Jean-Michel Atlan (French, 1913–1960) was a self-taught artist associated with the Dutch-based avant-garde movement COBRA. Born in Algeria, Atlan grew up in Turkey and Paris, where he studied philosophy at the Sorbonne. He subsequently became a teacher but, because he was Jewish, lost his teaching license during World War II and began to paint to occupy himself. In 1942, he was arrested for his involvement with the Resistance, but evaded the death camps by affecting insanity. While confined to the Saint-Anne asylum, Atlan wrote a volume of poetry entitled Le Sang profond or The Deep Blood, which he published upon his release.

After the war, Atlan began to exhibit his paintings, which featured amorphous colored shapes delineated with thick black strokes. He became friends with Danish painter Asger Jorn (Danish, 1914–1973) and several artists involved with COBRA, which profoundly influenced Atlan’s expressive style. In the last decade of his life, Atlan gained international critical acclaim, particularly in association with the growing movement of the Paris Nouvelle Ecole. Atlan died in 1960 of cancer. The Musée National d''''Art Moderne held a posthumous retrospective of Atlan’s work in 1963.


Born: Constantine, Algeria. (January 23)
Studied Philosophy at the Sorbonne. Paris, France.
Died: Paris, France. (February 12)


Retrospective. Musée National d'Art Moderne. Paris, France (solo)