1918 (Sathonay Camp) - 1988 (Paris)

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Portrait de Jean Degottex


Jean Degottex is a french abstract painter, who has worked for fifty years.

Born in Sarthonay-Camp in 1918 in a low class family, Degottex spends his childhood in Lyon. At the age of 15, he arrives in Paris with his parents, leaves school and begins to work. He takes drawings lessons at the free Academy La Grande Chaumière. Then he spent two years in Tunisia and Algeria (1939-1941) to do his military service : there he paints his firts paintings. They are figurative, inspired by the Fauve painters.

Then he decides to live as a painter, and not to do anything else.  In 1941, he participates in the Salon des Moins de Trente ans. in 1946, he marries Marie-Rose Patrix, the sister of Michel Patrix, a friend and artist met at La Grande Chaumière. In 1947 they have a child, a girl, Frédérique.

Since 1948 he has become an abstract painter. He is very interested in the gesture. His painting is a painting of gesture. He is very close to the Lyrical Abstraction, “Abstraction Lyrique“, the most important artistic movement of the period.

In 1949 his works are exhibited at the Galerie Denise René, the most famous place of the abstract Avant-Garde, and Galerie de Beaune. The same year, he meets Renée Beslon, poet, artist and art critic, which will be his wife for all his life. In 1951 he receives the Kandinsky Price.

Until 1954, his works are still inspired by Nature. But in 1954 he chosses a more radical abstraction.

In 1955, he is called by Jean Fournier, director of the Galerie Kléber. He mets there Simon Hantaï and Georges Mathieu, and have with them an on-and-off relationship. He also met his great friend Bernard Heidsieck, poet, the painters Françoise Janicot, Jean Dupuy and the sculptor Paul Gette. In 1959, his works are exhibited by the Galerie Internationale d’art contemporain, which director is Maurice d’Arquian.

From 1956 to 1963, he paints lots of series : Suite Ashkénazi (1957), Suite Serto (march-april, november 1957), suite des Hagakure (november 1957), les 18 Vides (1959), Suite des Roses (1960), suite des Alliances (1960), les 7 Métasignes (1961), Jshet (1962).

In these series, gesture is at the same time meditation and spontaneity. It is an intellectual and primitive work uppon prepared canvas.

Then Frédérique dies accidentally. 1963 is for Degottex a year of dispair. Then he begins the sery of the Ecritures. Then, Suites Rose noire (1964), Suite Obscure (end of 1964), Métasphère (1964), les ETC (1964-67), and Horsphères (1967).

Since 1966, and until his death, he often goes to Gordes (Vaucluse) to work.

In 1968, he participates in the graphic movement that support the political movement called “Mai 68”. In 1969, he works with the architect Jean Daladier to create the maisons-coupoles at Saint-Julien-du-Sault. They have an exhibition at Le Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

From 1972 to 1976, he makes several solo-shows at la Galerie Germain. He meets Bernard Lamarche-Vadel, a writer, and at Jean Fournier’s Galerie, he proposes the exhibition of his sery called “Médias“. He chooses to work about paper : series of the Papiers Pleins (1974-75), Papiers Pleins Obliques (1976), Papiers-Reports (1977) with a techniques that he also applies on canvas – Lignes-Report (1978) and Plis-Reports (1978).

In 1979, exhibition at the Abbaye de Sénanque (Gordes) of a sery of canvas called “Déplis” (with his famous Déplis-bleus).

1981 : National Price of painting (Grand Prix National de Peinture).

1892 : he collaborates with Catherine Thieck, the new director of La Galerie de France, and creates the series Grille-Collors, Oblicollors, and Diacollors. His last great works are made in 1985-86 : series of Lignes-Bois (85), Contre-Lignes Bois (1986), white, grey or bleu.

Degottex dies in Paris in 1988.

To sum-up his style : Originally a lyrical abstract painter, highly influenced by Japanese art and Zen doctrine, Jean Degottex experimented with many techniques to evacuate the gesture and, beyond that, any sign of the artist’s presence. He meditated at length before taking action. From Zen, he learned that no single thing exists alone – so the “emptiness” of the canvas is a component of the work in the same way as the signs to which it is linked.

This almost mystical relationship to art brings Jean Degottex closer to the great American abstract painters, Rothko or Newman