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Henri Michaux

Tachism, Abstraction

(Namur, 1899 - Paris, 1984)

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. A lonely and anguished teenager, he read a lot, Dostoievski and Tolstoi in particular. During his youth, he studied medicine, which he quickly abandoned to become a sailor, another career he quickly abandoned.

He then discovered Lautréamont's texts, which would 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 frequented the surrealists, and met Jules Supervielle who would become a very close friend.
He was thus led to frequent the literary milieu of Paris, including Jean Paulhan who pushed him in turn in this way. He also discovered painting through the works of Paul Klee and 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 drew and painted more and more, travelled extensively in North America and Asia, where he discovered a great interest in Chinese calligraphy. In parallel, he worked on literary and pictorial creations.

In 1937, he was the 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 bothered him tremendously. 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 his writing, he held his first retrospective in 1951 at Galerie Rive Gauche. Five years later, he began his experiments with hallucinogens, which he would report through several books and drawings.
Henri Michaux realized a series of experiments with 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 devoted an important exhibition in 1978 in honor of him. The search for a universe of signs as the most direct source of expression and the creation of landscapes as well as fantastic beings are the two main themes of his work. He practiced watercolor as much as pencil drawing, gouache as engraving or ink. His own writings and critics constituted an essential source of information on his pictorial work. A major retrospective of his work took place in Tokyo in 1983. Henri Michaux died in Paris the following year in 1984.

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