CHAPTER XII

 

 

THE l935 EXHIBITION AND LONG-TERM REACTION –

THE YEARS:l935 TO THE SECOND WORLD WAR

 

 

      The years leading up to the Second World War can only have been perceived as gratifying by François Guillaume.  Both in the region of Berry as well as in Paris, the immediate reaction to his exhibition must have been welcomed as confirmation of his activity, and to have consolidated and clarified in his own mind the programme of action, or actions, upon which he was embarking in order to resuscitate the languishing village, and to assure for its artistic tradition an eminence which he, and by now many others, believed to belong to it by right.  Whether sought for, or not, he had now become, and was to become even more, a focus for all those who either possessed specimens of the work or who had, or were acquiring, information relevant to La Borne.

 

      In his letters to 'l'Illustration' and 'Beaux-Arts', he had made clear his own intention of saving for posterity a form of popular art which, through neglect, appeared doomed to oblivion.  Nowhere had this been more evident than in the passage in his catalogue in which he had referred to the 'art religieux':

 

                       '... Enfin, et puisque la mort fait aussi partie

                       de la vie, nous avons réservé une place ˆ l'art

                       funéraire des potiers de La Borne, regrettant que,

                       par ignorance et incompréhension, n'aient pas été

                       conservées les poteries que enrichissaient

                       autrefois le quartier du cimetière d'Henrichemont

                       réservé aux familles de La Borne et de la region...' (l)

 

      Since it is evident that these had disappeared by l935, Guillaume's source for information concerning their existence could only have come from Arcis de Caumont's comment in the Bulletin Monumentale of l869.  Of all the references which he had copied into his 'Notes', de Caumont's passage (2), had been copied in full and, folded, carefully inserted into his bibliography. (3)  As well as reporting the existence of 'les croix de carrefour', Arcis de Caumont had recorded the presence of funerary crosses in the cemetery at Henrichemont, 'où s'étalent toutes les productions de pacotille en marbre, en fer et en zinc de l'art funéraire moderne, elles semblent faire tache et sont exclusivement réservées aux ouvriers potiers et aux membres de leurs familles.' (4)  Sensing, in l869, that these too must inevitably suffer a fate similar to those wayside crosses that he had seen, de Caumont briefly described them:

 

                       '... Les croix de cimetière reproduisent le même

                       type dans des dimensions plus exigu‘s: deux

                       orantes ou pleureuses, ou quelquefois deux des

                       patrons du décedé sont placés à sa base, et dans

                       une sorte de cartouche une brève épitaphe appelle

                       les prières des passants en fournissant sur le

                       défunt les indications ordinaires.  Il n'y a

                       pas lieu de se le dissimuler.  Les croix

                       émaillées, quelle que soit leur destination,

                      sont frappées aujourd'hui de défaveur ...' (5)

 

      In mid-July, Guillaume received a letter from Paris, written by Louise Berchon who had loaned the 'grand bénitier à dossier rond' (No. 35) for the exhibition.  Her delight is unconcealed for 'la mise sur pied de ce grand pas.  Le succès de votre exposition est un remerciement et je souhaite qu'il ne fasse qu' augmenter avec le mouvement que vous lui avez donné.' (6)

 

 Continuing, she makes it clear that she had been in contact with Louis Lacrocq:

 

                       '... Je sais par Monsieur Lacrocq que vous avez

                       vu le musée Adrien Dubouché et qu'il vous reste

                       à voir les pièces de M. Lacrocq à la Celle -

                       Dunoise ...' (7)

 

      Lacrocq's article 'L'Art De Nos Provinces: Les Poteries de La Borne' did not appear in the 'Courrier du Centre' until l9 June and, in it he made mention of some pieces of La Borne ware, 'quelques-unes très curieuses', (8) to be found in the Musée Adrien Dubouché in Limoges.  Since he had visited the exhibition before its formal opening it is more than likely that he had then acquainted Guillaume of this fact.  By 9 June, however, Guillaume was in a position to verify the existence and nature of these pieces himself.  He had gone to Limoges for the Deuxième Congrès de la Federation des Sociétés Savantes du Centre de la France, held there on Sunday 9 and Monday l0 June:

