Lot 603
  • 603

Georges Mathieu

260,000 - 350,000 HKD
437,500 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Georges Mathieu
  • Le Ruisseau Solitaire
  • alkyd on canvas
  • 80.9 by 100 cm; 31⅞ by 39⅜ in.
titled in French, framed


Gallery Blue, Seoul (acquired directly from the artist)
Acquired by the present owner from the above

This work is accompanied with a certificate delivered by the Georges Mathieu Committee under the number GM90008

Catalogue Note

The Maestro and his Stage
Georges Mathieu

Then he waved his paintbrushes around as if they were swords, squeezed his tubes of paint, and leaped, jumped and charged around, performing a sacred dance for an hour. Soon, the skies cleared and the sun came out from behind grey clouds, shining its gold rays on his flamboyant canvas of a million hearts blazing miraculously! Louis XIII entering Paris!
– Georges Mathieu1

Having been instrumental in orchestrating the first confrontation between the American and French avant-garde in 1948, introducing American Abstraction to French audiences, Georges Mathieu went on to play a crucial role in artistic dialogue between the West and the East as one of the first notable European contemporary artists to venture to Asia after after the war. In 1957, in a trip organized by Imaï Toshimitsu, Mathieu went with Informel leader Michel Tapié to visit Japan and was commissioned to execute a large mural painting at the historical Sogetsu Art Center. Donning a theatrical costume, Mathieu danced and painted rapidly as if under a manic trance, radically fusing painting, dance, and electrifying performance in front of a large audience. That year alone in Japan Mathieu executed 21 monumental canvases in public, including a 15-metre fresco, all completed within short periods of time. Such ground breaking public performances, which Mathieu began a few years earlier in Europe, predated Allan Kaprow’s 1957 “Happenings” and Yves Klein’s 1958 “Anthropometry” and “Living Paintbrushes”. On the other hand, Mathieu’s methods resonated strongly with the spirit of the Japanese Gutai group, whose own radical and diverse performance-based experiments developed separately but in parallel to Mathieu’s art. In their 1956 manifesto Gutai members acknowledged two Western artists, Jackson Pollock and Mathieu: “Concerning contemporary art, we respect Pollock and Mathieu because their work seems to embody cries uttered out of matter, pigment and enamel. Their work is about merging with matter using techniques that are particularly reflective of their own individual personalities. More precisely, they put themselves at the service of matter in a powerfully symbiotic way”.2

The result of Mathieu’s performative aesthetic is a jubilant lyrical expressivity executed with a fierce calligraphic flourish – a style that he advocated as European abstraction lyrique and which contrasted against the cold hard formality of geometric abstraction. Created in the artist’s fully mature era, the exultantly resplendent Le Ruisseau Solitaire (Lot 603) evidences the crucial elements of spontaneity and speed whilst displaying supreme confidence and mastery of composition. The piece’s main red, black, and white palette recalls the preferred colours of the artist’s early years; applied in his signature self-invented gestural processes tachisme and tubisme, the direct application of paint from tube to canvas, the orchestration of red and white lines evokes an elegant combustion of intrinsic energy that exudes speed and tension. Meanwhile, an unexpected light-infused cobalt peeks through from the depths of black in the lower right centre portion of the canvas, balancing out the main mass of red impasto in the centre right and rendering the overall composition in perfect consummate harmony – not unlike spontaneous choreography and improvised dance. Bernard Marcadé wrote that “each time [Mathieu] paints, a genuine confrontation occurs between himself and his canvas, where rituals of martial art, dance and trance all come together”.3

Unbeknownst to the artist, his fusion of performance and painting in fact resonates with a long history of “action painting” in Far Eastern calligraphy and ink art which similarly emphasized meditative speed and intuition. Elaborating on the role of performance in his work, Mathieu once commented: “This process, without me being aware of it, works in a mediumistic way to heighten the concentration of the situation. As a result, concentration is the decisive element that separates this type of art from all other art the West has known over the past twenty centuries”.4 Summing up his art, Mathieu said: “The craftsmanship, the finish, the reliance on Greek ideals, all that is dead. Tensions, density, the unknown, and mystery reign […] For the first time in history, painting has become a performance”.5 

1 Cited in Bernard Marcadé, “Pretentious? Moi?” in Tate Etc., issue 18, January 2010
2 Ibid
3 Ibid
4 Ibid
5 Cited by Kirstie Beaven, “Performane Art 101: Painting and Performance”, Tate blogs, 2012