Georges Mathieu

The artist Georges Mathieu was a leading figure of post-war abstraction, earning celebrity status in his native France for executing paintings as performances on live television, while dressed in flamboyant costume.

Mathieu favoured a form of Action Painting, using elongated brushes to create calligraphic, scribble-like marks and drips, or squeezing paint directly onto the canvas. He called his style ‘Lyrical Abstraction’, to differentiate it from geometric abstraction. Today it is seen as part of ‘Art Informel’, a pan-European movement that sought intuitive, organic forms of expression.

Born 1921 in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Mathieu taught himself to paint while working as a US Army interpreter and a professor of French at the Université Americaine, Biarritz. Though his first canvas, Oxford Street by Night (1942), was figurative, thereafter Mathieu devoted himself to the ‘freest possible creative forms’, in order to ‘liberate art’.

In 1946, while working for an American public relations company, he encountered Abstract Expressionism, becoming well-known on the New York scene. Critic Clement Greenberg bought his work, calling Mathieu the ‘strongest’ of the European painters.

Abstract Expressionism was then largely unheard of in Europe, and Mathieu helped disseminate it, arranging exhibitions in Paris of artists including Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. He also organised shows to promote Lyrical Abstraction, including the defining H.W.P.S.M.T.B. at Colette Allendy gallery in 1948, titled after its artists: Hans Hartung, Wols, Francis Picabia, François Stahly, Mathieu, Michel Tapié and Camille Bryen.

Following solo exhibitions in Paris in 1950 and New York in 1952, Mathieu introduced the performative element to his work. His costumes were inspired by family legend that they descended from the nobleman Godfrey of Bouillon, a leader of the First Crusade in 1096 and many of his paintings’ titles refer to great battles and royals, including Le Grand Dauphin (1960), which sold at Christie’s Paris in 2018 for €511,500 and Souvenir de la Maison d’Autriche, which achieved HK$17,290,000 at Christie's Hong Kong in 2020.

Although Mathieu’s performances were popular — in 1954 he painted La Bataille de Bouvines in front of journalists from Life magazine — the speed at which he worked (for example, just 20 minutes for Hommage aux poètes du monde entier in 1954) made him a controversial figure.

Mathieu also took part in multiple commercial collaborations, including a fresco for the Radio France HQ in Paris and a hugely successful series of posters for Air France, of which more than a million were sold.

Today Mathieu’s work is held in museum collections worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Tate Modern. He died in 2012, aged 91.

Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)

Souvenir de la maison d’Autriche (Remembering the House of Austria)

Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)

Hugues de Payens fonde l’ordre du Temple

GEORGES MATHIEU (1921-2012)

Silence Apaisé (Peaceful Silence)

GEORGES MATHIEU (1921-2012)

Le Grand Dauphin

GEORGES MATHIEU (NE EN 1921)

La mort de Charles Le Téméraire

GEORGES MATHIEU (1921-2012)

Adversité Généreuse

GEORGES MATHIEU (1921 - 2012)

Dé dain perdu (Lost Disdain)

GEORGES MATHIEU (1921-2012)

Vertu Funè bre

Georges Mathieu (b. 1921)

Mariage de Marie de Blois

Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)

Joutes du Duc Charles de Bourgogne contre Adolphe de Clèves, Seigneur de Ravaistain

乔治・马修 (1921-2012)

L’adversité généreuse

GEORGES MATHIEU (NE EN 1921)

L'immortalité ruinée

Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)

La Plainte de la Sainte Mère l’Eglise

GEORGES MATHIEU (1921-2012)

Gouffres Frê les

GEORGES MATHIEU (NE EN 1921)

'Philippe II reçoit de jeunes seigneurs japonais envoyés par le P. Valignani'

Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)

Sombre croyance

Georges Mathieu (b. 1921)

Ambiguité gothique

Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)

Ruines de Deuil

乔治• 马蒂厄 ( 法国, 1921-2012)

凸变量函数的变化

Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)

Sanglot d'horizon

GEORGES MATHIEU (NE EN 1921)

Combat devant Florence

Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)

Reflets éxilés

GEORGES MATHIEU (1921-2012)

Ambiguité gothique

GEORGES MATHIEU (NE EN 1921)

Charles Duc de Lorraine

GEORGES MATHIEU (NÉ EN 1921)

Quatrième Ortho-Déduction

GEORGES MATHIEU (1921-2012)

Défaite de Godefroy et de Sigefroy (890)

GEORGES MATHIEU (B. 1921)

FESTIN à NORWICH

Georges Mathieu (N. 1921)

Sourires ignorés

GEORGES MATHIEU (B. 1921)

PRIèRE à CATHERINE TEKAKOUITA

Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)

Souvenir oublié

GEORGES MATHIEU (1921-2012)

Passé Fantôme

Georges Mathieu (1921-2012)

Espoirs cruels (Cruel Hopes)