Rebeyrolle courted controversy, and put himself outside the centres of power of modern painting. With his work excluded from the French art establishment, he created, in 1995, his own museum, Espace Rebeyrolle, in his native Burgundy, where he showed his own art and that of other painters.
Always contrary, he would never align himself with any lobby that might help his career. He refused teaching posts and artistic compromise. He eschewed the realism his comrades demanded in favour of a physical, powerful, expressionist style.
He was born in the village of Eymoutiers, and contracted Pott's disease, a form of tuberculosis of the bones, at the age of five. He was first strapped into a corset and not allowed to leave his bed; later he took short, painful outings. A rose bush outside his window was his companion during the five years of his confinement. His schoolteacher parents taught him, but he soon preferred drawing to reading or writing.
Rebeyrolle was attracted by the great modernists, by Picasso and Soutine. Unlike many of his generation, though, his interests went further back into history. When the Louvre reopened its doors in 1947, he admired Titian, Velásquez and Flemish still-life painters. Taking his cue from these old masters, Rebeyrolle believed that he was continuing their project of looking at the world with unending inquisitiveness, an impulse that had been lost with the Impressionists. In his canvases, he integrated objects found in nature or given him by locals. "Once, a farmer turned up here," he remembered. "He handed me a rabbit's skeleton and said 'here, you know what to do with it'. "
In 1963, he moved back to Burgundy, determined not to be intimidated. His Espace Rebeyrolle, he declared, was to be "a bastion, not a mausoleum. Something outside the norms. This is an antimuseum. I want to defend unfashionable art and show something else than formalism and tricksters."
He staged special exhibitions of works by Fernand Léger (2001), César (2002), and Jacques Monory (2003).
Although the official establishment did not value Rebeyrolle as he deserved, collectors, including the industrialist François Pinault, had more foresight. "A private collector can be more flexible," Pinault said of his decision to buy, "and Rebeyrolle is one of our greatest artists. I want to make people understand that."
He is survived by his wife.
Paul Rebeyrolle, painter, born November 3 1926; died February 7 2005 .."(www.theguardian.com)