Gérard Schneider


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Gérard Schneider was born on the 28th of April 1896 in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland. He spent his childhood and his student years in Neuchâtel.

At the age of 20, he entered the École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and two years later the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris under Fernand Cormon, who had also been Van Gogh’s teacher among other artists.

Gérard Schneider decided to settle permanently in Paris in 1922, which marks the beginning of a long period of learning the history of painting and the complexity of different artistic techniques.

Gérard Schneider exhibited at the Salon d’Automne for the first time in 1926, where his work L’Allée hippique (Horse Pathway) attracted attention. Ten years later, at the Salon des Surindépendants, Gérard Schneider exhibited five paintings that received wide critical acclaim.  La Revue Moderne referred to “a style, figures of such agility that the expression of movement seems to have been included in the rapid technique”.

Gérard Schneider also tirelessly studied the artistic movements that were born during this tragic post-war period. In the mid-1930s, he quickly assimilated the abstraction led by Kandinsky. He also discovered surrealism. While his palette darkened and he no longer painted from reality, Gérard Schneider frequented the surrealist groups of his time and especially some of its members: Paul Éluard, Oscar Dominguez, Luis Fernandez …


It was from the end of the 1930s that Gérard Schneider’s paintings no longer referred to reality. He gave the title Compositions to the three sent to the Salon des Surindépendants. His encounter with Picasso in 1939 encouraged his relationship with figurative art. Gérard Schneider definitively abandoned all references to reality around 1944, which was confirmed in 1945 when the Musée d’Art Moderne bought one of his paintings (Composition, 1944).

During this tragic period full of artistic twists and turns, Gérard Schneider played a crucial role in this new post-war abstraction. The new movement was part of the full reconstruction of Europe, in which art was also renewed and emancipated from earlier trends. Gérard Schneider was a true pioneer in this development towards abstraction. In Paris, with other avant-garde painters, Schneider proposed a totally abstract art, with no connection to reality. It matched the aesthetic imperatives of this period, and he became the master of this new abstraction, called Lyrical Abstraction.


As soon as the Second World War ended, several exhibitions grouping the main members of lyrical abstraction were organized in Paris, at the galleries of Lydia Conti and Denise René. Gérard Schneider’s work acquired an international dimension, alongside artists such as Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages. The important travelling exhibition Wanderausstellung Französischer Abstrakter Malerei (Travelling exhibition of French abstract paintings) circulated in West Germany from 1946 to 1948. From the early 1950s, Gérard Schneider’s work travelled across Europe: for example to Brussels where there was a first retrospective in 1953, then a second in 1962. He exhibited three times at the Venice Biennale, in 1948, 1954 and 1966. In 1957, he won the award Premio Lissone.

Schneider’s works also travelled to the United States and were shown at the Betty Parsons’ gallery (in 1949 and 1951), and were also included in the major travelling exhibition Advancing French Art that was shown all over the country, making his work known from Chicago to San Francisco.

Later, the Samuel Kootz Gallery in New York was his representative in the United States, from 1955 to 1961. Gérard Schneider was quickly joined by his friend Pierre Soulages in this prestigious establishment. In 1955, the Phillips Gallery of Washington bought Opus 445 of 1950 and New York’s MoMa bought Opus 95 B of 1955. The following year, Gérard Schneider married Loïs Frédérick and met Eugène Ionesco. Exhibitions were held successively around the world.
His work also travelled regularly to Japan from 1950 until the early 1970s, and in particular for the International Art Exhibition in Tokyo in 1959, for which he was awarded the prize of the Governor of Tokyo. Gérard Schneider also exhibited several times at the São Paulo Biennale: in 1951, 1953 and 1961. Four incredible canvas paintings 2 x 3 m were presented.


During the 1960s, Schneider maintained a close connection with the Milan-based dealer Bruno Lorenzelli who held many exhibitions of his work around Italy. It is during this decade that Gérard Schneider’s painting acquired more colour and freedom. The gesture acquired a definitively calligraphic dimension. Yet again, Gérard Schneider’s work evolved with its time, but was also the result of a complex interior process that had begun a lot earlier. For Schneider, it was about associating the notion of form, strong colours, and mastery of space.

