Pol Bury, Belgian (1922 - 2005)
Pol Bury (26 April 1922 - 28 September 2005) was a Belgian sculptor who began his artistic career as a painter in the Jeune Peintre Belge and COBRA groups. Among his most famous works is the fountain-sculpture L'Octagon, located in San Francisco.
Belgian kinetic artist, painter and film-maker, born in Haine-Saint-Pierre.
After studying briefly at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Mons
1938-9, he frequented the circle of Surrealist poets at La
Louvi-24re and was influenced by the paintings of Magritte
His own painting largely interrupted from 1940
to 1945. Represented in the Exposition Internationale du Surr-23alisme
in Brussels 1945. Painted geometrical abstract pictures 1949-53
and was associated with the COBRA group 1949-51, but in 1953
started to make 'plans mobiles' of painted shapes which could
be pivoted manually on their axis. First principal one-man
exhibition at the Galerie Apollo, Brussels, 1953. Gave up painting
in 1953 and experimented with various types of kinetic works,
introducing motors in 1957 and making the parts move with an
almost imperceptible but jerky slowness, and in a random way.
Moved to France in 1961 (first Fontenay-aux-Roses, then Saulx-les-Chartreux),
and since 1964 has frequently visited the USA.
His later works
also include cinetizations of photographs and engravings, a
few large-scale sculptures such as '25 Tons of Columns' and
several films. Lives in Paris.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other
than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London
Born, on April 26, at Haine-Saint-Pierre in Belgium (Walloon
part of the country).
His father, a garage proprietor, constructs motor cars with the
care and devotion of a dedicated amateur; one such car, assembled
in the constructor's bedroom, could never be gotten through the
window or down the stairs.
1929 to 1932
Lives in France in various towns - Guise, Angouleme, Lens ¬depending
on his father's professional caprices.
Music in general, and the cornet in particular, commands his
attention, thanks to his grandfather, musical director of
the Harmonie des Huit Heures society at Haine-Saint-Pierre,
and to his father, who plays the tuba in this same musical
After various studies which might perhaps have been a bit more
classical and a bit less scattered, he enters the School
of Art at Mons, taking courses in painting, drawing and decoration.
His teachers (Louis Buisseret, designer of a very attractive
and inexpensive banknote, and Louis Navez, Hainaut's most
distin¬guished painter of still-lifes) have little influence
on him. The same year, he tours France on a bicycle and executes
a number of watercolors.
For reasons not entirely unconnected with current events, he
abandons his bicycle and, temporarily, his paintbrush in
favor of the manufacture of pick-hammers in a factory near
La Louviere. It is in this industrial center that he meets,
during this period, the poets Achille Chavee and Andre Lorent,
two of the founders
of, the surrealist research group calling itself "Rupture".
He joins up with them. Magritte and Tanguy greatly influence
Leaves for Marcillac, in the Lot.
1941 to 1943
Back in Belgium, he does painting on fabrics, among other activities
designed chiefly to nourish the appetites of the stomach.
Goes into hiding. Comes out again the following year.
Politics, indispensable after such experiences, occupy his
attentions but he maintains contact with paintbrush and poetry.
Participates in the International Surrealist Exhibition in
Brussels. His images begin slowly to move in the direction
of more abstract
fields, the forms being at first jostled together, then more
Associated with the Belgian Jeune Peinture group.
Voyage to Bulgaria.
Voyage to Italy. Stays in Capri.
Meets Christian Dotremont, Pierre Alechinsky... and collaborates
in the activities of the Cobra group until 1951.He illustrates
Joseph Noiret's L 'A venture devorante. In the
review La Main heureuse, ten of his drawings are presented
with accompanying texts written especially by Marcel Havrenne.
He has the idea of becoming a professor of graphic art and
presents himself for the necessary examination: although
succeeding rather brilliantly in the scientific tests, his
failure in the artistic tests nips this particular career
in the bud.
Numerous one-man and group shows, throughout Belgium and
Abandons painting. Exhibits his Mobile Planes for the first
time, in Brussels: Jean Seaux writes the introduction for
the catalogue. Escaping from the frame and from the two dimensions,
the forms previously frozen in his pictures thaw out and
relax, and the spectator is able to rotate them on their
axes, according to choice or chance. Creates, together with
Andre Balthazar, the Academie de Montbliart, a rural institution
of higher learning open on Saturday evenings only. Flexible
statutes, vague mobiles.
Takes part in the exhibition "Le Mouvement" at the
Galerie Denise Rene, Paris (together with Agam, Calder, Duchamp,
Jacobsen, Soto, Tinguely, Vasarely). Progresses from plane
surfaces to volumes which, balancing on a mobile axis, occupy
a space constantly liable to modification.
Voyage to Italy.
Exhibits his Multiplanes. For the first time, the electric
motor plays a role in his work: already, the principle of
slowness asserts itself, joining the imperceptible to the
perceptible. Painstakingly elabo¬- rated mechanical devices
prevent any regularity from establishing itself in the movements.
In March, appearance of the first number of the Daily SuI,
an episodically regular publication.
Takes interest in transparent plastics, in the play of light,
in the moving solidities of mercury, in the elastic tenderness
of rubber. The dot absorbs his attention, and leads him to
create a great number of Punctuations.
Takes part in a large-scale exhibition of "new" art,
in Antwerp, together with Breer, Klein, Mach, Mari, Munari,
Piene, Rot, Soto, Spoerri, Tinguely, Van Hoeydonck. Shortly
afterwards, takes part in the first exhibition of Multiples
presented by Editions MAT at the Galerie Edouard Loeb, Paris.
Exhibition of kinetic art at the Zurich Kunstgewerbemuseum.
