Attracted by drawing and painting from his earliest childhood, Pierre de Belay stayed several times in Paris among the painters and poets of Montmartre, which took the place of formal training. He met many famous personalities of the day and painted portraits of many of them, including Max Jacob, James Ensor, Guillaume Apollinaire, James Joyce and Colette. Equally, the portraits of Mickiewicz and Verlaine are worth mentioning.
His work can be divided into two periods, which sometimes overlap. In his adolescent works, he used transition and chiaroscuro in the Romantic tradition. Then a series of Breton landscapes shows him developing in the direction of a more materialist construction. Next came circus scenes and scenes of Parisian life in the 1930s. It was only in 1923 that he met with success, thanks to his decoration of the dining room of the Hotel Ker Moor in Bénodet, which was followed, in 1925 and 1926, by his first solo exhibitions. After 1935, he produced a large number of works, paintings and drawings devoted to judges and lawyers, which show an expressionist technique that would culminate in figures such as The Drinker of 1936 or the The Bagpiper of 1938. At this stage, de Belay was similar to Soutine in his caricatures of lawyers, dramatic court scenes and scenes of Parisian life. Around 1937, however, his manner underwent a radical change, probably influenced by the engraving he had been doing since 1926, which led him to invent a strange and original way of painting in oils with interlacing brush strokes, which he called 'treillisme'.
Between 1927 and 1928, he exhibited at the Salon d'Automne, between 1926 and 1945 at the Salon des Indépendants, and between 1927 and 1935 at the Salon des Tuileries. He also exhibited in solo shows in Paris from 1926, in Nantes in 1928, Chartres in 1931 and Stockholm in 1939. After his death, retrospectives were mounted in 1948 and 1951 in Paris, in 1954 in Quimper and in 1955 in Brest. In 2001, he was represented in the exhibition devoted to The Golden Age of Painting in Brittany at the Musée de Vannes, La Cohue.
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Quimper (MBA): Two Women in a Café (1937)