What art movement was the painter Olivier Debré associated with?

The painter Olivier Debré was a leading artist in the post-war Lyrical Abstraction movement. He was also associated with the abstract landscape movement. From the 1970s onwards, Debré’s work found a balance of form in the square format that the artist most often favoured in his paintings.

Olivier Debré attended the architecture department of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, also frequenting Le Corbusier’s studio. In the early 1940s, the artist abandoned architecture to devote himself to painting. Debré met the artist Pablo Picasso and visited his studio on Rue des Grands-Augustins in Paris. Encouraged by Picasso to express himself pictorially without using figurative representation in his work, Debré turned to the use of signs in his work, which he considered “the incarnation of thought”. In the 1950s, Olivier Debré’s paintings became more substantial and thickly painted, marked by a palette of earthy colours. The artist worked his oil paints with a knife to create flat areas of colour on the canvas. He created still lifes and abstract landscapes using horizontal formats or large vertical paintings from which human-like silhouettes emerged. The latter formed his Signes Personnages, an emblematic series from the 1950s created by the artist with an almost monochrome palette. At the start of the 1960s, Debré turned to landscapes, which would become his main field of exploration. Often working outside, it was in contact with nature itself that Debré created his landscape paintings. Composed of broad fields of colour, the luminous works were created with a fluid, weightless style of painting. The artist punctuated the surface of the canvas with a few layered clusters of paint, creating a relief on the edges of the painting. These were Debré’s Signes Paysages [Sign Landscapes].

Please visit the painter’s dedicated page or the page on Lyrical Abstraction to learn more about this art movement.

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