Pierre Alechinsky was born on 19 October 1927 in Brussels. His father was Russian, his mother was Walloon and both were doctors. A painter, engraver and artist, he has lived and worked in France since 1951. Between 1944 and 1948 he studied typography and the illustration of books at the l’École nationale supérieure d’Architecture et des Arts décoratifs (La Cambre, Brussels). At the same time, he started painting and joined the group of young Belgian painters (Jeune Peinture Belge) in 1947.
In 1949, after meeting the poet Christian Dotremont, he joined the CoBrA (Copenhagen/Brussels/Amsterdam) group. In Brussels, on behalf of CoBrA, he founded a Research Centre in a communal house, the Ateliers du Marais. In addition, he was involved in the eponymous magazine created by the group. In 1951, the year the movement was dissolved, he organised the second and final Cobra international exhibition of experimental art at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Liège. After this, he left Brussels and moved to Paris where he perfected his etching technique at Atelier 17. In 1965, André Breton chose his work Central Park (1965) for L’écart absolu, XIe Exposition internationale du Surréalisme at the Galerie de l’Œil, in Paris. This work was a turning point in his artistic career: it was his first acrylic painting with remarks in the margin, and represented an aerial view of Central Park interpreted by the artist with the appearance of a monster. Alechinsky gradually abandoned oils for this new medium which he used on paper mounted on canvas. From 1979, Pierre Alechinsky was represented by Galerie Maeght, which became Galerie Lelong (and is now Lelong & Co.). In 1982, he reversed the method used for Central Park. The central subject would be painted in black, while the margins, which until now had been used for drawings within its boundaries, would become a colourful border. He produced monumental works to order: The Reception room at the French Ministry of Culture (1985), the rotunda linking Hotel de Lassay with the French National Assembly (1993), or vast walls of enamelled lava (Belgium, Denmark).
Over the years, many institutions have organised retrospectives of his work: the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh (1977), the MoMA, New York (1981), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1986); the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris (1998); the Centre de la gravure et de l’image imprimée, La Louvière (2000); the Cabinet d’art graphique du Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2004); the BNF, Paris (2005); the Musée Granet, Aix en Provence (2010); Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid (2015); the museums of Osaka and Tokyo (2016-2017).
Pierre Alechinsky has received a number of prizes and awards: Jeune Peinture Belge (1950); Etching biennial, Kracow (1966); Triennale de la gravure de Belgique (1966) ; Grand Prix Marzotto-Europe for painting (1968); Prix Andrew W. Mellon (1976); Grand Prix national des Arts et Lettres pour la Peinture (1984); Member of the Académie Royale de Belgique (1987); Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres (1992); Docteur Honoris Causa of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (1994); Prix André Malraux du Livre d’Art (2004); Docteur Honoris Causa of the University of Liège (2010); Praemium Imperiale, Japan (2018).