Born: 1901. Died: 1985.
French artist, son of a wine merchant of Le Havre where he attended art school.
In 1918 he went to Paris but stopped painting in 1924 and took charge of the family business, making art only occasionally.
In 1942 he decided to give art priority, though it seemed too late for an artist's career: he would work just for himself.
He exhibited his new work in Paris in 1944 and 1946, and in New York in 1947, and found himself an admired newcomer. He sold his business, painted full-time and made growing use of inartistic materials such as asphalt, broken botties and graffiti.
He collected the art of children and mental defectives and called it art brut.
His Corps de Dames series of 1950-51 echoes graffiti; other figure subjects followed, also land- and townscapes.
The crudeness of his work was much remarked on, more important is its delicacy and his Rabelaisian humor.
Major retrospectives in 1960-62, and in London, Amsterdam and New York in 1966. At this time he began to work with painted polystyrene, making reliefs and free-standing objects.
Commissions came for large sculpture, for stage sets and paintings, and his work was shown arond the globe (e.g. large exchibitions in Le Havre, Toronto and Tokyo 1977-78).
He wrote books about Art brut and about his own work. His work says that the world is more handsome than we think and tells us to look without prejudice like children.
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