Pierre Alechinsky, who studied at the "La Cambre" art school in Brussels, co-founded in 1949 the famous Cobra movement together with Christian Dotremont, Karel Appel, Constant, Asger Jorn and Jan Nieuwenhuys. The artist had his first exhibition in Paris in 1954 and visited Japan in 1955 where he studied oriental calligraphy.
The year 1959 was quintessential for Alechinsky since he participated - with Jorn, Chillida, Saura and Tapiès - at the "European Art Today" exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Los Angeles County Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the North Carolina Museum of Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art. In the same year his works were confronted at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice with those of Dubuffet, De Kooning and Bram Van Velde.
"Les deux étages" ( The two floors ) is a major and very representative work of 1959. The oil on canvas ( Alechinsky started to work witch acrylic paint in 1965 ) was exhibited at the Venice Biennial in 1960, at Gallery Toninelli in Milan and at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice. It is illustrated in the book "Alechinsky" by french art critic Jacques Putman ( Fabbri Editions Milan 1967 ).
Moreover, "Les deux étages" is reminiscent of Alechinsky's childhood. Indeed, Putman subtly reveals that "On the floor below, Grandmother is playing sonates by Schubert on the piano, accompanied by a goatee bearded french violonist... Grandfather is playing the role of conductor.... Me ( Alechinsky ) laying on the carpet under the piano etc...
Real connoisseurs will also discover several iconic African masks in the painting.
Furthermore, Alechinsky lived in those years in the same building in Paris as israeli writer Amos Kenan, with whom he published in 1961 a book "Les tireurs de langue" ( The tongue pullers ) featuring ink drawings and texts by Kenan translated in french by Christiane Rochefort, who also lived in the same building but on a different floor...
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, where the artist had a solo exhibition in 1987, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris ( two one-man shows in 1975 and 2004 ) have got both an important canvas from the same year 1959 in their permanent collection.