Camille Hilaire (1916-2004)


Born in Metz, French artist and weaver Camille Hilaire began his career at fifteen by copying works by Albrecht Dürer in his local Library. A few drawings left to hang in a local bookshop brought Hilaire the attention of Jean Giono and Nicolas Untersteller, director of the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, and he would attend the famous school once of age. In between, his artistic talent brought a scholarship to travel during the early 1930's. This time in Spain and Italy would influence his work for the rest of his life.

Hilaire was drafted in World War II and he participated in the campaign of France. He was captured, but later escaped and returned to Paris in 1941. The Occupation of France required he take on a false name and hide his past as a soldier in order to finally begin study at the École des Beaux-Arts.

During his studies he met and befriended noted Cubist André Lhote, who would go on to tutor Hilaire. In turn, Hilaire would eventually become the elder artist's assistant. This early Cubist influence is clear in Hilaire's work, though his eventual style would move on from hard early Cubist structure and take on a softness in form and composition.

After graduating, Hilaire was appointed professor at Beaux-Arts, Nancy, where he taught from 1947-1958. In 1958 he was offered a post chance teaching in Paris at Beaux-Arts, his alma mater. He would maintain a position there until 1968. Throughout, he continued to produce his own work- refining his style, taking on the bold colors which would become his hallmark while simplifying shape and structure. His weaving influenced his painting and vice versa, particularly in the use of repeated shapes to create interest.

Hilaire was awarded the Prix de Venise in 1948 and the Prix de la Casa de Velázquez in 1950. He held his first exhibition in Paris in 1951 at the Gallérie Valloton. He then exhibited at the preeminent international art fairs in Geneva, Cannes and Deauville.

Hilaire received commissions for public pieces throughout his career including a large fresco at the collège Georges-de-La-Tour, at place du Roi-George in Metz. He has been the subject of several books as well as documentaries and films. He is considered one of the most influential artists on French art of the 20th Century.

The work of Camille Hilaire can be found in the collections of:
Museum of Modern Art, Paris
Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, France
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy, France
Centre Pompidou-Metz, France
in addition to many other public and private collections worldwide

Click here to see works by Camille Hilaire (1916-2004)