What is lyrical abstraction according to Georges Mathieu?

Georges Mathieu was born on 27 January 1921 into a family of bankers in Boulogne-sur-Mer. After studying law, literature and philosophy, he began to paint in 1942. At the end of the Second World War, the painter George Mathieu devoted himself entirely to what he called “lyrical abstraction”, non-figurative gestural painting, and created it with great dedication. As a painter, he became one of the philosophers of this new abstract configuration. He also linked lyrical abstraction to action painting, which was developing in the United States at the same time.

Lyrical abstraction in a nutshell

Lyrical abstraction in fact refers to an artistic movement from about 1945 to 1970, of which there were two main branches: one European and the other American. Despite their many common features, especially the desire of their delegates to express a truth deep within themselves, they differed in sometimes very distinct directions and attitudes that those representing them were able to take. This peculiar formula was chosen because the current wanted to distinguish itself from all the other figures of abstraction that existed at the time, such as constructivist or geometric abstraction. In fact, lyrical abstraction is primarily about the direct expression of personal emotion, in other words, the artist’s emotions override everything else. Thus, we recommend you explore the biography of Georges Mathieu by clicking this link.

The European branch

Unlike its transatlantic counterpart, European lyrical abstraction was born in 1947. After three years, the critics Charles Estienne and Pierre Gu├ęguen precisely defined its initial and dominant tendency towards tachism. It then spread throughout Europe and France in the mid-1950s. Spontaneous spraying of paint gave the lines a “psycho-seismographic look”. In 1920, Hans Hartung, a French artist of German origins, became a pioneer in his constant search for pure and free expression. Abstract expressionism is generally referred to by its Anglo-Saxon name “action painting”. People think of the famous American Jackson Pollock, the first representative of his famous dripping technique, but there are also Willem de Kooning, Georges Mathieu and Hans Hoffmann.

The American branch

The lyrical abstraction experienced in Europe reached the New World at about the same time, but this American version was not formalised until 1969. However, the American wave was considered highly creative and productive from the start. It differed from the European branch in its reaction to what Europe had already done and in its transformation into a new pictorial expression. Furthermore, the works of this style are easily recognisable because of their large expanses of bright colours that break up perspective, removing any depth from the canvas. The reduction of strokes and movements to make shapes and colours more coherent, is the main principle.