Gérard Schneider in his studio,  c. 1965
Photo by André Villers – Reserved rights

At the 1966 Venice Biennale, he was honoured to have an entire room of the French Pavilion devoted to his work. In 1970, a major retrospective of his work was held in Turin. He exhibited more than a hundred paintings at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna. This was a great success, and so the exhibition was continued in Montreal.


Gérard Schneider was more than 70 years old and his art was full of passion and intensity. Colours exploded and were joyful throughout his work, as if it would not stop expanding. His art continued to be circulated, with for example the many exhibitions held by the Galerie Beaubourg in Paris.
At the start of the 1980s, he turned to paper almost exclusively for his art. It enabled timeliness that maintained the vivacity of his work. In his studio, colourful and luminous compositions of unprecedented beauty were born, which today remain a source of wonder.
The painter Gérard Schneider died in 1986 and left behind an immense legacy for lyrical abstraction, in the aesthetic complexity of his work as well as in the beauty and poetry of his abstraction.
The art critic and historian Michel Ragon published a major monograph on his work in 1998.

Major public collections

Major public collections

Brussels, Musée d’Art Moderne
Buffalo, NY, Albright Art Gallery
Kamakura (Japan), Museum of State
Milan, Museo d’Arte Moderna
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center
Montreal, Musée des Beaux-Arts
Neuchatel (Switzerland), Musée d’Art et d’Histoire
New York, Museum of Modern Art
Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Paris, Musée national d’Art Moderne – Centre Georges-Pompidou
Rome, Galleria d’Arte Moderna
Rio de Janeiro, Musée d’Art Moderne
Turin, Galleria civica d’Arte Moderna
Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection
Worchester, Mass, Worchester Museum
Zürich, Kunsthaus

Major collections

Major collections

Brussels, Musée Modern Museum
Buffalo, NY, Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Cologne, Musée Ludwig
Colorado Springs, Co, Fine Art Center
Dunkirk, LAAC
Geneva, Fondation Gandur pour l’Art
Jakarta, Museum
Kamakura, Japan, Museum of State
Los Angeles, Ca, University of California
Minneapolis, Mn, Walker Art Center
Nantes, Musée d’Arts
Neuchâtel, Switzerland, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire
New Haven, Ct, Yale University
New York, NY, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Oslo, Sonja Henie and Niels Onstad Foundation
Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris
Paris, Centre Pompidou
Phoenix, Az, Phoenix Museum
Princeton, Ma, Princeton University
Rome, Galleria d’Arte Moderna
Rio de Janeiro, Museu de Arta Moderna do Rio de Janeiro
Saint-Louis, Mo, Washington University
Seoul, Fine Art museum
Turin, Galleria civica d’Arte Moderna
Washington DC, The Phillips Collection
Worchester, Ma, Worchester Museum
Zurich, Kunsthaus

Major exhibitions

Major exhibitions

Galerie Denise René, Paris, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1953

Galerie Lydia Conti, Paris, 1947, 1948, 1950

Venice Biennale, 1948, 1954, 1966

Wanderausstellung Französischer Abstrakter Malerei, travelling group show in West Germany: Stuttgart, Munich, Düsseldorf, Hanover, Hamburg, Frankfurt am Main, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1948-1949

Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, 1949, 1951

Les grands courants de la peinture contemporaine (de Manet à nos jours), travelling group show in South America, 1949-1950

Advancing French Art, travelling group show in United States of America: Louisville, Bloomington, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, 1951-1952

São Paulo Biennale, 1951, 1954, 1961

Der Spiegel Gallery, Cologne, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1957, 1981

Otto Stangl Gallery, Munich, 1952

International Art Exhibition, travelling group show in Japan, 1953-1965

Gérard Schneider, retrospective, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1953

Galerie Arnaud, Paris, 1954, 1959, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1970

