Huguette Arthur Bertrand (1922-2005)
Born in Écouen in 1920, Huguette Arthur-Bertrand grew up in Roanne, not far from Saint-Étienne. After the Liberation she moved to Paris, where she frequented the avant-garde artist’s circles of Saint Germain des Prés, and exhibited in the ‘Salon des moins de trente ans’, which later became the ‘Salon de la Jeune Peinture’. In 1947, the young artist received a grant that enabled her to spend several months in Prague. From her first canvases she developed a unique style which was abstract and based on the energy of gesture. In 1949, she presented her work in the Salon de Mai. With her avant-garde group ‘Les Mains Éblouies’, which included Deyrolle, Dewasne, Poliakoff, and Magnelli, she exhibited in the Galerie Maeght in Paris.
Her first major exhibition was held in 1951 at Galerie Niepce, curated by Julien Alvard. Two years later in 1953 the artist joined Galerie Arnaud, which featured her work in its exhibition series Divergences. Soon thereafter Arthur-Bertrand was amongst the great artists Pierre Soulages, Hans Hartung, and Zao Wou-Ki. She was one of the only women to become part of the Lyrical Abstraction movement.
‘A beautiful lyrical abstraction, neither geometrism nor abstracted landscapes, that originated in the 1950s and never stopped growing’, wrote Michel Ragon; ‘strong convictions that no changing trends can shake’. Throughout her practice, her work evolved, nervous qualities being replaced by those marked by freedom and serenity. The compositions became less constructed and the forms vanished. In the 1980s, her canvases feature light and ethereal strokes. For Michel Ragon, she was a ‘subtle and expressive colourist’.
Contrary to what one might believe, the artist produced few works in her life. Meticulous and demanding of herself, she sometimes spent two or three years working on the same composition, in search of perfection.
‘The painting is not a “mise en scène”, but rather the natural imprint of an action, of an event that has taken place’, Huguette Arthur-Bertrand explained.
During her lifetime her work was exhibited in Paris, Tokyo, and New York. She died in 2005.
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