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Pierre TAL-COAT - Detailed biography


Pierre Tal-Coat, born Pierre Jacob,is a French painter belonging to the Ecole de Paris. He was born in 1905 in Clohars-Carnoet (Finistère). In 1915 his father, a fisherman, died on the Argonne front.

A blacksmith’s apprentice in 1918 as he also begins to draw and sculpt, Tal-Coat obtains a national student scholarship and enters primary school at Quimperlé.  A notary clerk in Arzano in 1923, a molder and ceramics painter at Keraluc pottery in Quimperlé in 1924, he draws with pencil, charcoal, or with pastels the people and landscapes of Brittany countryside.

Arriving in Paris in 1924, Tal-Coat is a model of the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, a molder at the Factory of Sevres, and becomes close to the painter Emile Compard. In 1925 and 1926, during his military service, he meets Auguste Fabre and Henri Bénézit and exhibits in their gallery in 1927 under the name of Tal Coat (“Wooden front” in Brittany’s dialect), a name he will keep all his life as to avoid confusion with the poet Max Jacob. Returning to Paris in 1930 after his stay in Doelan, Brittany frpm 1927 to 1929, he becomes close to Francis Gruber, then André Marchand, Gertrude Stein, Francis Picabia, Giacometti, Tzara. During the 1930s, the artist painted very stripped down figurative paintings, portraits of women, self-portraits, and landscapes. Beginning 1932, he is a member of “New Forces”, a group that strives for a pictorial tradition “in fervent contact with nature”.  In 1936, he protests against the Spanish Civil War with a series of Massacres.

In 1940 he cannot move from Montauban. Tal Coat successfully relocates with André Marchand to Aix-en-Provence, where they give refuge to numerous artists, most notably Charles-Albert Cingria and Cendrars. In 1941 he participates in the exposition “Twenty young painters of the French tradition” organized by Bazaine and exhibited at the Galerie de France in 1943.

After a two year stay in Paris between 1945-1947, Tal Coat returns to Aix where he meets André Masson. His encounter with the philosopher Henri Maldiney and the poet André Du Bouchet, who would become his friends, leads him to a decisive turning point. He takes note of impressions, states, sensations captures in urgency, which he re-inscribes in canvases crossed with signs, lines, punctuations where contact with nature reunites with a spiritual quest. His painting becomes thus non-figurative. Pierre Tal Coat paints traces of light and prints, they become series (Water Movements, Signs, Passages, Flights, Herds, etc.).

Within the divide in the great debate between the opposing tenants of social realism and abstraction, he exhibits with other artists of the new Ecole de Paris at the Galerie de France (from 1945 to 1965), the galleries Maeght (1954-74) and Benador (1970-1980), then the Galerie H-M, Galerie Clivage, and Galerie Berthat-Aittouarès. In 1956 six of his paintings are presented at the Venice Biennale. Alongside Joan Miro and Ubac, he collaborates in 1963 on the realizations of the Fondation Maeght with a mosaic for the foundation’s entrance wall. A large retrospective exposition is consecrated to him in Paris at the Grand Palais in 1976.

From 1961onwards, he lives in Normandy near Vernon, where he reaches the full achievement of his research, the fusion of the spiritual and the material. His last paintings, all from material, hint and suggest in a halo, a space, a form, a zone of light. They radiate, end their path with an organ note, under the sign of purity and poetic intensity. He dies in 1985.