© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

La Mort du Connétable de Bourbon, 1959

Georges Mathieu (1921–2012, FRA)

Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 97 x 195 cm

about the work

The French painter Georges Mathieu was often described as eccentric and a commercial artist. Even though these assertions are justified to an extent, Mathieu’s achievements in the post-war art scene represent far more than this. After studying languages, philosophy and law in Lille, the self-taught Mathieu dedicated himself to painting from 1942. He soon found his very own, abstract form of expression and established contacts with the established artists Camille Bryen and Wols (works of both are included in the Reinhard Ernst Collection). In 1947, Mathieu moved to Paris, coined the phrase abstraction lyrique and together with Camille Bryen and Michel Tapié he organised the first exhibition of tachist-informal works. A short time later, Michel Tapié, the French artist and art critic who gave the Informel movement its name, organised the »Véhémences confrontées«and »Les signifiants de l’Informel« exhibitions. Mathieu also took part in these exhibitions, which were significant for informal painting. Oriental calligraphy, but also the American avant-garde became increasingly important for Mathieu. In particular, Jackson Pollock’s style of painting fascinated the French artist. From 1954, he painted on a stage in front of an audience and presented his act of painting like a performance – rapid, staccato, almost dance-like movements and leaps that Mathieu made in front of the large canvas could be observed by the audience attending the show. This was the only way he could project his innermost thoughts and feelings to the outside world. His performances and paintings were correspondingly popular on the art market. As he stated himself, Mathieu was intensely interested in historic wars and battles and he included these in his works. As such, many of his painting titles refer to battles and the generals who fell in them. The picture in the Reinhard Ernst Collection is one of them, which visualises the death of the Connétable de Bourbon in Mathieu’s abstract imagery.

Georges Mathieu was one of the leading well-known artists who promoted the gestural-informal style of painting in France. His participation in the documenta II confirms his rank, although Mathieu’s eccentricity unfortunately overshadows large areas of his creative work. Sculptures, furniture, carpets, murals and the theoretical manifesto Au-delà du Tachisme provide evidence of Georges Mathieu’s broad spectrum of work.

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