Pierre Alechinsky studied from 1944 to 1948 at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et des Arts Decoratifs in Brussels, concentrating on book illustration, typography and various printmaking techniques. In 1947 he became a member of the Jeune Peinture Belge group and had his first solo exhibition in Brussels. In 1949 he met Christian Dotremont and became a member of CoBrA.
Together with the sculptors Olivier Strebelle and Reinhoud, he organised Les ateliers du Marais, the meeting place for many CoBrA artists. Along with Dotremont, Alechinsky was the linchpin of the Belgian branch of CoBrA; the last joint CoBrA exhibition in Liège was organised by him. Alechinsky threw himself with such enthusiasm into the task of organising the movement and editing its newsletter that he hardly had time for his own work, and for this reason he did not really begin to develop as an artist until after the CoBrA period. After the group fell apart he settled in Paris.
In 1955 he travelled to Japan, where he studied Japanese calligraphy. There he found was he was looking for: an “inner script” in which he employed a rapid brushstroke in full concentration, as freely and rapidly as possible. In the second half of the 1950s his mainly abstract style began to have more movement in it. It was also more thickly applied: his canvases were covered with a mass of shapes in shades of white, grey, green and blue.
By 1958 there was much greater freedom of colour and form, and fabulous beasts appeared in his work. During the 1960s the influence of Eastern calligraphy in particular was apparent. In 1965, during an extended stay in the United States, Alechinsky began to use acrylic paints, a technique that enabled him to forge his “graffiti” of lines, symbols, circles, texts and fabulous creatures into a united whole.
From the 1960s onwards he became more and more interested in collaborating with other artists. Publications appeared with poetic texts by various authors, which he illustrated with mythical animals. His work was exhibited at the Venice Biennial in 1960 and again in 1972. It has been exhibited subsequently on many other occasions, including Documenta III in Kassel, the Pompidou Centre in Paris (1978) and the Guggenheim Museum in New York (1987). In the 21st century Pierre Alechinsky is as active as ever.