 

                       '... A l'issue de cette première séance, visite

                       de Musée National Adrien-Debouché dont les

                       collections céramiques sont parmi les plus belles

                       de France.  M. Bastard, directeur de l'Ecole

                       Nationale des Arts Décoratifs de Limoges,

                       accompagné de M. Issanchou, professeur à la

                       même école guida les congressistes autour des

                       vitrines qui renferment des trésors d'art ...' (9)

 

      In the showcases Guillaume encountered a number of pieces from the La Borne region, all of which he hurriedly recorded as, 'Notes prises rapidement sur place au Musée de Limoges pendant un congrès des Sociétés Savantes du Centre.' (l0)  Included were 'bouteilles', 'pots à  lait', 'pichets' and, perhaps more importantly in this instance, a 'levrière' bearing the inscription 'Fait par moi Jacques Talbot de La Borne, commune d'Hanrichemont, le 28 janvier l8l2', as well as some of the missing crosses from La Borne and the region. (Fig. l26)  The documentation of the Musée Adrien-Dubouché records only that these had been donated by Louise Berchon in l92l. (ll)  The cross which must have attracted him most was that bearing the inscription, 'Ici repose le corps de Jacques Sébastien Talbot, agé de 47 ans.  Priez pour le repos de son âme, Décedé le 22 février l877.

 

      Within another week, further information was forthcoming, this time a memory stimulated and appearing in the form of an article, 'La Borne - Ses Potiers - Ses Poteries', carried in Paris-Centre. (l2)  Its author, obviously a regular reader, but designated only as E.M., recounted a visit he had made to the village in the company of the sculptor, Jean Baffier.  The author, most likely a Monsieur Martial of Bourges who owned a plaster replica of one of Baffier's more important pieces, 'La Femme au Gui', (l3) described how, from his youth, the sculptor had acquired 'une naturelle et instinctive admiration pour la forme grave, simple et noble de la plupart de leurs objets fabriqués', (l4) but it was only in his advancing years that he had the opportunity of visiting the potteries:

 

                       '... Mais, un beau jour, les souvenirs d'enfance

                       le harcelèrent, le maître n'y résista pas, et

                       flanqué comme autrefois, le père Enée de son

                       fidèle Achale - c'était notre serviteur - étant

                       à Bourges, il prit le train pour Henrichemont ...' (l5)

 

      Since the two travellers had to walk the four kilometres from Henrichemont to La Borne, the event obviously took place before the construction of the 'tacot' to the village.  Most probably it happened in l9ll when Baffier was in Bourges for the regional congres of the Féderation Régionaliste Française. (l6)  After trudging through the torrid heat of mid-day, they were welcomed in the atelier of a M. Bedu, where soon all the maître-potiers and their employees collected to greet the noted sculptor.  Though the latter may have preceded François Guillaume in his interest in the village, his assessment of their sculptural pieces was at variance with his evaluation of their utilitarian ware:

 

                                   '... Le travail au tour, par un ouvrier potier,

                       effectué sous ses yeux l'émerveilla ... Et le

                       maître se faisait cette réflexion qu'à plus de

                       deux mille ans et plus, avec un outillage

                       demeuré le même à travers les âges, sur un

                       même rythme identique, c'était le même geste qui

                       se répétait et se perpétuait pour donner naissance

                       aux plus jolies formes des vases et des pots ...' (l7)

 

      It was only by exercising tact that he was able to conceal his reserve when shown the current sculptural ware:

 

                       '... notamment d'étranges pichets avec des têtes

                       et corps d'hommes et de femmes, plus ou moins

                       torturés, des pièces qui avaient la prétention

                       d'être des œuvres d'art.

