As an artist, critic, writer, and editor, Georges Mathieu was an important figure of Postwar European abstraction. Mathieu started painting in a figurative style in the mid-1940s, but immediately set to researching philosophical and theoretical texts that would help him “liberate” his art. Critic Jean Jose Marchand first coined the term “lyrical abstractivism” in November 1947 to describe Mathieu’s brand of painterly abstraction, which the artist soon adjusted into Lyrical Abstraction, and set about defining in various writings: Above all, Mathieu believed in the intuition, spirit and concentrated energy of the artist to manifest art that was free of premeditated forms or references. He prioritized speed of execution to ensure that the artist’s preconceptions and consciousness didn’t interfere with the creative act. Lyrical Abstraction—which has also been variously called Tachisme or Art Informel—shares many similarities with Abstract Expressionism, and Mathieu’s efforts as a writer and curator was important for fostering a transatlantic dialogue with his American counterparts.
20th Century Art: Capsule Gallery auction: May 10, 2018
Georges Mathieu Untitled (1959)
In this charming untitled work from 1959, we can see Mathieu’s lyrical style on display, which many have called “calligraphic:” hurried strokes made by brush, and gestural marks achieved by squeezing the paint tube directly onto the canvas. In this simple but poignant painting, we can feel Mathieu’s “total liberty to improvisation, speed, the unknown, the imaginary, and risk” (Georges Mathieu, speech on the occasion of his election to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, 1976).