Hiver, Notre Dame, Paris, 1965
b. 1920, Paris, France
d. 1999, Paris, France
Olivier Debré was born in Paris, France, to an artistic, bourgeois family. After his mother passed when he was nine years old, his father encouraged him to paint and draw as a way of coping with grief. After attending some of the best schools in France, including the Lycee Louis-le-Grand in Paris and the Faculty of Letters at the Sorbonne, Debré decided to pursue architecture.
Inspired by Le Courbusier, Debré enrolled at the École Normale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in 1938 and was training to become an architect before changing course to become a painter. Debré credits Pablo Picasso for his transition from figurative painting to Abstract Expressionism, who visited his first exhibition in 1941 and encouraged him to explore abstraction. Today, Olivier Debré is best known for his large-scale Color Field paintings. His exultant abstractions are reminiscent of the works of both Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages. Throughout his career, Debré produced cavernous interior stage sets for established theaters, including the Hong Kong Opera, Parisian Comédie Française, and Théâtre des Abbesse. The artist described his painting as "fervent abstraction" because it arouses emotions. Debré was ultimately interested in how he could express a concept without using illustration or figuration.
Olivier Debré’s works are collected all over the world, and are housed in museums such as the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Musée d’Histoire et d’Art de Luxembourg; the Philips Collection, Washington, D.C.; the Taipei Fine Art Museum; as well as in private collections and prestigious foundations such as the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Geneva.