Maurice Estève French, 1904-2001


Maurice Estève was undoubtedly a leading representative of the first generation of artists – which included Bissière, Bazaine, Manessier, Singier and Le Moal –  who, after the Second World War, chose to work on non-figurative art. As an abstract colourist, Estève’s practice was focused on the interlacing of form and colour.


Whilst visiting the Louvre during the 1920s, Estève became particularly impressed by the painters Jean Fouquet (c.1420-1481) and Paolo Uccello (1397-1475). The artist trained himself by studying a group he dubbed, the ‘Primitifs’: Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), Fouquet and, above all, Paul Cezanné (1839-1906), whom Estève referred to as ‘a saint of painting’.


The artist was largely self-educated, having only attended the free studio of the Colarossi academy in 1924.  Here, he tried to constructively implement his own motifs using the artistic framework of Georges Braques (1882-1963) and Fernand Légers (1881-1955). It was here he thus began creating an idiosyncratic style, which might be thought of as a ‘Cubist Fauvism’.


Estève's extensive work was not limited to the genre of painting and in 1923, he went too Barcelona, to work in a textile factory. He also experimented with collage, murals, stained glass and tapestry design. Though he avoided the extrovert circles of the avant-garde in Paris, Estève was still a member of the core artistic group who brought about the breakthrough of "École de Paris" after 1945.


Estève took part in the Venice Biennale in 1954. In a similar way to the artists Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923-2002) and Jean Bazaine (1904-2001), Estève’s oeuvre established a new pictorial language: form and colour were embodied by lyrical abstractions, expressed with an almost poetic attitude. By 1959, Estève had taken part at ‘Documenta II’, in Kassel, and in 1970 he received the Grand Prix National des Arts.


Estève is considered an important Tachisme painter, a movement that developed in France during the 1950s and 1960s. During this time, his paintings were abstract, basing compositions on bright areas of contrasting shapes and bold colours. 


Estève’s work is included in numerous global museums, such as, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York; Tate Gallery, London. The artist’s works can also be found in the Saatchi collection, along with many private collections.