Festival of Avant Garde Art in Paris.
Bewogen Beweging" exhibition at the Stedelijkmuseum,
Amsterdam. Erectile (and other) Punctuations presented at the
Galerie Smith, Brussels.
Leaves Belgium, and moves into a small house at Fontenay-
Publishes The Ball and the Hole, a collection of texts and
First one-man show in Paris, at the Galerie Iris Clert. Numerous
polished wood ia material which he increasingly adopts} lends
warm planes to the measured, patient voyages of balls, cubes,
cylinders, fine nylon threads...
Paris: Salon "Comparaisons", Salon de MaL etc.
First stay in New York, a city that fascinates him.
Exhibition at the Lefebre Gallery Cinetizations: he gives a brutal shove to
the perceived images that Gallery, London. come into his hands: th e Eiffel
Tower totters, th e Mona Lisa gri m-
aces... photographic reality loses face as well as balance.Venice Biennale.
Kassel Dokumenta. Marzotto Prize. Decor for a ballet, Le Miroir, presented
at the Palais des Beaux-
Arts, Charleroi.Writes Time Dilated, which sets forth his viewpoint..
Participates in numerous exhibitions throughout the world:
Art. Today (Buffalo, Albright Knox Art Gallery), Movement
(Hanover Gallery, London), Art and Movement (Edinburgh, Glasgow),
Lumiere, Mouvement et Optique (Bru~sels), Zero Avant-Garde
(Venice), Recent Acquisitions (Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim
Museum, New York), one-man show at Felix Landau Gallery,
Los Angeles. Leaves Fontenay-aux-Roses for Saulx-Ies-Chartreux
(a short distance from Longjumeau).
Spends six months in New York.Eugene lonesco writes a preface
for his second exhibition at the Lefebre Gallery. The gallery
publishes an album of his lithographs,
Cinetizations. Writes a short text, The Small Beginning, for
the series "Les poquettes Volantes" : its Exhibition
of Cinetizations isilkscreen prints on canvas} at the Galerie
La Hune, Paris.
Another stay in the United States. Exhibition at the J.L. Hudson
Gallery, Detroit and at the Kasmin Participates in" D
ix a ns d' art vivant, 1 g 55- 1 965" at the Fondation
Maeght, Saint-Paul, Carnegie International, Pittsburgh. Works
in stainless steel, polished brass. The movement of traveling
organisms is supplemented by the sly and supple play of their
reflections. He is able to venture into the open air. Exhibition
at the Galerie Fran~oise Mayer, Brussels: wins the Prix de
la Critique. Illustrates Stendhal's piccola guida af/'uso
di un viaggiatore in Italia for Sergio Tosi Editore, Milan.
Returns to New York in October. "The 1960s" at
the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Guggenheim International
Exhibition, New York.
Becomes interested in magnets. Set into motion deep inside
the pedestal, the latter draw into opposing streams the apparently
even freer balls. In April, exhibition at the Lefebre Gallery;
in May, represented at the group exhibition "Artists for
SEDF". Returning to France in May, he spends several months
in La Colle-sur-Loup, near Saint- Paul. Participates in "Trois
ans d'art vivant" 1965-1968 (Three years of living art)
at the Fondation Maeght.
Returns to Paris.
Takes up engraving. New conception, faithful to the essential
preoccupations of Pol Bury.
Free-floating elements (nylon wires, lead plates...) abandon
them¬selves to the press and the ink which, sweeping them
up, modify their assemblage with each passage of the roller;
thus they impose upon the paper the successive stages of a
certain fancy which the ensemble of the printing reveals to
the naked eye. Motion is in the root.
The University of Iowa commissions from him a huge fountain
for the courtyard of a new building.
Work included in the exhibition "Painting in France" which
tours a number of American museums.
University of Saint.Thomas, Houston.
Shows a series of Cinetizations, "Manhattan Observed" at
the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Participates in various exhibitions:
Jewish Museum, New York.
I.C.A. London ("Tout Terriblement", hommage a Apollinaire).
Musee des Arts Decoratifs" Paris (Cinquante peintres europeens).
Nouveau Musee des Beaux-Arts, Le Havre (Art cinetique et Espace)
Maison de la Culture, Grenoble (Cinetisme, Spectacle, Envi¬
Exhibition at the Galerie Pierre, Stockholm.
Exhibition at the Galerie Maeght, Paris (Derriere Ie Miroir nO 178, texts by
Andre Balthazar and Jacques Dupin).
During spring 1970 an exhibition of his works (from 1953 to 1969)
is organized by Peter Selz. It opens in Berkeley at the University Art Museum
and finishes at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, after several exhibits in
some of the most important American Museums: Walker Art
Center Mineapolis, Iowa Museum, Art Club Chicago, Institut of the
Arts, Rice University, Houston.
Teaches at Berkeley University.
Illustrates for Maeght Editeur: "Vins puis faons pour les Anzacs".
By Marcel and Gabriel Piqueray.
Creation of the first Ramollissements (Blurrings).
Retrospective exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Moved into an old farm in Perdreauville, near Paris, with the space to build his monumental sculptures and fountains.
Fountain for the Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Became professor at Paris's Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts (National School of Fine Arts), where he led a class in monumental sculpture until 1987.
Two fountains in the Palais-Royal gardens in Paris.
Received Paris's Grand Prix National de Sculpture (National Grand Prize for Sculpture).
Named a chevalier (knight) of the French Legion of Honor.
Fountain for the Tohoku University of Art and Design, Yamagata, Japan.
Volumes figés and Papiers collés.
Ramollissements virtuels: digital alterations of old masters' paintings.
ol Bury died on 27 September at the age of eighty-three in Paris