François Le Lionnais (1901-1984) was the initiator and cofounder of the Oulipo. In his youth, he was acquainted with the painters Max Jacob and Jean Dubuffet. A devoted player of chess, he later became friends with Marcel Duchamp and Raymond Queneau. Arrested during WWII, he was imprisoned in the camp at Dora. He would later write a short and evocative account of his survival (La peinture à Dora). Having had a first carreer in industry, his postwar activities were more oriented toward the public sector: he worked for Unesco, served as scientific advisor to French national museums, and became a radio producer.
Le Lionnais was also a Regent in the Collège de ’Pataphysique. He guaranteed the “debonaire dictatorship” of the Oulipo as the group’s “Fraisident-Pondateur” for over two Oulipian centuries.