Quiévy 1882 – 1960 Paris
Auguste Herbin was born on 29th April 1882 in Quiévy, a small village in northern France near the Belgian border. From 1898 to 1901 Herbin studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Lille. Influenced by the Impressionists and Fauve painters, he moved to Paris, working in relative isolation but exhibiting several paintings at the Salon des Indépendents in 1906. After 1909 Herbin’s work underwent a major stylistic change following his move to the Bateau Lavoir Studios, where he met Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris and began his painterly investigation into Cubism. He exhibited again at the Salon des Indépendents in 1910, where his paintings were hung alongside the work of several other prominent Cubist painters, including Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes and Fernand Léger. In 1912 Herbin’s paintings were exhibited at the influential Salon d’Or and in the same year he held his first one-man show at the Galerie Clovis Sagot in Paris.
Through each of these alliances, Herbin gradually turned to Cubism, producing his first Cubist painting in 1913. However, by 1917 he had progressed beyond painting in this style in favour of creating works of an abstract nature using pure geometry. It was at this time that Herbin was adopted by the art dealer Léonce Rosenberg, who introduced him to the group of artists centred around his Galerie de l’Effort Moderne. Rosenberg exhibited Herbin’s work there on numerous occasions between 1918 and 1921.
In the years following, Herbin alternated between artistic styles, returning to a more figurative style of painting between 1922 and 1925. In 1926 he revisited abstraction, which he continued to develop up to (and beyond) 1931, when he co-founded the artists’ association Abstraction – Création. In 1949 Herbin published L’Art Non- Figuratif Non Objectif, in which he explained his ‘alphabet plastique’, a compositional system of painting abstract art founded on the structure of letters, of which the pure geometrical shapes and positive colours continued to have much influence over the following generation of artists.
In 1953 Herbin suffered a lateral paralysis, but continued to paint using his left hand alone. He died in Paris on 31st January 1960.