FOLON Jean Michel

Jean Michel Folon | Original prints, lithographs, etchings and illustrated books


"When drawing, children start by the sun and by the natural elements. I start from the simplest elements me too, the sea, an eye, a cloud, to discover the enchantment of the world."

(Jean Michel Folon)



Jean-Michel Folon (Uccle, 1 March 1934 - Principality of Monaco, 20 October 2005) was a Belgian illustrator, painter and sculptor. His style is characteristic: uniform faces, often dark suits, colors shaded from blue to mauve with a preference for watercolor.

He was born in Uccle, Belgium, and began his architectural studies in Brussels at the École Saint-Luc, but he left in 1955 to devote himself to drawing. He later moved to Paris. There he was influenced by the avant-garde of Pablo Picasso and the surrealists. In 1960 his works received a positive reception and were published by the New York magazines Esquire, Horizon, The New Yorker and Time.

In 1967 he began a collaboration with the writer Giorgio Soavi with whom he made numerous projects for Olivetti. Important illustrated books for the Ivrea company, including The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka [2] and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury [3]. For the Nuages ​​editions of Milan he also illustrated The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells (1992) and Fables by Jean de Lafontaine (1996).

The consecration as an illustrator came in 1969 with an exhibition held at the Lefebre gallery in New York that introduced his watercolors around the world.

The first exhibitions in Italy date back to 1970 on the occasion of the Venice Biennale in the Belgian pavilion and at the "Il Milione" gallery in Milan. In the same year he created a mural of 165 m2 in the Brussels subway entitled Magic City. Important, in the same years, the production of posters (for the Festival of the Two Worlds, for the Cannes Film Festival, for Amnesty International ...) that have made him talk about him as "the last affichiste":

In the following years exhibitions of his works were made in various countries of the world, in particular those held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels were particularly successful.

From 1971 it was used the transmission Italiques de Marc Gilbert, an animated strip created by Folon in opening and closing, which led the general public to know the Belgian author. His lithograph Ein Baum stirbt dates back to 1974. A tree dies, numbered specimen, kept at the Lugano Cantonal Art Museum. [5] Since 1975, the French television channel Antenne 2 has used an animated band to open and close broadcasts.

1989 marked his philatelic and public success in France: he conceived the logo of the international philatelic exposition of Paris Philexfrance 89 and the logo of the «birds» that were the symbol of the commemoration of the French Revolution on numerous stamps and commemorative objects in the world .

In 1990 he exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum in New York but the choice of works by William S. Lieberman, curator of the exhibition, will leave him dissatisfied enough to confess, in a conversation with the gallery owner Cristina Taverna: "It's like having arrived in the Final at the Wimbledon Tournament and losing it! "[7]

Another collaboration with Italian companies began in 1981 when he created an entire advertising campaign in collaboration with Alberto Meomartini with posters, cartoons and murals on environmental issues for Snam.

In 1999 he was the one who painted the drape for the Palio of Siena.

On October 27, 2000, the artist inaugurated a foundation in his name based in the park of La Hulpe near Brussels where more than three hundred works are found.

In 2003 he was awarded the Order of the Legion of Honor by the President of the French Republic Jacques Chirac; he also received the appointment as UNICEF ambassador.

In 2005 his biggest exhibition was held in Florence, Folon Firenze [8], curated by Marilena Pasquali, where the artist exhibited his famous watercolors and sculptures at Forte di Belvedere, where he had exhibited Henry Moore years before. In 2011, after his death, part of these works were donated by his wife to the city of Florence, which placed them in the Rose Garden. An exhibition of the same title, Folon Firenze, was held in the Tuscan city in 1990, curated by Cristina Taverna [9].

Jean-Michel Folon was also an ardent defender of human rights. He has in fact illustrated various awareness campaigns for Amnesty International [10].

On October 20, 2005, the artist died in Montecarlo because of the leukemia he suffered for some years.