Documenta in Kassel, 1955, 1959

Kootz Gallery, New York, 1956-1961

Galerie Apollinaire, Milan, 1958

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, 1958, 1959, 1966, 1972

Lorenzelli Gallery, Milan, 1960, 1961, 1965, 1972, 1974, 1986, 1989, 2012

Minami Gallery, Tokyo, 1960

Nakanoshima Gallery, Osaka, 1960

Im Erker Gallery, Saint-Gall, 1961, 1963

Salon de Mai in Japan, Tokyo, Osaka, 1962

Gérard Schneider, retrospective, travelling exhibition: Kunstverein, Düsseldorf / Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1962

Paintings in France 1900-1967, travelling group show in United States of America: New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and in Canada, 1968

Gérard Schneider, retrospective, Galleria civica d’Arte moderna, Turin, 1970

Pavillon Terre des Hommes, Montreal, 1970

Panorama de l’Art contemporain, travelling group show in Iran, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, 1971-1972

Galerie Beaubourg, Paris, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1981, 1986

Gérard Schneider, retrospective, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Neuchâtel, Switzerland / Musée d’Art Contemporain, Dunkerque, France, 1983

FIAC, Galerie Patrice Trigano, Paris, 1983

Kunstmesse, Basel, 1985

L’Europe des grands maîtres, Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris / Musée des beaux-arts, Seoul, 1989

Schneider, rétrospective, travelling retrospective in France : Clermont-Ferrand, Carcassonne, Montbéliard, Le Mans, Metz, 1998-2001

L’Envolée lyrique, Paris 1945-1956, Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, 2006

Gérard Schneider, grands gestes pour un grand monde, Musée d’Art & d’Histoire, Neuchâtel, Switzerland, 2011

Montparnasse / Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Angers / Bordeaux, 2012

Les Sujets de l’abstraction, Peinture non-figurative de la Seconde École de Paris (1946- 1962), group show, Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Musée Rath, Geneva / Musée Fabre, Montpellier, 2011

Gérard Schneider, rétrospective, Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans, 2013

Le Geste et la Matière – Une abstraction « autre » – Paris, 1945-1965, Fondation Clément, Le François, Martinique, 2017


BIBLIOGRAPHY (Selection) :

Marcel Pobé, Schneider, Paris, Georges Fall, 1959

Michel Ragon, Schneider, Amriswill, Bodensee Verlag, 1961

Marcel Brion, R. V. Gindertael, Schneider, Venice, Alfieri, 1967

Gérard Schneider, exhibition catalog, Turin, Galleria civica d’Arte moderna (16 April–24 May 1970), Turin, Galleria civica d’Arte moderna, 1970

Gérard Schneider, Eugène Ionesco (foreword), Mots au vol, Paris, Éditions Saint-Germaindes- Prés, 1974

Pierre von Allmen (dir.), Jean-Marie Dunoyer, Schneider, exhibition catalog, Neuchâtel, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire (26 February–17 April 1983), Neuchâtel, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Neuchâtel, 1983

Jean Orizet, Schneider Peintures, Paris, La différence / l’autre musée, 1984

Daniel Chabrissoux, Loïs Frederick, Gérard Schneider : œuvres de 1916 à 1986, exhibition catalog, Angers, (1991), Angers, Expressions contemporaines, 1991

Michel Ragon, Schneider, Angers, Expresssions contemporaines, 1998

Patrick-Gilles Persin, L’Envolée lyrique Paris 1945-1956, exhibition catalog, Paris, Musée du Luxembourg (26 April–6 August 2006), Milan, Skira, 2006

Éric de Chassey (dir.), Éveline Notter (dir.), Justine Moeckli et al., Les sujets de l’abstraction. Peinture non-figurative de la seconde École de Paris, 1946-1962. 101 Chefs d’œuvre de la Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, exhibition catalog, Geneva, Musée Rath (6 May–14 August 2011) / Montpellier, Musée Fabre (3 December 2011–25 March 2012), Milan, 5 continents, 2011

Christian Briend, Nathalie Ernoult, Le Geste et la Matière – Une abstraction « autre » – Paris, 1945-1965, exhibition catalog, Le François, Martinique, Fondation Clément (22 January–16 April 2017), Paris / Le François, Centre Pompidou, Paris / Fondation Clément, Le François, Martinique / Somogy Editions d’Art, 2017


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