Jean-Michel Atlan left Istanbul in 1930 to study philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris where he also worked as a teacher afterwards. Atlan and his family were jewish. During the occupation, Jean-Michel Atlan lost his teaching license and lived in poverty in Montparnasse. During that time, Atlan taught himself painting. Due to his contribution to the Résistance, the artist was arrested in 1942 and interned in the Saint-Anne hospital for two years after he had pretended to suffer from a mental disease. In the sanatorium, Atlan encountered a world beyond the realms of everyday thinking which left a remaining imprint on his work. The philospher and man of letters, who was friends with Gertrude Stein and Gaston Bachelard, found his way into painting through the rhythmic elements of poetry. In 1944 the artist had his first exhibition and published a collection of poems entitled 'Le Sang profond'. After a short initial success and recognition by a few Avant-garde writers, the artist once more lived in financial need. During this time, Atlan worked as a pedlar and fortune-teller. In 1946 the autodidact was able to present his work to the public alongside great personalities like Braque and Matisse for the first time. From 1945 Atlan produced fantastical, abstract animal shapes which were strongly influenced by the the COBRA group. He participated in exhibitions. Around 1956 his style was consolidated. Strong, black, winding lines enclosing pastel colored areas, which evoke organic and vegetable associations. In 1956 Atlan achieved his breakthrough as an artist with a poster, he designed for the exhibition of the new 'École de Paris' at the Charpentier gallery and an exhibition at the Bing gallery in Paris. During the 1950s Atlan received a lot of attention in France, Japan, England and the US and was considered one of the most important exponents of 'Nouvelle École de Paris'. In 1960 the artist died from cancer. In 1963 Jean-Michel Atlan was honored with a retrospective at the Musée National d'Art Moderne. He left approximately 220 works behind, including tapestries and illustrations.