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Olivier Debré

Abstraction Lyrical

(1920 - Paris - 1999)

From an early age, Olivier Debré began to paint, draw and sculpt. At the age of 14, he was naturally influenced by the impressionist landscapes of his grandfather, the painter Edouard Debat-Ponsan (1847-1913).

In 1938, received at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he joined the architecture studio run by his uncle and frequented that of Le Corbusier.

In 1941, he meets Picasso who will have a decisive influence on him. He now seeks to express his emotion without going through the representation. The abstract sign thus appears to him as the incarnation of emotion and thought. While being abstract, he considers that the sign does not mean anything other than reality.

In 1949, he presented at the Galerie Bing his first solo exhibition of colorful and expressive paintings.

Around 1950, Olivier Debré favors matter and dull colors. Always carried by the idea of ​​the sign as a representation of thought, he paints the series of "sign-characters". Although this series is the result of a clean search, the use of the flat knife and a simple palette tending toward the monochrome is not unlike the work of Nicolas de Staël of the same period.

At the turn of the 1960s, Olivier Debré returned to the landscape and found his original way. The formats get longer, suggesting both a panoramic view of a limitless space and diving into a near-monochronic. He therefore describes his painting as a fervent abstraction because it symbolizes the emotion aroused by the contemplation of a landscape.

Since 1967, the success of his works led him to represent France at the Montreal Universal Exhibition.

During the 80s-90s, Olivier Debré benefited from several public commissions: the curtains of the Comédie Française, the Hong Kong Opera, and the Shanghai Opera.

In 1997, he directed the sets and costumes of the ballet "Signes" of the choreography Carolyn Carlson.

In 1995, the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume offers a retrospective of Olivier Debré, also presented in Europe and Latin America.

He died in Paris on June 2nd, 1999.


The works of Olivier Debré are exhibited in most major international collections of 20th century painting.

Public and monumental commissions: Collège de Royan, Faculty of Medicine of Toulouse, stage curtain of the Shanghai Opera, the Hong Kong Opera, stage curtain of the Comédie Française, Hotel de Ville of Boulogne-Billancourt, Notre-Dame de la Source in Compiegne, Building of the Artist's studios in Paris, ...

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