Eugene Leroy was born in Tourcoing in 1910 and passed away in Wasquehal in 2000.
Despite his much-noticed participations to the Biennale of Sao Paulo in 1990 and the Documenta of Kassel in 1992, his work has long remained little known due to its singularity. Since the beginning of the 2000s, he has enjoyed a new consideration from institutions, the art market and a new generation of artists, the firsts of which being German painter Georg Baselitz, who contributed to the renewed interest in Leroy's work.
Born in 1910, Eugene Leroy dedicated all his free time to practicing drawing and painting. He discovered oil painting in 1927, which he defined as the "door toward a desire for happiness". He pursued this "painting quest" every day in his studio practice. In 1931, he started brief art studies at the fine art school of Lille, before continuing them in Paris. He got married in 1933 and moved near Roubaix in 1935, where he taught Greek and Latin while painting. Eugene Leroy's first exhibition took place in 1937 at the Galerie Montsalut of Lille. In 1943, he met art critic Gaston Diehl who organized his first exhibition in Paris.
Between 1946 and 1948, he worked on a mural painting of almost 27m2 entitled Crucifixion for the chapel of Notre Dame des Victoires de Roubaix high school. In 1951, he met art dealer Pierre Loeb who bought him a dozen paintings. The following year, he travelled in Italy and Germany. In 1954, he exhibited in Paris with Sam Francis, Serge Poliakoff and Marcel Pouget at the Galerie Art Vivant. In 1956, he enjoyed his first exhibition at the Museum of Tourcoing, then at the Museum of Dunkirk in 1957, and received the Emile-Otho Friesz prize. In 1959, Eugene Leroy made stained- glass windows for the church of Notre-Dame-des-Flots in Dunkirk, and then exhibited his works at the Galerie Claude Bernard from 1961 to 1963. This was where Georg Baselitz discovered and started collecting his work. Eugene Leroy started engraving in 1964, while his first gouaches and acrylics on paper date back from 1967. He took part in the Salon de May from 1956 to 1970 in Paris and to the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles twice, in 1973 and 1976. In 1972, the work of Mark Rothko made a great impression on him during his trip to New York and Washington. In 1977, François Mathey exhibited Leroy's work at the fine arts school of Lille. The K Gallery of Washington (USA) also showcased his paintings as well as the Van Heidenhaage Kunst Museum of Ghent in Belgium, in 1982. German gallery owner Michael Werner, a friend and art dealer of the German painters Baselitz and Markus Lüpertz, became his agent and organized exhibitions for him in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Greece and the United States.
Eugene Leroy's last ten years - from 1990 to 2000- were crucial, for the artist saw his work gain international recognition thanks to a retrospective show held at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1988, as well as his participation in the Biennale of Sao Paulo in 1990 and the Documenta of Kassel in 1992, all the while continuing to go his own way on the fringe of the mainstream movements of the time. Two major retrospective exhibitions followed at the MAMAC of Nice in 1993 and the Kunstverein of Düsseldorf in July 2000, three months after the artist had passed away in his studio-home of Wasquehal.
He also took part in the Venice Biennale of 1995 and received the Grand prix national de Peinture in 1996. In 2010, following a major donation from the artist's sons, the MUba-Eugène Leroy of Tourcoing organized L'Exposition du Centenaire, the biggest retrospective show ever dedicated to the artist, along with the publishing of a reference monographic book, and, in 2013, the Georg Baselitz-Eugène Leroy: le récit et la condensation exhibition, a great success among critics and the general audience.
Eugene Leroy's works are featured in many prestigious private and public collections in France and abroad, such as the Stedelijkmuseum (Amsterdam, Netherland), the Smithsonian Institution, the Hirshhorn Museum and sculpture garden (Washington D.C, USA), the Kunsthalle of Basel (Switzerland), the Berardo Museum (Lisbon, Portugal), the Ludwig Museum (Cologne, Germany), the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, New York, USA), the Van Abbe Museum (Eindhoven, Netherland), the Staedel Museum (Frankurt-am-Main, Germany), the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Humlebaeck, Denmark), the Kunsthalle of Karlsruhe (Germany), the Rennie Collection (Vancouver, Canada), the Ploner collection (Vienna, Austria) ; the Maeght Foundation (Saint-Paul de Vence), the Pompidou Center (Paris), the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art (Paris), the FNAC (Paris), the FRAC Nord Pas-de-Calais (Auvergne, Ile de France), the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Toulouse and the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon.