Pierre Roy, Danger on the Stairs, 1927
Pierre Roy (1880-1950) was born in Nantes, France, to a cultured middle-class family, related to that of Jules Verne. He was deeply impressed as a child by Verne's stories, which were told to him by the writer's brother. His repressed ambition was to become a sailor. Instead, his secondary studies finished, he entered an architect's office. From this period, he retained a taste for precise draughtsmanship and materials like stone, wood, rope, and metal.
In 1910, Roy entered the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and enrolled at the École des Arts Décoratifs and the Académie Julian a short time later. He participated - unsuccessfully - in the Salon des Indépendants in 1907 and 1908. Around 1910, he came into contact with the Fauves and the circle of intellectuals who supported them, notably André Salmon and Max Jacob. In 1913, Guillaume Apollinaire noticed Roy's work at the Salon des Indépendants and asked him to pay him a visit. The two instantly understood, each other and this encounter introduced Roy to the circle of artists gravitating around the poet. During this period, Roy met Alberto Savinio and, through him, Alberto's elder brother, Giorgio de Chirico. Roy and De Chirico exhibited their works together at the 1914 Salon des Indépendants establishing a rapport of mutual esteem that continued into the 1920s.
In 1914, Roy abandoned painting almost entirely and began to work on a collection of counting songs illustrated by a series of woodcuts. He was forced to interrupt this work, which was backed by his friend Apollinaire, when he was conscripted to serve in the First World War. Entitled Cent comptines, it was not completed and published until 1926. Following the war, in 1919, Roy began to paint his first object combinations, inspired by his personal interpretation of De Chirico's metaphysical compositions.
Pierre Roy, Le chou-fleur, 1931
In the mid-1920s, Roy joined the Surrealist movement and participated in La Peinture Surréaliste exhibition held at the Galerie Pierre Loeb in November 1925, which showcased works by Giorgio De Chirico, Hans Arp, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Man Ray, André Masson, Joan Miró and Picasso. The event marked Roy's first true success, underscored by the critic André Salmon in the article he published in Revue de France.
Pierre Roy, Boris Anrep in his Studio,1949
During the 1930s, Roy visited the United States every year, where he had exhibitions at the Brummer Galery in 1930 and 1933, at the Julien Levy Gallery in 1932, and at the Museum of Modern Art in 1936. Roy also worked as a stage designer for the Ballets Suédois of Rolf de Maré, and as an illustrator he produced a series of lithographs for The Child of the High Sea of Jules Supervielle (1946). On his way to an exhibition in Bergamo, where he was showing some of his work, Roy died in Milan on September 26th, 1950.