Jean Tinguely (22 May 1925 Friborg, Switzerland – 30 August 1991 Bern, Switzerland) was a painter and sculptor of the New Realism. He is best known for his sculptural machines and kinetic art.
Tinguely first attended the schools in Basel, before he trained as a decorator from 1941 to 1944 and attended courses at the Basel General Education. During this time he met Daniel Spoerri, with whom he worked on a theater project.
In 1951 Tinguely married Eva Aeppli, with whom he moved to Paris the following year. There he met Yves Klein and Niki de Saint Phalle, whom he married in 1971 in his second marriage. Together with the iron plasterer Bernhard Luginbühl and his wife Niki de Saint Phalle he realized several joint projects.
Tinguely had already employed wire figures as shop window decorations in his first profession. His first free works revived this means. In 1954 he set these figures in motion for the first time. He began his extensive work with fragile and shaky wire-plate compositions. The sheet metals usually have a colorful livery. In his machine sculptures he picked up abstract elements of Kasimir Malewitsch, Wassily Kandinsky, and Auguste Herbin, and went beyond them by questioning the definite color-form constellation, so far a self-evident.
In 1955 Tinguely invented and built automatic drawing machines, which could produce machine drawings on paper formats and sheets. If they imitated the style of Jackson Pollock or Georges Mathieu, Tinguely ironizes the process and the artist genius. Tinguely’s moving sculptures are seen by the viewer as highly active, touching, cheerful and playful, often as funny and sometimes melancholic.
In 1960 he became a member of the Art Nouveau Réalistes, which was founded this year by Pierre Restany.
Also, in 1960, a giant machine of Tinguely in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, composed of scrap, was able to destroy itself got much attention.
In the following years, he often developed large, moving machines in collaboration with other artists. According to the artist, these are also supposed to be criticisms of the uniformity of industrial processes and the production of useless things.
Jean Tinguely died of heart disease in 1991 at the age of 66 in Bern.