 1968

Court Gallery, Copenhagen, 1965

Galerie Bleue, Stockholm, 1965

Galleri Kaare Berntsen, Oslo, 1965

Dominion Gallery, Montreal, 1965

Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 1965

Galleria del Milione, Milan, 1965

Saqqâran Gallery, Gstaad, 1965

Galleria La Loggia, Bologna, 1966

Galerie La Vieille Échoppe, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, 1966

Galleria d’Arte dell’A.A.B., Brescia, 1966

Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes, 1966

Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, 1967

Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, 1967

Galerie Kontakt, Antwerp, 1968

Galerie des Bastions, Geneva, 1968

Musée des Beaux-Arts, La Chaux-de-Fonds, 1968

Air France Gallery, London, 1968

Air France Gallery, New York, 1968

Musée des Gobelins, Paris, 1969

Galleria del Milione, Milan, 1969

Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast, 1970

Galleria Il Cancello, Bologna, 1970

Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes, 1970

Galerie Veranneman, Brussels, 1971

Hôtel de la Monnaie, Paris, 1971

Galerie Kontakt, Antwerp, 1971

Galerie Stadler, Paris, 1971

Galleria La Boussola, Turin, 1971

Galerie Argès, Brussels, 1971

Lalikata Academy, New Delhi, 1971

Galerie Suzanne Egloff, Basel, 1972

Galerie Lambert-Monet, Geneva, 1972

Beirut Art Center, Beirut, 1972

Galerie Tallien, Saint-Tropez, 1972

Galerie du Triangle, Paris, 1972

Galerie Verbeke, Paris, 1973

Berlin Opera, Berlin, 1973

Galerie Beaubourg, Paris, 1974

Musée Picasso, Antibes, 1976

Galerie Beaubourg, Barcelona, 1976

Galeria Punto, Valencia, 1977

Galeria Ruiz-Castillo, Madrid, 1977

Galeria Valera, Bilbao, 1977

Kursaal, Ostende, 1977

Bodrum Kat, Festival International, Istanbul, 1977

Château de Simiane, Valréas, 1977

Grand Palais, Paris, 1978

Festival d’Art Lyrique, Aix-en-Provence, 1978

Galerie de la Prévôté, Aix-en-Provence, 1978

Galerie Ducastel, Avignon, 1978

Wildenstein, New York, 1979

Galerie Protée, Toulouse, 1979

Galerie Lauter, Mannheim, 1980

Galerie Art Contemporain, Art Basel, Basel, 1980

Musée de la Poste, Paris, 1980

Galerie Protée, Paris, FIAC 1981, 1986, 1988, FIAC 1989

Méridien Hotel, Tunis, 1982

Galerie Jade, Colmar, 1982

Regency Intercontinental Hotel, Bahrain, 1983

Château de Vascœuil, Vascœuil, 1983

Galerie Pro Arte Kasper, Morges, 1983

Méridien Hotel, Singapore, 1984

Municipal Theatre, Brive, 1984

Galerie Alain Moyon-Avenard, Nantes, 1985

Wally Findlay Galleries, New York, 1985

Palais des Papes, Avignon, 1985

Rue Calvin Gallery, Geneva, 1985

Wally Findlay Galleries, Palm Beach, 1986

Galerie du Luxembourg, Luxembourg, 1986

Wally Findlay Galleries, New York, 1987

Semiha Humber Gallery, Zurich, 1987

Galerie Sapone, Nice, 1987

Galerie de Bellecour, Lyon, 1987

Galleria Tedia, Milan, 1987

Galerie Protée, Toulouse, 1987

Guy Peters Gallery, Ghent, 1987

Galleria La Loggia, Bologna, 1987

Angelo Foundation, Maddaloni, 1988

Galeria Narciso, Turin, 1988

Galeria De Crescenzo, Rome, 1988

Galerie Mischkind, Lille, 1988

Galeria Biniano, Finale Ligure, 1988

Guy Peters Gallery, Knokke-le-Zoute, 1988

Art Valley ’88, Forte dei Marmi, 1989

Abbay of the Cordeliers, Châteauroux, 1990

Elleni Galleria d’Arte, Bergamo, 1990

Galleri Östermalm, Stockholm Art Fair, 1990

Galleria Arte 92, Milan, 1991

Musée Léon Dierx, Saint-Denis, Réunion Island, 1991

Museum of the Château de Boulogne-sur-Mer, Boulogne-sur-Mer, 1992

La France de Mathieu, Galeries de Saint-Germain, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 1994

