Camille Hilaire began painting from a young age. At fifteen, he discovered the work of Albrecht Dürer in the Metz city library and began making copies of it. He displayed some of his workat a local bookshop and they drew the attention of Jean Giono and Nicolas Untersteller, the director of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It was at their suggestion that he enrolled at École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
In 1933 and 1934 Hilaire travelled around Spain and Italy and drew inspiration from the art he encountered there. Both his painting and tapestry express the beauty and diversity of the places through which he travelled.
He was drafted into the army and participated in the campaign of France, but was taken prisoner, escaped and returned to Paris in early 1941. Condemned to secrecy, he enrolled under a false name at the Beaux-Arts in Paris during the Occupation.
In 1942-1943, while remaining at Beaux-Arts, he also came under the tutelage of the Cubist artist André Lhote, with whom he became friends and acted as his assistant. Hilaire's painting reveals influences from Cubism but without the rigidity typical of the early years of the movement.
He was appointed as a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts in Nancy, where he taught from 1947 to 1958, and returned to teach in Paris until 1968.
He was awarded the Prix de Venise in 1948 and the Prix de la Casa de Velázquez in 1950.
He held his first exhibition in Paris in 1951 at the Gallerie Valloton. He then exhibited at the preeminent international art fairs in Geneva, Cannes and Deauville.
Camille Hilaire is subtle in his composition. He did away with efficient structures, he held power with colour and achieved a wonderful, consistent sense of calm, amplitude and greatness by translating patterns and elements, which never prevented him from expressing a burning passion for creating and sharing. His nudes were remarkable, with perfect curves, coiled with charm and set in a context in which their sensual fullness imposed itself with provocative grace. As for his landscapes, Camille Hilaire could determine the structure without apparent constraints, overlaying a fresh, spicy green that is so characteristic of them. Thus, nature and elements they become the pretext upon which the artist "pushed" the colour to get the effect felt. As for his tapestries, his job as a graphic designer and his willingness to explore are mingled in splendid works that draw attention by virtue of their technical execution of pure harmony and that have just as surprising an outcome as the artist's lithographs.
Over time, a dozen monographs have been devoted to him as well as documentaries and films. He leaves behind a large body of work and has strongly influenced the French painters of the mid-twentieth century.
Museum of Jakarta
Museum of Dunkirk
Museum of Metz
Museum of Nancy
Museum of Modern Art, Paris
Museum of Strasbourg