                                   Par déférence, le maître voulut bien louer ces

                       tentatives, mais sans les encourager toutefois,

                       et sans conseiller de les poursuivre ...' (l8)

 

 

      It was to a theme similar to Baffier's reflections on the ageless art of the potter that Raoul Toscan returned in his series 'La Vie Berrichonne' in l936.  Contrasting it with Charlie Chaplin's 'Modern Times' and its depiction of the western style boredom of the assembly line, he continues:

 

                       '... On revient à l'artisanat.  L'artisan se

                       recrée.  C'est le retour au métier, à la probité,

                       à la qualité.  Nous sommes saouls de camelote,

                       la camelote d'importation étrangère, et, pour

                       avoir accepté trop délibérément "les temps

                       modernes" jusqu'à la satiété, jusqu'à la folie,

                       nous renouons la tradition du travail patient

                       comme le poursuivait l'artisan d'autrefois ...' (l9)

 

      It is in such a context that Toscan perceives the significance of both Guillaume's exhibition of l935 and his aspiration for renewal from within the village itself, as seen in the person of the ten-year old Roger Giraud, 'L'Enfant de La Borne.' (20)  There is every likelihood that his concluding sentence was a reiteration of Guillaume's own hopes and desires:

 

                       '... Souhaitons - le comme nous souhaitons, en

                       ces temps gris que nous vivons, voir se reformer,

                       pour le plus grand bonheur des travailleurs

                       manuels, l'artisanats, souvent si proche de l'art,

                       en tous cas ami, comme disent les gens chez nous,

                       de "l'ouvrage bien faite ..." (2l)

 

      Giraud's little horses had encountered some of their more illustrious ancestors in the l935 exhibition.  Not included in the catalogue, it is only by virtue of the photographs taken on the occasion that one is aware of their presence.  On the central display unit can be seen three of the little bridal carriages, later attributed to Jacques Sébastien and Marie Talbot. (Fig. ll6iv.)  Of their provenance, we only know that of one of them, an encrier 'Carosse avec deux personnages attelé de deux chevaux', loaned by a M. Lelièvre. (22)  This particular model has a square inkwell whereas the other two have cylindrical ones.  Mistakenly presuming their function, Guillaume had embellished them with candles.  Not only was their inclusion an example of how the exhibition had stimulated interest, it was also a means whereby François Guillaume was eventually able to augment his own collection; sometime later he acquired the pair.

 

      More precise information on this aspect of his activity is to be found in a personal copy of the catalogue in which he has appended seven other pieces of the popular art, numbers ll2 to ll8, to the original list. (Fig. l27i)  Of these, five are noted as belonging to himself and the date l936, included in the description of one, suggests that the acquisitions were made within the following year.  The 'bouteille à personnage, 'No.117 (Fig. l27ii) certainly was.  Eventually attributed to Marie-Louise Talbot at the time of the l962 retrospective, it is the only item in the Guillaume collection, other than the 'croix Montigny', for which a date of acquisition can be given with some precision.  On its base, Guillaume has glued a note stating 'Bourges + Jeannette l936 (Antiquaire/Brocante)' an obvious reference to an antique dealer whose premises was named La Croix de Jeannette, as well as a tentative, and accurate, attribution, 'La Borne vers l860.'  One of the most attractive pieces in his collection, No. ll6 'Tonneau à pied surmonté d'un personnage' must have posed a problem, given its date inscribed on the foot, l772. (Fig. l28)  For the l962 retrospective, this piece was assessed as being a 'Copie antidatée d'une pièce ancienne; attribuée à Marie-Louise Talbot.' (23)  If it had been copied from a piece by either Jacques Sébastien or Marie Talbot, Guillaume's additional comment shows that he had by then acquired sufficient familiarity with a wide range of pieces to make sound stylistic comparisons, 'Expression conventionnelle à rapprocher de l'épi de faîtage de Saint Eloi, No. 22, dont une replique était encore en l936 sur une maison de _______. (24)

 

