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.

Timeline

1921
Born: in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France
1947
Became the Director of Public Relations for United States Lines in Paris
1947
Organized an exhibition with Camille Bryen
1947–1951
Organized group shows to demonstrate the value and significance of American Abstract Expressionism
1956
Created a painting that measured 4 X 12 meters at the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt in front of 2000 audience members
1957
Performed his Action Paintings to universal acclaim in Tokyo
1953–1963
Was the editor of United States Lines Paris Review
1963
His essay titled “Au-delà du Tachisme” is published
1960–1969
Designed furniture, frescoes, and tapestries

Exhibitions

1959
Documenta II, Museum Fridericianum , Kassel, Germany
1953–1954
Younger European painters, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
1951
Significants de l’Informel, Galerie Paul Facchetti, Paris, France