Oil on canvas, signed
25½ x 32 in.
The painting was executed c.1926. Provenance: Ex Collection Frédéric Grégoire
Born as Eugène Paul in a house in Montmartre on the Rue Lepic painted by Van Gogh, he began drawing and painting as a child. His father died when he was only ten years old and Gen Paul was trained to work in decorative furnishings. He served in the French army during World War I and was wounded twice, losing one of his legs. During his convalescence, he returned to painting, and at Le Bateau-Lavoir he became friends with Juan Gris who helped him a great deal. Although Gen Paul did not receive any formal training, he made a living from his art for almost sixty years. While his early works reflected the influences of his friends in Montmartre, Vlaminck, Utrillo and Frank Will, he soon developed a dynamic form of expressionism reflecting influences as varied as Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Goya, Velázquez and El Greco. Between 1925 and 1929, he produced many of his best works, including our example. The paintings during this phase are characterized by motion created by gestural brush strokes, daring compositions, forced perspectives, diagonals, zigzags, juxtaposed areas of abstraction and realism and flat areas of colour. Unlike other expressionists of the time such as Soutine, Rouault and the German expressionists, Gen Paul's works are full of optimism, fuelled by his passion for life and daily life and his desire to overcome his handicap. Due to the dynamism and motion inherent in his paintings, some consider Gen Paul to be the first action painter, a precursor to the abstract expressionists of the 1950s. Gen Paul died at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris on 30 April 1975 and was interred in the Cimetière Saint-Vincent in Montmartre. A great many of his works remain in private hands, but a number of his important pieces can be found at museums in France and in other parts of Europe.