Debré, Olivier

A member of the lyrical abstraction movement, Olivier Debré is a French painter born in 1920. He is also known for his prints, illustrated books, costumes and theater sets. Read the biography

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Born in Paris in 1920, Olivier Debré entered the École des Beaux-Arts in 1938 and joined his uncle's studio. He also attended the studio of Le CorbusierHe soon became part of the Parisian art scene. He became friends with Pablo Picasso from 1941, which had a major influence on his art. He then turned to a more abstract practice, as evidenced by the work Sign of black fervor (1944). His first solo exhibition took place at Galerie Bing in 1949, where Debré met many artists and won critical acclaim. His work initially focused on the notion of the sign as a representation of emotion, before returning to landscape in the 1960s. He represented France at the Montreal World's Fair in 1967, then travelled extensively. He received several public commissions, the most famous being the stage curtain for the Comédie Française, completed in 1987. A retrospective of his work was held in 1995. His paintings inspired a ballet by choreographer Carolyn Carlson: entitled SignsThe show was first performed at the Opéra Bastille in 2003. Debré designed the sets and costumes. He also produces sculptures and illustrates books, including works by Francis Ponge and Julien Gracq. He died on June 1, 1999, and is now considered one of the leading exponents of lyrical abstraction.