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Jean-Michel Atlan

Abstraction, CoBrA

(Constantine, 1913 – Paris, 1960)

Jean-Michel Atlan

After studying in Constantine during high school, Atlan came to Paris in 1930, at 17 years old to study philosophy at the Sorbonne and discovers the tumultuous life of Paris. He graduated with a degree devoted to the Marxist dialectic. He even became an occasional bodyguard of Leon Trotsky in 1933. He prepared the aggregation, while teaching in high schools until 1940, before being dismissed by the Vichy government in the implementation of anti-Jewish laws. 

He started painting in 1941 but joined the Resistance and was arrested by Germans. He found his salvation in Saint–Anne Hospital, faking madness as his knowledge in psychiatry allowed him.

In 1944, he exhibited his works for the first time at the Salon des Surindépendants and in the Arc-en-Ciel Gallery. From that moment on, he participated in every great manifestation of contemporary French art. He exhibited his works many times in solo shows in France and abroad. In November 1956 he exhibited alone at the Bing gallery in Paris, where he has an amazing success.

The National Museum of Modern Art in Paris devoted a retrospective in 1963 with more than two hundred works, and Tel Aviv Museum will do the same in 1964. Some of his works are acquired the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1980, settling a real recognition of his talent.

If we observe a certain evolution of form and technique from the early expressionist paintings, the work of Atlan comes in an impressive monolithic unity. Atlan 's work is divided into several periods: a first period from 1941 to 1954 ,where his way of painting is affirmed, but his production was still limited. The most successful period runs from 1954-1955 until his death in 1960. He then realizes large formats. The style of Atlan reaches full maturity, allowing him to produce major paintings. His pictural technic mixes chalk, pastels, oil on canvas, trying to find materials offering matter effects that he wanted. 

His language is nearly an abstract expressionism that links him to CoBRA Group. A dark, smutty and thick style defines simple shapes which he called himself magic, some shaping feminine curve, others more aggressive. He materialized them with bright colours first, then softened. In his painting, despite the bright clarity of the compositions, we can see a barbaric character and some African reflections. 

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