Pierre Skira was born in Paris in 1938, to the great publisher, Albert Skira. The declaration of war a year after his birth forced a move to the Alps, and then, for a time, to Geneva. His childhood was peripatetic, but gave him an introduction to the giants of art at that time—most memorably, he watched Matisse make his paper cut-outs, and stayed with Picasso for a week in the south of France.
In 1954, Skira became a typographical apprentice in a Swiss workshop, which gave him a love of books that he later expressed in his paintings and pastels. Two years later, Skira moved to Paris, where he lived within a community of like-minded creatives, and started to paint, influenced by artists such as Franz Kline, Emilio Vedova, and, in part, Piet Mondrian. However, he soon abandoned an early interest in abstraction and moved to figuration. This later engendered a fascination with still lifes, particularly those of books in a black landscape which were inspired by 17th century studies.
Skira exhibited for the first time in 1962, in a group exhibition, then, in 1964, he had his first solo show. These were both held in Paris, at the time of the emergence of New Figuration. He has exhibited extensively since, including with other artists such as Titus-Carmel and Jean le Gac. He has also collaborated with prominent philosophers and writers—among these, Pascal Quignard, Jean-François Lyotard, Patrick Mauriès and Gérard Macé.
In 1967, Skira won the Prix de la Biennale de Paris, followed, in 1997, by the Prix International d’Art Contemporain Duc de Valverde d’Ayala Valva, Monte Carlo.
In 1975, Skira switched from working predominantly in oil to high-quality pastels, primarily those made by Roché.
Recently, Skira has returned to abstraction, producing a series of pastels in which blocked colours fade in and out of a black background. These works were exhibited at the Redfern Gallery in 2016.
Skira’s work is held in many important public collections, including the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, and the Palais de l’Élysée. He is a writer as well as an artist, publishing La nature morte in 1989. In 2004, he also designed the set for a Berlin staging of Don Pasquale.