Auguste Herbin (1882-1960)
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Auguste Herbin was born near the Belgian border of France to a family of artisans. He initially attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Lille, and then moved to Paris in 1898 and studied drawing at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts there. Not unlike fellow painter Pablo Picasso, Herbin was an artist who was constantly growing and changing in style and method. His earliest works are primarily done in the style of the Impressionists and Fauves. Herbin also had a flirtation with Cubism when it was a brand new movement, but would return to a more Expressionistic style.
In the 1920s, Herbin took another chance at creating progressive art and created a number of paintings that challenged traditional artistic rules and properties. He did away with typical-figure ground compositions and created his own style of art called Constructivism that broke all the rules. However, he received harsh criticism for these pieces and decided to paint in a more typical, figurative fashion again. Herbin later disowned the pieces from this period.
Even though Herbin gained notoriety as a painter early on, it is his Abstract works that he is perhaps best known for. He continued to paint in the Abstract style the rest of his life, with color being an integral part of his compositions.
In the 1940s, Herbin flexed his creative side again and created a technique he called “Alphabet Plastique” in the Abstract style. In this movement, he assigned colors to each letter of the alphabet. He also incorporated musical notes and geometric shapes into these compositions. This was not only meant to be art, but a puzzle to unlock. By assigning each shape or letter a color, you were given a key to unlocking the secret behind his painting.
For example, in every one of these “Alphabet Plastique” paintings, the letter “D” is represented by a dark red color. Similarly, the musical note “D” is always represented by an orange circle. With these paintings, Herbin created a new form of art that you could not only decode, but “sing” if you wished.
In 1953, Herbin suffered from lateral paralysis which forced him to learn to paint with his left hand. This, however, did not stop him from creating his geometric Abstract compositions right up until his death in 1960. Again, like friend Picasso, Herbin continued to paint right up until the end, his style completely different than the one that he initially started out with as an artist.
Today, Herbin’s work is housed at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and in other galleries and museums worldwide. Still wondering about that colorful Abstract painting in your home? It may be by Auguste Herbin—contact us to find out.