© Succession Jean Degottex / ADAGP, Paris 2022
Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Avshalom Avital

Jean Degottex

French, 1918–1988

18 Emptiness of the non-being of nature by itself,


Oil on canvas, 162 x 97 cm
Gift of the artist, through Marcelle Berr de Turique, Paris

“From signs, I moved on to writing. From writing, to writing lines. From writing lines, to lines.” Inspired by Far Eastern calligraphy and Zen meditation, Jean Degottex described his artistic journey of half a century as a trajectory towards a stripped-down, essentialist, minimalist form of painting.

18 Emptiness features horizontal black and white brushstrokes floating on a grey-bluish meditative background. The trace of a moment, a form of abstract calligraphy, the splash, brush, and drips are thrown in an immediate, instantaneous manner, without adjustment or remorse, underscoring the immensity of the empty, passive background.

Degottex’s fascination with the notion of emptiness examined in this painting was born during his crucial trip to Brittany in 1954 and remained with him from then on. The contemplation of nature he experienced during his stay there is reflected in this poetic painting, where sky and sea merge and skylight is suggested by the movement of the foaming waves crashing on rocks.

Considered one of the major artists of the abstraction movement in France, Degottex was a tireless innovator for more than half a century. His uncategorized and self-taught art combines discipline with the immediacy of the gesture. “I would like my painting to be a deep breath,” he said. Contemplating his paintings, the viewer experiences a deep sense of serenity and witnesses the artist’s attempt to capture the essence of life.

Sarah Benshushan

Artists in Action

Jean Degottex - Gordes 1992

Degottex9, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jean_Degottex_dans_les_ann%C3%A9es_60.jpg

Jean Degottex is a French abstract painter, known in particular for his initial proximity with the lyrical abstraction movement of the 1950s and 1960s.