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Jean-Michel Atlan

Abstraction, CoBrA

  • Sans titre

Jean-Michel Atlan

(Constantine, 1913 – Paris, 1960)

Sans titre, 1959

Oil on canvas
Signed and dated lower right Atlan 59
Countersigned and dated on the back on the frame ATLAN 59
81 x 54 cm

Provenance :
Private collection, France

Exhibition :
Atlan, Galerie Henry Bing, Paris, November 1959
Literature :
- Revue Aujourd'hui, n° 24, Paris, December 1959, reproduced
- Atlan Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre complet by Jacques Polieri, éditions Gallimard, Paris, 1996, described and reproduced p. 367 under n° 733

Self-taught, unclassifiable, coming to painting late in life, neither figurative nor completely abstract, Atlan, by the extreme singularity of his art, exerts a preponderant influence on the painters who work with him. His language, close to an abstract and primitive expressionism, brings him closer to the CoBrA group.

His compositions are constructed by means of sinuous black lines surrounding fields that are sometimes pastel and sometimes muted, recalling organic and vegetal associations. These thick, charcoal rings create rhythm; they encircle curved or aggressive elementary forms from which the planes of the painting emerge. Atlan harmonises rhythms, colours and materials to create a powerful and personal pictorial universe. His work is based on the depths of the collective unconscious, on the symbolism of magical signs.

"The forms that seem to us to be the most valid today, as much by their plastic organisation as by their expressive intensity, are strictly speaking neither abstract nor figurative. They participate precisely in those cosmic powers of metamorphosis where the real adventure lies. (From which emerge forms that are themselves and something other than themselves, birds and cacti, abstraction and new figuration. Jean-Michel Atlan

"A form only interests me when it lives (or when I have succeeded in making it live) and then it is no longer abstract: it is alive! Jean-Michel Atlan.


From the 1950s onwards, Atlan was considered one of the most important representatives of the "New School of Paris", and he was widely recognised in France and Japan, as well as in England and the USA. 
In 1950, Atlan was invited by the magazine CoBrA to express his views on contemporary art. In 1956, he exhibited at the Bing Gallery, his first solo show in Paris since 1947.
1959 was a year of intense production for ATLAN.
Jean Michel Atlan died in his Paris studio on 12 February 1960 as a result of a devastating cancer.
Many museums in France and abroad acquired his paintings, including the Tate Gallery, London and the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
Jean-Michel Atlan was honoured in 1963 with a retrospective exhibition at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris. In 2008, on the occasion of the Atlan donation exhibition, the artist was given a room at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. 

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