Born in Namur, Belgium, in 1899 and died in Paris in 1984, the writer and painter Henri Michaux made ‘the journey’, both real and imaginary, the central theme of his work. Greatly attracted to Eastern cultures, he developed a style of painting out of calligraphic lines and signs that resembled a personal alphabet, often working under the influence of psychotropic substances (his drawings made under the effects of mescaline are notorious). After arriving in Paris in 1924, he became interested in the work of Paul Klee, Max Ernst and Giorgio de Chirico. Unable to choose between writing and painting, he used both to weave a very personal and poetic universe that reveals his fascination in the fissure separating reality and representation. Although beginning with writing, from the 1940s visual creation became significant. Michaux understood aesthetic production as a ritual experience, an action that, through the repetition of certain gestures and movements, creates a different sense of time freed from everyday rationale. In his painting as much as his graphic and written work, he developed a tense, rapid style of short and agile phrases, or energetic and rhythmic lines, akin to an electric shock.
Noteworthy exhibitions during his lifetime include: the extensive retrospectives dedicated to him by the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, in 1965, and the Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1978. Since the seventies, his work has been exhibited in numerous museums and galleries in Europe, America and Japan.