Claude Bellegarde was a prominent exponent of post-war abstraction who sought to imbue his work with spiritual resonance evoked by the chromatic variations. During the 1940’s following the war Bellegarde became acquainted with the spiritualist Lanza del Vasto, a disciple of Gandhi, and studied the liberal philosophy of Krisnamurti. He also began to explore abstraction in his painting and exhibited for the first time in 1952 at the Salon d’Octobre. Between 1953 and 1957 he painted his first major body of work known as the “White Period”, a series of textured monochrome abstract paintings, which pre-dated those of his judo partner Yves Klein. During this period he became established as significant member of the young post-war generation of artists in Paris and in 1954 joined the avant-garde group “Dessins” which advocated gestural abstraction. The same year he held his first solo show at Galerie Arnaud, and also participated in a group show at the Museum of Modern Art in Dusseldorf. In 1955 a second solo show was held at Studio Facchetti which was championed by the critic Pierre Restany. In 1956 he exhibited for the first time in America at the Long Wharf Gallery in Boston, and further international shows ensued with the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art in 1957, the Drian Gallery in London in 1958, and Galeria Apollinaire in Milan in 1959.
In 1960 Bellegarde began to reintroduce colour to his work after nearly a decade of restricting himself to white alone, and there occurred an explosion of colour in his work that would lead to his acclaimed “Typogrammes”, chromatic manifestations of his subject’s psychic energy; and “Psycolor Cubicles” designed for people to enter for a chromatherapeutic experience surrounded by a dazzling array of vibrant colours.
Bellegarde went on to firmly establish an international reputation exhibiting extensively world-wide, and in 1965 was selected to represent France at the International Sao Paulo Biennale at which he exhibited a “Chromatic Cabin”. In 1971 he was awarded a major retrospective at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris. Other notable exhibitions include in 1960 Museum of Leverkusen, and Tel Aviv Museum; 1963 Grand Palais, Paris; 1964 Milan, Venice, New Jersey, New York, and Athens; 1965 Solomon Guggenheim Museum, New York; 1966 Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris; 1967 Montreal, Copenhagen; 1969 Venice, and Milan; 1970 Musée d’Art et Industry, Le Harvre; 1971 Amsterdam; 1975 Ottawa, and Canada; 1977 Istanbul; 1978 Lisbon; Centre Georges Pompidou, and New York; 1982 Chicago, and Houston; 1985 Monte Carlo, and New York.
The artist is represented in many major modern art museums world-wide including Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris; Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Paris; Tate Modern, London; Wuppertal; Belgrade; Skopje; Geneva; San Marino; Solomon Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Claude Bellegarde "A life in Colour", a short film on the artist's life and work by Gilles Bastianelli in collaboration with Jean-Paul Amelie, Head Curator of the Musée National d'Art Moderne, (2012, 14 mins).