Jean-Michel Coulon is born in Bordeaux in 1920 and very early shows an innate talent for drawing. As a teenager, his encounter with Picasso is decisive.
In 1944, his younger brother, in the Resistance, is shot by the Gestapo. Coulon decides to devote his life to painting. His works are in shades of black, white and grey.
He meets his future wife, an American violinist. His art bursts with colors. In 1949 he is invited to participate in a group exhibition at the Jeanne Bucher Gallery with Braque, Picasso, Klee, Lanskoy, de Staël, Vieira da Silva, Kandinsky.
From the age of 28, he shows his work regularly at art fairs especially at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. In 1950, many painters who became famous, Rothko, Soulages, Vieillard, Deyrolle, visit his solo exhibition at the Jeanne Bucher Gallery. The same year, he participates in an exhibition in New York at the Sidney Janis Gallery where 15 French and 15 American painters (Ernst, de Kooning, Pollock, Tobey) are compared for the first time. In 1952, he participates in a group show at MoMA in New York.
His focus on the smallest details, his multiple layers of colors in various thicknesses, and the controlled size of his formats could suggest a source of inspiration stemming from the great Dutch masters and miniaturists.
The death of his second brother, a fighter pilot, in 1952 and the fire in his studio which destroyed many paintings in 1955 plunged him into a new difficult phase: his painting becomes dark again.
The 1960’s are punctuated by trips, especially to the United States. Coulon is absolutely fascinated by New York. His painting becomes more structured and vertical, most probably influenced by these panoramic views and sky scrapers.
In the early 1970’s, he moves to Brussels where he will live for 30 years.
He successfully exhibits at Vokaer’s Galerie Régence, which also supports Alechinsky, Bram van Velde, Folon, Ubac, Vieira da Silva.
This period is characterized by very small format paintings with bright and cheerful colors. Some series are striated with a file, revealing the wooden structure.
From Brussels, the family travels throughout Europe, particularly to Italy, where he is inspired by warm pictorial tones. The artist’s curiosity is never satisfied.
Seeming to refuse the recognition of the general public, he declines all exhibition proposals. He remains very secretive. The attachment to the studio is however visceral. He will never stay more than ten days without painting.
At the beginning of 2000, the family moves back to Paris. His work evolves from painting to collages. He retains an astonishing level of creative energy.
At 80 years old, he reworks old canvases from the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, especially some large formats, with pieces of paper painted with gouache, strips of newspaper or magazine.
He dies in Paris at the age of 94.