Claude Bellegarde (1927-2019)

French abstract painter Claude Bellegarde was born in Paris in 1927. He studied drawing and sculpture at a private studio and then began to work independently.

During the 1940s following the war Bellegarde became acquainted with the spiritualist Lanza del Vasto, a disciple of Gandhi, and studied the liberal philosophy of Krisnamurti.

He first painted figurative pictures, followed by tachist works akin to Rorschach tests and then expressionistic abstract paintings. His first solo show was held at the Centre Saint-Jacques, Paris, 1952.

Claude Bellegarde

Claude Bellegarde portrait by Xavier Lambours


Between 1953 and 1957 Bellegarde produced his first major body of work known as Achromaticism (White Period), a series of textured monochrome abstract works. During this period he became established as significant member of the young post-war generation of artists in Paris.

In 1954 he joined the avant-garde group Dessins, which advocated gestural abstraction. The same year Paul Facchetti organized an exhibition Signifiants de l’Informel at his gallery in Paris which featured the work of Fautrier, Mathieu, Dubuffet, Riopelle, Michaux and Bellegarde. Bellegarde also held a solo show at Galerie Arnaud, and participated in a group show at the Museum of Modern Art in Dusseldorf.

Bellegarde first exhibited his White paintings in 1955 at Galerie Facchetti, the same gallery that first presented Jackson Pollack to the French public. Following this solo show, which was championed by the critic Pierre Restany, he began exhibiting his work in Germany, Belgium, England and especially Italy where, as early as 1956, his work was very successful. In Milan, his white paintings impressed Lucio Fontana, who purchased one, and influenced Manzoni.
A painting from this period was acquired by the Musée de Beaux-Arts de Lille in 1956 and The Bird 11, 1957 was purchased by the Tate Gallery, London in 1959. Bellegarde was awarded the international Premio Lissonne, Milan in 1959 and again in 1961.

During the 80s, Galerie Bernard-Davignon in Paris did its utmost to refocus attention on this period, holding several exhibitions and also publishing the book Achromaticism 1953-1957 and in 1985, the Fond National d'Art Contemporain purchased Atonal, 1957, which now hangs in the Musée Cantini, Marseilles. In 1995, Raoul Jean Moulin acquired a large crushed paper work Displacement of space, 1957, for the collection of the future Musée d’Art Contemporain Val-de-Marne and in 2004 the Musée d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou aquired Nothing Else, 1954 and The Threshold, 1955.

Veiw of the artist's studio Rue Daguerre, Paris, 1954 © André Morain
Galerie Schoeller - 1959
Galerie Arnaud -1957
Galerie Apollinaire - Pierre Restany , Claude Bellegarde -1956
Wedding of Pierre Restany and Aline Dallier, July 15th 1955
Claude Bellegarde, Pierre Restany, Aline Dallier, Coco, Dr Roger Lévy.
Photo, Paul Facchetti © Paul Facchetti

Typograms • Psycolor cubicles

Pure color appeared in his work of the early 60s and in 1963 he wrote his first manifesto on the origins of color and their symbolism. This was followed by an exhibition of his Typograms, abstract psychological portraits, at Galerie Blumenthal, Paris. A painting Typogram of a plant, 1963 is at the Centre Nationale d'Art Contemporain in Paris.

In 1964, invited to an international art symposium at Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey, Bellegarde conceived his first Cabines Chromatiques or Psycolor Cubicles. A painting of the cubicle project from this period Research for man, 1964 is at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Returning to France he was asked to construct a cubicle for chromotherapy for the clinic of Doctor A. Tomatis, which brought about his research on the effects of color on mentally disturbed patients. These experiences enriched his pictorial expression and led him to publish several manifestos and articles and to produce a large body of work which spans a decade, titled Human Nature.  A painting of this period, History of the Eye, 1967 was recently aquired by the Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon.

Bellegarde was selected to represent France at the 1965 International Sao Paulo Biennale and the same year he was awarded First prize for France at the 1965 Biennale de San Marino, Italy. In 1971 he was awarded a major retrospective at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris.

Wooden Scrolls • Human Nature

During the mid 70s, Bellegarde sought out new materials which would more closely reflect organic matter: rice paper, wooden leaves of paper and finally wooden scrolls. These Scrolls provided him with just such a textured surface on which human forms, vegetation, earth, sky and fire could be inscribed and his fascination with them lasted for almost twenty years.

