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Pierre Roy

(1880—1950)


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French painter, illustrator, and designer, born at Nantes. His family had connections with that of the writer Jules Verne, whose stories made a great impression on Roy as a boy and may have had some influence on the direction that his art took in later life. After working in an architect's office, where he learned precise draughtsmanship, he moved to Paris in 1904 and studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, the Académie Julian, and the École des Arts Décoratifs. His early work was Neo-Impressionist and in 1908 he came into the circle of the Fauves, but in about 1920 he discovered the work of de Chirico and began moving towards the Surrealist style with which he is most closely associated. He took part in the first Surrealist group exhibition—at the Galerie Pierre in Paris in 1925—and in several of their other group shows. His work is in a similar vein to that of Dalí and Magritte, creating a sense of the bizarre or mysterious through strange juxtapositions of objects. Perhaps his best-known painting is The Dangers of the Stairway (1927–28, MoMA, New York), showing a large snake winding its way down a staircase in an otherwise scrupulously boring middle-class interior. His other work included designs for theatre and ballet sets and book illustrations in lithograph and woodcut. Roy's ‘oldest and most faithful friend’ (in his son's words) was Boris Anrep, whom he met in Paris in 1908. Anrep bequeathed one of Roy's pictures to the Tate Gallery, London.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.


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