Where has Robert Coutelas (1930-1985) been hiding from me? I adore these strange portraits, they make me guess at the lives lived by these strange characters.
Robert was born into a poor French family who lived in a single room. He left school aged 11 to work in a spinning factory in Theirs, Auvergne. Robert became fascinated by “arts populaires” artworks by unknown craftspeople and began amassing a small collection of works using his pocket money. However, his parents wanted to thwart his artistic aspirations and threw his treasured collection away. Robert attended an industrial design programme and art college at Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts de Lyon but did not complete either course. In 1955 he exhibited with the new Lyon School of painting, a group who straddled figurative and abstract work. He moved to Paris in 1958 and was celebrated and supported by a number of galleries, but he always broke away and mostly lived in abject poverty.
"Painting is one of my passions, an inner adventure.Every time I sell one of my paintings in order to survive, I feel like I’m betraying it." Robert Coutelas