French abstract painter, printmaker, sculptor, and designer, born at Rodez. He was mainly self-taught and did not take up painting in earnest until 1946, when he settled in Paris (during the Second World War he had served in the army, then worked as a farmer). His first one-man show was at the Galerie Lydia Conti, Paris, in 1949, and from that time he quickly gained a reputation as one of the leading exponents of *Tachisme.
His paintings characteristically feature broad, powerful, sombre strokes; originally he worked entirely in black and white, to which he subsequently added subdued blues, browns, and greys. His preference for such a solemn palette exemplifies his view that ‘the more limited the means, the stronger the expression’. The primitive force of his work reflects his love of the prehistoric and Romanesque art of the Massif Central region in which he was born, but the forms of his paintings sometimes also resemble blown-up hieroglyphs or Chinese characters (in 1957 he won the grand prize at the Tokyo *Biennial and in 1958 he visited the Far East, where he admired Oriental calligraphy). In the 1980s he began making completely black paintings, sometimes consisting of several panels. Apart from paintings, his work has included bronze sculptures, etchings, lithographs, and designs for the stage. He also designed a series of stained-glass windows for the abbey at Conques (1994). There is a large collection of his work, donated by the artist, in the Musée Fabre, Montpellier.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)