Composition, 1978


The XXth Century

Georges MATHIEU (1921-2012)



Georges Mathieu was born at Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais) in 1921. Mathieu studied literature and philosophy at Lille University before switching to art at the age of twenty-one. He taught English at Douai High School and French at the American University of Biarritz. After an interest in realistic landscapes and portraits, Mathieu developed a distinctive Abstract Expressionist style, which grew out of an emotionally driven, improvised and intuitive act of painting. In 1946 his first exhibition was presented at VI Salon de moins de 30 ans at the Galerie des Beaux Arts in Paris. His first personal exhibition was in 1950  at the Galerie René Drouin. In 1947 Mathieu worked with Camille Bryen to organize a tachist-oriented exhibition, which he designated as ‘non-figuration physique’. His painting, defined ‘lyrical abstractions’, goes beyond traditional and formal constraints of regulative systems, placing Mathieu with Fautrier and Dubuffet as an important exponent of French Informel, as defined by the French art critic Tapiè. Up to 1951, Mathieu continued to organize group shows to demonstrate his interest in Jackson Pollock’s spontaneous gestural handling of paint. In those years he, among his numerous exhibitions, organized an event to show the difference between American and European painting styles at the Montparnasse Gallery.His artworks were appreciated internationally and exposed in London and New York. His first paintings were defined tachists by critics because of the artist’s use of lumps of color (tache, in fact, means stain) directly applied on canvas. His works are apparently confused but they all have a central axis from which curves and lines develop in a planned way.In 1950 his projects were no more focused on signs but on painting gestures and quickness. His painting was intuitive and irrational. From 1954 Mathieu staged the painting of large-scale works as theatrical events, culminating in utilizing 800 tubes of paint to create a painting measuring 4 x 12 meters in front of an audience of 2000 at the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt in 1956. Somewhere between Happening and Action Painting, Mathieu succeeded in producing a decoratively linear painting, reminiscent of calligraphy. Mathieu continued to perform his Action Paintings throughout Europe and Japan. He went to Japan together with Tapié to meet the Gutai Group. There he executed a kimono performance during an action-painting show.  During this event he also realized 21 artworks and among these we find a 15 m painting. Mathieu’s works were shown at special exhibitions in Paris and New York in 1950 and 1952. He  participated in numerous international exhibitions, including Documenta II in 1959. In the early 1960s Mathieu also created sculptures and designed furnitures, tapestries and frescoes. In 1975 he was elected a member of Arts Academy in Paris and in 1986 he exposed his works at Biennale di Venezia.Georges Mathieu was defined the founder of Tachism, and art theorist in the essay “Au-delà du Tachisme”. He also composed essays on architecture, furniture and typography.


– 1963. Au-delà du Tachisme, Ed. Julliard, Paris.
– 1967. Le Privilège d’être, Ed. Robert Morel, Paris.
– 1973. De la révolte à la renaissance, Ed. Gallimard, Paris.
– 1975. La Réponse de l’Abstraction lyrique, Ed. La Table Ronde, Paris.
– 1976. Notice sur la vie et les travaux d’Alfred Giess, Institut de France, Paris.
– 1984. L’Abstraction prophètique, Ed. Gallimard.
– 1994. Le Massacre de la sensibilité, Ed. Jean Picollec, Paris.
– 1998. Désormais seul en face de Dieu, Ed. l’Age de l’Homme.


– Mathieu, F. Mathey, Ed. Hachette, Paris, 1969.
– Discours prononcé par Louis Leygue, lors de l’installation de Georges Mathieu le 28 janvier 1976, Institut de France.
– Mathieu, D. Quignon-Fleuret, Ed. Flammarion, Paris, 1977.
– Georges Mathieu e la poetica del signa, M.R. Laurenda et Mioni, Ed. Universitaria degli Studi di Padova, Padoue, 1976-1977.
– L’Oeuvre pictural de Georges Mathieu, G. Xuriguéra, Ed. Palais des Papes, Avignon, 1985.
– Préfaces de G. Xuriguéra et P. Dehaye in Jalons de l’Abstraction lyrique de Georges Mathieu, Ed. Sapone, Nice, 1987.
– Mathieu, introduction de R. Barilli, Ed. Sapone, Nice, 1987.
– Mathieu, oeuvres récentes, G. Xuriguéra, Ed. Guy Peters Gallery, Bruxelles, 1991.
– Georges Mathieu, G. Dorfles, Ed. Electra, Milan, 1991.
– Mathieu, P. Grainville et F. Poiret, Château-Musée de Boulogne sur Mer, 1992.
– Mathieu, P. Grainville et G. Xuriguéra, Nouvelles Editions Françaises, Paris, 1993.
– 1995. Autour de la Bataille de Hastings, catalogue de l’exposition de Toulouse.
– in – Who’s who in France 1993-1994, Ed. Jacques Lafitte, Paris, 1993.
– L’Art : Arme des âmes, P. Dehaye, Ed. Promothéa, Toulon, 1994.
– Mathieu, 50 ans de création, Editions Hervas, Paris, 2003.


-1954. La Bataille de Bouvines, R. Descharnes.
-1956. Le Couronnement de Charlemagne, R. Descharnes.
-1959. La Saint-Barthélémy, O.R.T.F. productions.
-1959. Hommage au Connétable de Bourbon, A. Rainer.
-1961. Georges Mathieu, J. Mousseau et J. Feller.
-1965. Paris, capitale des arts, O.R.T.F. prod.
-1967. Georges Mathieu, F. Warin.
-1968. Georges Mathieu, P. Lhoste et G. Roze.
-1971. Georges Mathieu, L. Thorn.
-1979. A la recherche de Georges Mathieu, D. Lecomte.
-1986. Georges Mathieu, P. Ducrest.
-1992. Spectacle son et lumière donné en août 1992 dans la cour du Château de Boulogne sur Mer, Th. Choumitzky.



France :
Musée Picasso, Antibes (Var), Mairie de Boulogne-Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine), Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Musée d’Unterlinden, Colmar (Haut-Rhin), Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon (Côte d’Or), Musée de Peinture et de Sculpture, Grenoble (Isère), Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille (Nord), Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon (Rhône), Maison de la Radio, Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.
Other countries :
Musée Bezalel, (Jérusalem), Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, (Rome), Musée d’Art Moderne, (Tokyo), Fondation Peter Stuyvesant, (Amsterdam), Tate Gallery, (Londres), Museum of Fine Arts, (Houston – U.S.A.), Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, (New York).


– Court Gallery, Copenhague, Septembre 1965
– Galerie Bleue, Stockholm, Octobre 1965
– Galerie K.B., Oslo, Novembre 1965
– Art Council of Northen Ireland, 12 Novembre – 6 Décembre 1969, Belfast.

Réf. 2S-6



Oil on canvas
Signed and dated lower right



– 81 x 100 cm (102 x 121 cm cadre inclus)
– 31 7/8 x 29 3/8 in. (40 1/8 x 47 5/8 in. framed)



– New York, Wildenstein, “Georges Mathieu, Recent Works”, Mai-September 1979, n° 21 (illustrated in the catalog of the exhibition)