Born in Loir et Cher, France, in 1908, Lorjou was the youngest of three children in a very poor family. He lived in extreme poverty, even to the extent of needing to sleep at the Orsay train station during his teenage years. In 1934, after having worked at a renowned silk house and having enough money saved, Lorjou opened a studio in Montmartre with his partner Yvonne Mottet. He exhibited for the first time at the Salon des Indépendants in 1942. Three years later, he held his first solo exhibition at the Galerie du Bac in Paris. In 1946, the Galerie du Bac held a seminal exhibition dedicated to the emerging Expressionist artists of France, Belgium and Germany, including Lorjou, Soutine, Rouault, Ensor, and Beckman. It was at that same gallery that Lorjou would exhibit in 1948—after receiving the Prix de la Critique award—in order to effectively found, with five other members, the artistic group L’Homme Témoin, which defended figurative painting during the aesthetic and political tumult of the mid-twentieth century.
Lorjou enjoyed successful business relationships with Galerie Wildenstein, Wally Findlay, over the course of his career. Additionally, he was a friend to such modern luminaries as Guillaume Apollinaire, for whom he created a series of wood engravings as illustrations for his work “Le Bestiare.” His work was often religious and frequently political, acting as commentary on topics ranging from the AIDS crisis and world hunger to the Algerian war and conflict in the Middle East; he completed commissions for the United Nations and was invited by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco to exhibit in the Monte-Carlo casino. In 1977, he was the Guest of Honor at the Salon des Artistes Français. One year before his death, the Palais de l’Europe organized his retrospective in Menton, France.
Rich in both palette and texture, La Carpe captures the essence and immediacy of Lorjou’s luxuriant painterly style.Dubbed “the French Picasso” in an article from Sur in 1969, Lorjou’s work went through a series of transformations over the course of his career, the only constants being the power and impact of his images and his rich, vivid, and precise use of color. His early work having been largely comprised of figural compositions and portraits, Lorjou turned, in the 1950s, toward more focused compositions that centered on singular subjects, often still lifes of flowers or dead game. La Carpe was rendered with such a brilliant surface texture that one can almost feel the wood grain of the table at center and the rough scales of the fish that lays upon it. As do all of Lorjou’s still lifes, La Carpe pays homage to the earlier styles of Van Gogh and Cézanne, all alike in their continuous exploration of distorted perspective, use of black outline, and rich pigmentation. As one contemporary critic noted:
"If [Lorjou’s] still lifes are so powerful, delightful, and pleasurable, that is due to the fact that he has had the good fortune and that wonderful and almost unique gift of being able to express his vision and his feeling before they become spoiled or slip away."
—Domenica Jean Walter, 1954
Private Collection of the Chase Family, New York, NY