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Jean-Michel Atlan

Biographies
Jean-Michel Atlan

*  1913 Constantine
† 1960 Paris


Jean-Michael Atlan, whose family was Jewish, left Istanbul in 1930 to study philosophy at the Sorbonne, where he later also taught. During the occupation he lost his teaching licence and lived in poverty on the Montparnasse. During that time Atlan attended autodidactically to painting. In 1942 he was arrested as a member of the Rèsistance. After feigning mental illness, he was interned for two years in the Hôpital Saint-Anne. There, Atlan became familiar with a world beyond the realm of normal daily life which affected him and his work for the rest of his life. The philosopher and writer, Atlan, who knew Gertrude Stein and Gaston Bachelard, found his calling in painting through the rhythmic element of poetry. In 1944 Atlan exhibited for the first time and published his collection of poems 'Le Sang Profond'. After short initial success and appreciation by a few avant-garde writers, the artist soon was in financial distress again and worked occasionally as a chapman and fortune-teller. In 1946 the autodidactic artist was able to present his work to the public for the first time next to important names like Braque and Matisse. From 1945 on Jean-Michel Atlan created fantastic abstract-figurative animal forms (biological abstraction), which were influenced by the strong primitivism of the group COBRA and participated in their exhibitions. Around 1956 his style stabilised. Strong, black, looped lines surrounded fields in pastel colours, which evoked organic and herbal connotations and often made an issue of struggles and dreams, resulting from the agnostic and biologistic world-view. Atlan achieved his artistic breakthrough with the design of a poster for the exhibition of the new 'Ecole de Paris`at the gallery Charpentier and with an exhibition at the gallery Bing in Paris in 1956. In the 1950s Atlan gained recognition as an important representative of the "Ecole de Paris" in France as well as in Japan, England, and the USA. The artist, who died from cancer in 1960, was already honoured with a retrospective in 1963 in the Musée National d'Art Moderne. He left c. 220 works, among which are also tapestries and illustrations.