French Surrealist painter, born in Paris. Spent his childhood vacations at Finistère in Brittany, where the landscape with its menhirs and dolmens made a lasting impression on him. Went to sea for a year and a half as a student officer on cargo boats. During his military service in the army 1920-2, met the poet Jacques Prévert and served in Tunisia. On his return to Paris in 1922, worked at odd jobs and began to sketch in cafés. Started to paint in 1923, self-taught, after seeing early paintings by de Chirico. Met André Breton in 1925 and joined the Surrealist movement. Made the breakthrough into his mature style in 1927, characterised by abstract biomorphic shapes resting or floating in a desert-like or under-water space. First one-man exhibition at the Galerie Surréaliste, Paris, 1927. In 1930 visited Africa, where he was fascinated by the curious rock formations. Went to the USA in November 1939 and lived first in New York, then from 1942 at Woodbury, Connecticut. Married the American painter Kay Sage in 1940 and became a US citizen in 1948. Continued to develop the same style, but tended to use more intense colours and introduce an increasing number of stony or bone-like forms. Died in Woodbury.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.712-3