One of the more obscure areas in visual art knowledge is in the area of performance
art, and one of the more obscure artists in the area of performance art is Georges Mathieu. Born
in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, Mathieu went into his higher education seeking knowledge in literature and philosophy. He began
to explore painting when he was twenty-one.
During the 1950s Mathieu earned a reputation with his unique and quick abstract
paintings, or what he calls “lyrical abstractionism”, on the international level. These rather large abstract
works that he calls "Battles" were largely inspired by historical events from early in Frances
existence. He developed a process of painting works in front of an audience. These works are commonly known as live action
paintings. The impulsive works are anti-Geometric Abstract at their core. Mathieu hates Geometric Abstraction and created a set of rules when painting his live action paintings so that they would not become something his detestes.
His three rules for live action painting are: the paintings needed to be created quickly; he could
have no preconceived notion of subjects he would work from; and he had to unconsciously focus on a single task, painting without
distractions within his own mind. He loved the spontaneity that is seen in the art of Jackson Pollock,
and wanted to capture that gestural handling of paint in his artworks.
Georges Mathieu approaches his art making like a theatrical production.
He has the thirteen by forty foot canvas on stage, where he would enter in front of his audience. Taking the persona of a
character from history, he begins to paint to tell the story of that character, usually within a half an hour. As in his work
Homage to Maréchal De Turenne, the title given to Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne, who is one of the most celebrated war heroes of French history during
the era of Louis XIV. He commonly uses eight hundred tubes of paint
in each of these large-scale works. Although he is primarily known for the "Battles", he
is also known to have created sculpture, furniture, tapestries, frescoes, and written great works of theory in the area of
Homage to Maréchal De Turenne
1952. Oil on canvas. 78¾ X 156½ inches. Private Collection.