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Henri Michaux

Tachism, Abstraction

(Namur, 1899 - Paris, 1984)

Henri Michaux

Born in 1899 in Namur (he will be naturalized French in 1955), Henri Michaux spent his childhood in Brussels, in a well-to-do family. Lonely and anguished teenager, he reads a lot, Dostoievski or Tolstoi in particular. During his youth, he studied medicine, which he quickly abandoned to become a sailor, another career quickly abandoned.

He then discovers Lautréamont's texts, which will make him want to write. After collaborating with the magazine Le disque vert, directed by Franz Hellens, Michaux left Belgium in 1924, and moved to Paris. There, he frequents the surrealists, and meets Jules Supervielle who will become a very close friend.
He is thus led to frequent the literary milieu of Paris, including Jean Paulhan who pushes him in turn in this way. He also discovered painting through the works of Paul Klee or Giorgio de Chirico, and then began to paint. In 1927, he made his first drawings, sorts of hieroglyphics, and published his first important book Qui je fus, a collection of his previously published poems. He draws and paints more and more, travels extensively in North America and Asia, where he discovers a great interest in Chinese calligraphy. In parallel he works on literary and pictorial creation.

In 1937, he was editor-in-chief of the magazine Hermès and exhibited for the first time at the Galerie Pierre Loeb in Paris in 1938. In 1939, he published Peintures, which included poems and his own abstract drawings. During the Second World War, he stayed in the south of France and met André Gide. In 1941 André Gide's "Découvrons Henri Michaux" drew the attention of the general public to him and his work. This notoriety bothers him. During this same period of occupation, he married Marie-Louise, who died in 1948. Following her death, he made hundreds of drawings and wrote a poem, Nous deux encore; his drawings are collected in a collection in 1951: Mouvements. With painting taking precedence over writing, he held his first retrospective in 1951 at Galerie Rive Gauche. Five years later, he began his experiments with hallucinogens, which he will report through several books and drawings.
Henri Michaux realized a series of experiments of drugs, such as Mescaline, or LSD, to study their impact on the human mind, and in particular on the artistic creation. These attempts led mainly to pictorial works, but also to several books, including L'infini turbulent in 1957.

The National Museum of Modern Art in Paris devotes an important exhibition in 1978. The search for a universe of signs as the most direct source of expression and the creation of landscapes and fantastic beings are the two main themes of his work. He practices watercolor as much as pencil drawing, gouache as engraving or ink. His own writings and critics constitute an essential source of information on his pictorial work. A major retrospective of his work takes place in Tokyo in 1983. Henri Michaux dies in Paris the following year.

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