Pierre Tal-Coat 1905 - 1985
Tal-Coat was a French artist who was a significant figure in the post-war School of Paris. He was one of the founders of Tachisme, a form of Eurpopean abstract expressionism. He was born in Brittany in 1905 named Pierre Louis Jacob. However he eventually chose the surname Tal-Coat (translating as ‘Wood face’ in Breton) to avoid confusion between him and the artist and poet Max Jacob. His works are minimalist, focusing on paintings, etchings and lithographs.
Tal-Coat started his working life at the age of 18. He worked as a clerk to a notary in Arzano. But by 1924 he had found work as a decorator at a porcelain factory in Quimper. Here he would create characters and landscapes inspired by the Brittany countryside. However, in 1925 Tal-Coat was involved in the military service which stalled his progress as a decorator, he was still focused on his art, though. During the years of 1925-1925, Tal-Coat met other important people in the art world. Most notably he befriended Auguste Fabre and Henri Bénézit and after a year they exhibited Tal-Coat’s works in their gallery.
During the 1930s, the artist painted large bold figurative canvases based on portraits of women, self-portraits and landscapes. Tal-Coat was politically-minded, which showed this through his works. In 1936 he protested against the Spanish war though a series of paintings named, ‘The Massacres’. His work was paused for a time when he was conscribed into the army between 1939 and 1940.
Afterwards, he set himself up in Aix-en-Provence which had become a community of artists, including André Marchand, Charles Albert Cingria and Blaise Cendrars. He participated in the exhibitions “20 young painters of the French tradition” which was organised in 1941 and continued to exhibit in 1943. With the end of the Second World War, Tal-Coat returned to Paris and participated in the first exhibition of the Salon de Mai. He stayed in Paris for two years before returning to Aix.
After meeting Andre Masson, philosopher Henri Maldiney and poet Andre Du Bouchet, Tal-Coat’s work took a turn. He became focused on impressions and states which led him to re-inscribing canvases with crosses, signs, lines, punctuations in an attempt to connect nature with the spiritual. Therefore, his painting transitioned into being non-figurative. By 1956 it was confirmed that six of his works would be shown at the Venice Biennale. After a few years of steady success, Tal-Coat collaborated with Joan Miró and Raoul Ubac in the development of the Maeght Foundation in 1963. Tal-coat continued to work until the later years of his life before his death in 1985.