Maurice Estève (1904-2001)


Maurice Estéve was a French painter celebrated for his lyrical experiments with bright interwoven forms. His painting was automatic, once saying, "I never use a sketch, painting directly on the canvas, without a preparatory drawing... Each work is a series of transformations."

Born in 1904 in Culan, France, Estéve moved to Paris with his parents in 1913. He worked for a year as a designer in a textile factory in Barcelona in 1923, before attending the Académie Colarossi in Paris the following year. Prior to this he was largely self-taught, but visited the Louvre regularly and was impressed by painters Jean Fouquet and Paolo Uccello. However, of the modern artists it was Paul Cezanne who had the greatest influence on Estéve. During his studies he was exposed to the Cubists and became influenced by the work of Georges Braque and Fernand Léger.

Estéve's first one-man exhibition was held at the Galerie Yvangot, Paris in 1930 and in 1937 he worked as an assistant to Robert Delaunay on huge decorative panels for the Paris International Exhibition. From the 1940s his work became more abstract and his stylised figures, still-life and landscape compositions evolved into interlocking shapes in rich, bold colours. Estéve worked in a number of mediums including oil, watercolour, lithography, textile design and murals. In 1959 he took part in the II. documenta exhibition in Kassel: a presentation of contemporary art founded by Arnold Bode in an attempt to bring Germany up to speed with modern art. In 1970 he received the Grand Prix National des Arts and in 1987 the Estéve Museum was opened in Bourges, France to which Estéve donated a large collection of his work.

Estéve settled in his hometown of Culan in 1995 and died there aged 97 in 2001. Today his work is held in collections, such as the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Tate Gallery, London and the Art Institute of Chicago.