The large retrospective of the painter Georges Mathieu promoted by Paris Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in collaboration with the Credito Valtellinese Gallery of Milan is definitely an outstanding event. First organised this year by the two galleries, the exhibition features the work of this great avant-garde artist of the post-war period. Since 1944, in fact, Georges Mathieu has been working intensely for an art free of all formal constraint. According to American critic Clément Greenberg, Mathieu is the only European artist whose great celebrity can be compared with that of famous painters of the School of New York.
On display at the Gallery in Milan are 65 paintings by Georges Mathieu, among which numerous oils on canvas and a few acrylic paintings, which illustrate Mathieu's work between 1946, when he produced abstract paintings such as Conception and Désintégration, and 1999, when he produced small paintings in acrylic on paper. All these works are now held in both public and private collections in France, Europe, America and Asia.
Biographical notes for Georges Mathieu
Georges Mathieu was born in Boulogne sur Mer in 1921. He studied law and philosophy at university, after which he graduated in English. After the war, he settled in Paris to work with U.S. Lines as head of the Public Relations Department. He developed a passion for painting in 1942, when he produced non-figurative paintings using a free sign technique. Since 1947 his name has been well spoken of for the particular/peculiar use of colours, which he applied over the canvas without using any brush. He organised various exhibitions devoted to the French Abstraction Lyrique movement, of which he was a great connoisseur.
Abstraction Lyrique artists were more interested in the pure pictorial beauty with its variety of effects rather than in the traditional formal rules of painting. According to philosophical concepts and beliefs of that time, this group of artists were basically committed to developing a sort of gestural painting, an innovative technique that allowed total bodily involvement.
Even before 1950, Georges Mathieu introduced the concept of gestural expressiveness at the School of Paris, thereby contributing, like other painters (Fautrier, Hartung, Wols, Soulages, as well as the School of New York artists), to cultural exchanges between the two countries. His job allowed him to always have updated information on the avant-garde movements that imposed themselves in New York thanks to 'Action Painting'. He first exhibited his works on the occasion of Sesto salone dei minori di 30 anni, which was held at Paris Galerie des Beaux-Arts in 1946. The first one-man exhibition of paintings by Georges Mathieu was held at Paris Galerie René Drouin in 1950. He also had his work appreciated at Véhémences confrontées, a cultural event focusing on the extreme tendencies of non-figurative art resulting from the experiences of American painters De Kooning, Pollock, Bryen, Capogrossi, Hartung, Mathieu, Riopelle and Wols, which was organised by Mathieu himself together with art critic Michel Tapié.
The book entitled Un art autre by Michel Tapié was published one year later.
Published by Silvana Editore, the exhibition catalogue featuring images of all exhibits on display, as well as a number of Mathieu's masterpieces and critical texts in Italian and French by Daniel Abadie, Dore Ashtone, Koichi Kawasaki, Dominique Stella and Kristine Stiles has been produced by the Credito Valtellinese Gallery in collaboration with Editions du Jeu de Paume.