1921 - 2012

Georges Mathieu was a French painter and theorist credited with launching the Lyrical Abstraction movement and the greater trend of Informalism in post-WWII Paris. He published several manifestoes outlining the beliefs of Lyrical Abstraction, which prioritize the primacy of speed, denial of references, and ecstatic state of mind as important means in creating paintings. His work had a distinctive calligraphic and rhythmic quality, which notably resembles Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings. Born on January 27, 1921 in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, Mathieu advocated for the improvement of the design of everyday objects and the disavowal of culture produced by mass media throughout his life. His work can be found in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.

Georges Mathieu (French, 1921–2012) is associated with Tachism (French for stain-making), a style of painting practiced in Paris after World War II, and through the 1950s. Similar to Abstract Expressionist painting in the United States, Tachism is understood as emotional, intuitive and highly spontaneous, emphasizing the gestural and performative aspects of the act of painting. Mathieu was born in Boulogne-sur-Mer in France, and studied philosophy and literature before devoting himself to painting. After his first studies on realist landscape paintings and portraits, in 1944 he began to experiment with more abstract and expressive forms in his “lyrical abstractions.” Mathieu’s work in the style of Tachism was part of the larger French postwar movement known as Art Informel, inspired by the instinctive, personal approach of contemporary American Abstract Expressionism and Action painting; Mathieu even sought to introduce Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956) to Europe at the end of the 1940s through organizing exhibitions of Abstract Expressionist and Art Informel works. In the mid-1950s, Mathieu began to paint in front of several thousand viewers at a time in theatrical events, referring to both Action painting and to Happenings. Mathieu’s decorative work, resembling Asian calligraphy, received wide critical attention in exhibitions such as documenta II in Kassel in 1959, and a 1963 retrospective at the Musée National d´Art Moderne in Paris. His work is represented in collections including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Mumok in Vienna, the Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro, and the Kunsthalle Basel in Switzerland. In addition to his paintings, happenings, and his work as a curator, Mathieu has gained recognition as a writer: his 1963 essay Au-delà du Tachisme established his reputation as an art theorist as well as an artist.