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Roger-Edgar Gillet (1924-2004)


Roger-Edgar Gillet’s pictorial itinerary revolves around widely differing periods that often resulted in his voluntary isolation from the Paris art scene. Although, at the start of his career, he associated himself with the Art Informel movement alongside Michel Tapié and Charles Estienne, with whom he experienced the passionate controversies sparked by their exhibitions, he asserted his desire for expressive freedom at a very early stage and from then on consistently refused to attach himself to any sort of movement – witness his return to subjective figuration towards the 1960s, which placed him outside the trends then in fashion. Gillet went his own way, producing an oeuvre in which caustically traced, ardent forms that are expressionistic only in appearance are brought forth from highly-worked material. The subjects lend themselves to a ferocious style of painting rendered oblique by dreams, irony and humour.

Between 1939 and 1944, he studied at the École Boulle, where he acquired a thorough technical grounding and an appreciation of fine workmanship, and trained under Brianchon at the Arts décoratifs. After the dark years, life gradually resumed. Galleries opened, introducing painters such as Wols, Dubuffet, Fautrier, Poliakoff, Tobey and Michaux. Saint-Germain-des-Prés was already becoming the stamping-ground of the new generation of artists. Gillet shared a former tanning workshop in the leather market with friends (it was subsequently occupied by Corneille and Appel). He attended Antonin Artaud’s funeral (1948) and went to a lecture on Picasso by the Abbé Morel that degenerated into a riot, himself ending up at the police station. Presently he acquired the middle name “Edgar”, courtesy of Michel de Ré, who thought he looked like Edgar Allan Poe. In 1950, while taking part in a group exhibition at the Galerie Mai, he re-encountered his future wife Thérèse, whom he had first met two years earlier at a Wols exhibition at the Galerie Nina Dausset.

He had overseas solo exhibitions at the Galerie La Licorne, Brussels, in 1954; at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, in 1957; at the Galleria Blu, Milan, in 1960; at the Galleria La Bussola, Turin, and the Galerie Lefebvre, New York, in 1961; at the Galerie Moos in Geneva and Galerie Birch in Copenhagen in 1962. In 1964, the Galerie Dina Vierny, in Paris, showed a set of his drawings and the Galerie Françoise Ledoux exhibited prints by him. Drawing and printmaking were techniques Gillet used regularly, alongside oil painting. He saw drawing as an exploratory medium and an aid to memory. has the Galerie de France catalogue from 1961 now available. It has an original lithograph used as cover.

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