Hugh Weiss was born in Philadelphia in 1925 and died in Paris in 2007. A French painter of American origin, he received French nationality at the age of seventy.
The artist’s work reflects a very personal and experimental world where dreamlike aspects go hand in hand with a certain primitivism and references to children’s drawings. He never rejected the influence of the Cobra movement – the initials of three European cities, Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam – founded in Paris the very same year that Weiss arrived in the French capital. Critics pointed out the presence of Dubuffet, of Kooning and of aspects from lyrical abstraction in his painting. He also shared an artistic and amicable closeness with the Narrative Figuration painters, participating in the «Mitologies quotidianes II» exhibition in1977 at the ARC at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris.
However, his work deviates from group approaches and is clearly personal and hard to classify. Weiss invents his own tragicomic images that allude to strangeness in the world. The color in his paintings is bright while the paradoxes and surprising garishness of the characters that inhabit his world reveal a humor and an underlying irony not devoid of critical corrosiveness.
He attended Philadelphia High School and the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts in 1940. He joined the Barnes Foundation in 1943, graduated in art history and participated in the Pacific War during World War II. The vision of dismembered bodies would reappear in his paintings towards the end of his life. At the end of the war, he obtained several scholarships and awards that allowed him to travel to Europe. In 1948 he moved to Paris and, at the invitation of Geneviève Asse, participated in the Salon of Artists under thirty.
In 1949, he traveled to Italy and met the photographer Sabine Weber, better known as Sabine Weiss, whom he married in 1950, and they took up residence in Paris.
In 1949 he presented his first solo exhibition. Between 1950 and 1975, he had twenty exhibitions at galleries and museums around Europe and the United States. In 1964, he created his first Soft Biplanes. He travelled to India for the first time in 1975 and won first prize at the New Delhi Triennial. He developed his theme of elephants and other animals in 1974 and would move on to architecture in 1978. The themes of the cathedrals and cupolas began in 1980. The inspiration from his trips to Egypt made him address the issue of sacred boats and rivers that he continued doing until the year 2000.