Born in Brussels, Pierre Alechinsky was a founding member of CoBrA, an artists' group established in 1948. An acronym of the member's homelands of Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam, the CoBrA artists' dedication to violent and immediate strokes of color paralleled the American Abstract Expressionist movement. Formed in reaction to the formal, refined art popular in Europe after World War II, CoBrA artists were highly collaborative and politically active. Like his fellow members, Alechinsky drew his working methods from the spontaneous ideologies of Surrealism (as the title of the present work suggests) and tied them to primitive forms of Northern European folk art.
L'Esprit du thé, 1967, reflects Alechinsky's softened style after the dissolving of CoBrA in 1951 and a broader acceptance of the artist's work. Less violent and more rhythmic, the forms and patterns of L'Esprit du thé, are suggestive of Japanese calligraphy, an art form that captivated Alechinsky and which he studied extensively in Japan first-hand in 1955. Free moving and extraordinarily colorful, the painting demonstrates the successful synthesis of the expressionist gesture, calligraphic characters, and Fauve-inspired vibrant palette.