Robert Combas is a French painter, sculptor and illustrator born in 1957 in Lyon. Passionate about music, he participated in the birth of the movement of free figuration in the 1980s. Considered one of the most important French artists of his generation, he has been included for several years in the Artprice ranking of the 500 most popular artists in the world. He now lives and works in the Île de France. When he left high school, he went to study at the School of Fine Arts in Montpellier. It was at this time that he defined his artistic style in opposition to conceptual art, which was predominant on the art scene at the time. The idea of focusing on the concept alone of the work does not seduce the artist, who instead enjoys drawing shapes and contours. Not belonging to any artistic movement, he advocated creative freedom. He began a series of paintings, “Battles”, then treated underdeveloped countries with irony and sarcasm, creating the movement of “Arab Pop Art”. His style is then very brutal. In 1979, when he was a recent graduate, Bernard Ceysson offered to show his paintings in Saint-Etienne as part of the exhibition “After Classicism”.
In the early 1980s, a change of artistic paradigm was on the horizon. Robert Combas and Hervé Di Rosa meet after graduation in the same Parisian salons. They met Bernard Lamarche-Vadel, art critic, Rémi Blanchard, Jean-Charles Blais, Jean-Michel Alberola, Denis Laget and Catherine Viollet – all five artists – with whom they organized an exhibition in the apartment of Vadel in 1981. The free figuration was born. The name echoes the American artists of the time, and is characterized by an unbridled joviality. For these young artists, there is no question of mourning before a work of art or of entering into a romantic contemplation. Their paintings inspire happiness and laughter, joy and good humor. The movement contrasts sharply with the serious and austere art of the 1970s and is, on the contrary, devoid of any negative feelings. Pessimism, nostalgia for the past, fear of the present, anxiety about the future… So many states that are proscribed in free figuration! These artists are part of a new generation at ease with its time, tired of feeling guilty about a past, and they translate this feeling into painting. Themes such as sexuality, love, comics, music, are approached with simplicity and naturalness.