Autour de la Bataille de Hastings, Espace d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Toulouse et Midi-Pyrénées, Toulouse, 1995

Retrospective, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, 2002

Pour un Art de Vivre, Palais Bénédictine, Fécamp, 2003

Retrospective, Salle Saint-Georges and the Saint-Paul Cathedral, Liège, 2003

Retrospective, Galleria Gruppo Credito Valtellinese, Milan, 2003

Petite Écurie du Château de Versailles, Versailles, 2006

Espace d’Art Contemporain Fernet Branca, Saint-Louis (France), 2006

Espace Georges Mathieu, Museum of the Château de Boulogne-sur-Mer, Boulogne-sur-Mer, 2008

Gallery of the Centre Culturel Français in Milan, 2011

Galleria Agnellini Arte Moderna, Brescia, 2011

Art of Another Kind, group exhibition, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2012

Galeria Mucciaccia, Rome, 2013

Georges Mathieu, vers l’Abstraction Lyrique, Museum of the Château de Boulogne-sur-Mer, Boulogne-sur-Mer, 2014

Hartung et les peintres lyriques, group exhibition, Fonds Hélène et Édouard Leclerc pour la Culture, Landerneau, 2016

Le geste et la matière, une abstraction “autre”, Paris, 1945-1965, group exhibition, Centre Pompidou/Fondation Clément, Martinique, 2017

Selected exhibitions

Selected bibliography

Georges Mathieu, De l’abstrait au possible, Paris, Cercle d’Art Contemporain, 1959

Georges Mathieu, Au-delà du Tachisme, Paris, Julliard, 1963

Georges Mathieu, Le Privilège d’être, Paris, Robert Morel, 1967

François Mathey, Mathieu, Paris, Hachette Fabbri, 1969

Georges Mathieu, De la révolte à la renaissance, Paris, Gallimard, Idées collection, 1973

Georges Mathieu, La Réponse de l’Abstraction lyrique, Paris, La Table Ronde, 1975

Georges Mathieu, Notice sur la vie et les travaux d’Alfred Giess, Paris, Institut de France, 1976

M.R. Laurenda and Mioni, Georges Mathieu e la poetica del signa, Padua, University of Padua, 1976–1977

Dominique Quignon-Fleuret, Mathieu, Paris, Flammarion, Les Maîtres de la Peinture collection Moderne/New York City, NY, Crown publishers, 1977

Georges Mathieu, L’Abstraction prophétique, Paris, Gallimard, Idées collection, 1984

Gérard Xuriguera, L’Œuvre pictural de Georges Mathieu, Avignon, Palais des Papes, 1985

Gérard Xuriguera and Pierre Dehaye (prefaces) in Jalons de l’Abstraction lyrique de Georges Mathieu, Nice, Sapone, 1987

Renato Barilli (introduction), Mathieu, Nice, Sapone, 1987

Gillo Dorfles, Georges Mathieu, Milan, Electra, 1991

Patrick Grainville and Françoise Poiret, Mathieu, Museum of the Château de Boulogne-sur-Mer, 1992

Patrick Grainville and Gérard Xuriguera, Mathieu, Paris, Nouvelles Éditions Françaises, 1993

Pierre Dehaye, L’Art : Arme des âmes, Toulon, Promothéa, 1994

Georges Mathieu, Le Massacre de la sensibilité, Paris, Jean Picollec, 1994

Autour de la Bataille de Hastings, catalogue from the Toulouse exhibition, 1995

Georges Mathieu, Désormais seul en face de Dieu, Lausanne, L’Âge de l’Homme, 1998

Lydia Harambourg, Georges Mathieu, Lausanne, Ides et Calendes, Polychrome collection, republished in 2013

Mathieu, 50 ans de création, Paris, Hervas, 2003

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