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Jean-Michel Atlan

Born 1913 Died 1960

Atlan was a poet, teacher and painter who was born in Constantine, French Algeria. He moved to Paris in 1930 to study at the Sorbonne, obtaining a degree in philosophy. He taught the subject for some years at lycées in Laval and Paris. He moved into a neighbourhood of artists and writers in Paris, becoming a friend of the writer Gertrude Stein, where in the early 1940s, he discovered a vocation to be an artist as well as poet.

In 1942 he was imprisoned for two years for his involvement in the resistance movement during the Nazi occupation. After his release in 1944 he published a volume of poetry Le Sang Profond and had a one-man exhibition of his paintings at Galerie de l'Arc-en-Ciel in Paris.

Atlan became allied to the CoBrA group of avant garde European artists after he met one of the founding members, the Danish artist Asger Jorn, in 1946; Atlan's studio became a meeting place for members in Paris. He exhibited with the group and had solo exhibitions in the city in1946 and 1947, the latter featuring lithographs made for the publication of Kafka’s Description d’un Combat. His growing reputation was enhanced when he was included in an exhibition at Galerie Maeght in Paris in 1946 alongside Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Georges Rouault. His work was exhibited further afield during the 1950s: in England, Japan, Israel, Yugoslavia, Italy, Germany and Brazil. From 1955 to 1958 Atlan was a regular participant in exhibitions of the 'Nouvelle École de Paris' group, designing a celebrated poster for their exhibition at the Charpentier Gallery in 1956.

He died of cancer in 1960 and three years later was given a retrospective exhibition at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris.

Atlan is represented in many permanent collections in France as well as public collections elsewhere including the Tate Gallery in London, MOMA in New York, the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh and galleries in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Stuttgart and Tokyo.