He completed a doctoral degree at the Sorbonne, Paris in 1983, lectured extensively at symposiums and conferences and also completed several architecture, film, theatre, music and poetry projects. Bellegarde was conferred the title of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French minister of culture Jack Lang in 1985.

Columbia University, USA -1981
The artist in his studio in Normandy, 1989

Sound and color • Marine and volcanic • Vision of color

The extended research of the 70s and several significant trips to the volcanoes of Hawaii, the Grand Canyon and American West, the Indian Ocean of the Seychelles and Ile Maurice would lead Bellegarde to search out new ways of exploring and 'seeing' color throughout the 80s and 90s. Intense colors and rhythmic forms flowed across the canvases, grouped broadly under the themes: Sound and Color, Marine and Volcanic, Vision of Color.

A large exhibition Achromaticism was presented by Galerie Bernard-Davignon in Paris in January 1990 and November 1990, Bellegarde exhibited at the first Seoul International Art Festival along with Sam Francis, Karel Appel, Gottfried Honegger, Mimmo Rotella, Robert Rauschenburg.
In 1999 Bellegarde was invited to Morocco for a major retrospective of his work. The exhibition Claude Bellegarde - Métamorphose de la Couleur was held in Rabat, Fez and Tangier. Also, several solo exhibitions where held at Galerie Larock-Granoff in Paris during the 90s through 2006.

Ephemeral • Gray-Light

The new millennium marks the beginning of two new series of paintings Ephemeral and Gray-Light.  The French daily Humanité commissioned a large painting Gaze on Humanity, 2004 which was exhibited at the Fête de l’Humanité. Also a large tapestry The Color of Perception, woven at Manufacture Gobelins, was commissioned for the Mobilier National Collection in Paris.

Today Claude Bellegarde lives in Paris and continues his quest for color.

The artist is represented in numerous major modern art museums world-wide including Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Paris; Musée Cantini, Marseilles; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lille; Tate Gallery, London; Solomon Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tokyo Museum of Modern Art; Museo d'Arte Contemporanea di Lissone; National Gallery of Canada as well as Wuppertal; Belgrade; Skopje; Geneva; San Marino.

Claude Bellegarde : chronology… »

Publications · Conferences · Aquisitions

Bellegarde – The Quest for Color

A 215 page, book about Claude Bellegarde, covering a span of 60 years. The book includes many examples of the artist's work, extracts from his journal and full articles from contributors : Raymond Abellio, Julien Alvard, Geneviève Breerete, Pierre Cabanne, Pierre Restany, Jean Clarence Lambert, Enrico Crispoliti, Gérald Gassiot-Talabot, Pierre Gaudibert, Alain Gheerbrant, Bernard Gheerbrant, Jean-Marie Gibbal, Lydia Haramborg, Adelkebir Khatibi, Olivier Kaeppelin, Jean Lancri, Jacques Lassaigne, Jean Jacques Lévèsque, Catherine Millet, Raoul Jean Moulin, Jean Daniel Pollet, Jean Louis Pradel, Denis Riout, André Schoeller, Alfred Tomatis, Michel Trioche, Gérard Xuriguera. Initiator and creative advisor for the monograph Gilles Bastianelli

Pierre Restany’s Half Century 2006

Claude Bellegarde was a guest lecturer at the two day seminar December 2006, organised by the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA), in partnership with the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) and the Archives de la critique d’art . The seminar brought together artists, academics and critics from Europe and the Americas, to examine the various aspects of Pierre Restany’s long career, as poet, critic and promoter of contemporary art, architecture and design.

Musée D’Art Contemporain MAC VAL, Vitry Sur Seine 2006

Déplacement d’espace Temps F - Displacement of space, a large crushed paper work from 1957, now hangs in the recently opened Musée d’Art Contemporain in Vitry. The work was acquired in 1995 by the museum's founder Raoul Jean Moulin

Musée Des Beaux Arts de Lyon 2006

The 1967 painting Histoire de l’Oeil which is now in the Museum's Andre Dubois collection and also appears on the collection's exhibition poster and invitations

Centre Georges Pompidou 2004

The Musée d’ Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou aquired Rien d’Autre - Nothing Else, 1954

Le Mobilier National de France 2004

A large tapestry The Color of Perception, woven at Manufacture Gobelins, was commissioned for the Mobilier National Collection in Paris.