French artist, Jean Fautrier, was a painter, lithographer/engraver and sculptor during his career. His influence on the artists that saw his works eventually inspired what would be called “informal art”. In his later life he experimented with different techniques, coming up with the "originaux multiples” which were partially print and partially paint pieces. The Otages was a series of works using that technique, and it was exhibited in London and in New York in 1945. He was also inclined to practice Tachisme, which was a popular abstract painting technique in France in the 1940s and 1950s.
Fautier had been born in France, an illegitimate child. He was given his mother’s surname and raised by his maternal grandmother until she passed away when he was ten years old. His father had died before Fautier was born, and so it was his mother who came to take him home with her to London in 1908. In 1912 he was able to attend the The Royal Académy of Art in London, but finding its art techniques and instructors too strict for his taste he then tried the Slade School of Art, which was supposed to be more liberal. Also disappointed there, Fautier rented a studio in order to work on his own. He had seen an exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London, and the works hanging there, especially William Turner’s landscapes, had an inspirational and deep effect on his own art pursuits.
In 1917 Fautrier was drafted by the French military to do his required stint as his duty to his country. He suffered from pulmonary problems, so after a short term in the auxiliary corps he was released from duty in 1921. Later, in 1922, he moved from Tyrol to Paris where he exhibited two paintings at the Salon d’Automne which he called Tyroleans in Sunday Dress and Portrait of my Concierge, and both were completed in a realist technique. In 1923 he met Jeanne Castel, an art dealer, who bought his paintings and soon became his friend.
Turning to engravings and printmaking, Fautrier did quite well in his 1924 solo exhibition, gaining him good reviews and eventually attracting a new art dealer Léopold Zborowski in 1926. His paintings had taken a dark and morbid path, inherently violent, using flowers, dead animals and mountain landscapes with linear scratches in the paint; they were reminiscent of Turner’s depictions of the all-powerful force of nature. The 1930s found him having financial problems due to some failed projects he’d had, and in order to make ends meet he became a ski instructor and a bartender at a resort in the Alps. He returned to Paris in 1940, with a new enthusiasm for working as an artist again, and gained employment as an illustrator for several poets and writers.
Fautrier’s works in the 1940s were later characterized in the 1950s as Art autre, which was a precursor to Art Informel in the 1960s. Unfortunately though, he again felt failure in the 1950s when his “multiple originals” exhibitions in Paris and New York were not a success in the least. He went back to painting, using his art to criticize the Soviet actions in Hungary in 1956, and producing more works in the style of Art Informel which received better attention in the 1960s. In 1960 Fautrier won the Venice Biennale’s international grand prize and in 1961 he received a major award at the Tokyo Biennale. Upon his death in July of 1964, Jean Fautrier left a numerous amount of his works to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Musée de l’Ile-de-France in Sceaux. The Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective for Jean Fautrier that same year, and much later, in 2005, a retrospective was organized in Martigny by the Pierre Gianadda Foundation.