      The omission of this location was later rectified when, in l94l, he recorded in his 'Notes', 'Avril l94l, Il existe un replique de cet épi sur une maison située sur la route de Boisbelle à Jars entre Breviande et les fonds de Vailly.' (25)  Such information was invariably consigned to the pages of his 'Notes', on pages l43 and l44 of which he recorded, in excess of the épis de faîtage of La Borne, the sites of twenty-eight others.  He did likewise for the 'croix de carrefour'; recording not only those which he was already familiar but also others reported by friends.  Louise Berchon, in her letter of l2 July l935, had drawn attention to a ceramic cross on the tomb, in the cemetery of Achères, of the last potter of that district.  Robert Gauchery, Architecte du Département et des Monuments Historiques sent him 'un croquis d'une croix de carrefour encore en place que j'ai découverte en mes pérégrinations.' (26) (Fig. l29)

 

      By l937, with the installation of the fledgling Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires at the Musée de l'Homme in the Palais du Trocadéro the focus of all Guillaume's efforts finally received official attention.  Writing from Paris, Pierre-Louis Duchartre was able to bring his knowledge to bear on the problem of the iconography of some of the pieces.  Referring to the 'Cavalier sur sa monture' from the de la Nézière collection, the photograph of which Guillaume had used as frontispiece to his catalogue, Duchartre proposes:

 

                       '... No. 6 Influences chinoises.  Je n'ai pas

                       vu cette pièce mais votre reproduction semblerait

                       indiquer une nette copie d'une figurine tombale

                       chinoise.  Je n'ai pas le nom de la dynastie en

                       mémoire en ce moment mais ses soeurs existent dans

                       tous les musées d'Europe, y compris Cernuschi.

                       Hypothèse: pièce vue dans un château, chez un

                       brocanteur, chez un collectionneur exotisant, ce

                       qui ne me semble pas chimérique ... On trouve

                       n'importe quoi chez n'importe qui, et les

                       rebondissements d'influences sont imprévisibles

                       et ... bien déroutantes ...' (27)

 

      Duchartre's interpretation of the 'Polichinelle' figures, which Guillaume had attributed to 'légendes de notre enfance peuplées de 'polichinelles' au dos vouté, au nez crochu et au menton en galoche' (28) is both a confirmation of that proposition, as well as an explanation of the source from which it itself had derived:

 

                       '... Ce type ... a été repandu par les gravures

                       populaires de la rue St. Jacques, à Paris, dès

          l            le XVlle. siècle (Bonnart), reproduisant elles-

                       mêmes des gravures plus raffinées, representant

                       les acteurs français du théâtre de La Foire et de

                       la Commedia dell'Arte (Polichinelle, Pulcinella).

                       Les gravures populaires ont servi de modèles ˆ

                       leur tour à l'imagerie xylographique, puis

                       lithographique, de l800 àl880 ... Ce qui serait

                       invraisemblable c'est qu'aucun des potiers de La

                       Borne n'ait vu de ces gravures, (Fig. l30) tirées

                       souvent l00,000 exemplaires et répandues par des

                       colporteurs et par les foires, on peut dire partout

                       en France ...' (29)

 

      Finally, in relation to the 'Christ' from the Massé collection, which Guillaume had attributed to Marie Talbot and which had attracted most attention in l935, Duchartre quoted a letter he had received from Valentine Chameron in La Borne, reporting that the figure had been made by her mother-in-law, Marie-Louise Talbot, between l9l2 and l9l4.

 

 

François Guillaume: Editions; produced at La Borne, l935-l940

 

      Some months after the La Borne exhibitions in rue des Arènes, François Guillaume had developed his co-operative venture with Armand Bedu by organising it in a more commercially productive manner.  Three of the types of ware on which they had been working in the early part of the year, and which had been exhibited as part of the 'Exposition Moderne' are included in a sheet of small sketches, dated September l935, the first of a series which he was to keep, up until the outbreak of World War II.  Altogether there are fifty such sheets, each containing between three and five articles designed by Guillaume, and made either in Bedu's or in the Maison Renault at Argent-sur-Sauldre.  The sketches of the articles are quite small and it appears that it was Guillaume's custom to keep his records of the work in this form.  As to why he had decided to expand his activity in the village, no other documentation exists, but it appears reasonable to assume that the enthusiasm and interest engendered by the exhibition had convinced him that more must be attempted if the traditional industry was to be saved from extinction.

 

      The idea for such an expansion of the production may also have been nurtured by his experience with his other editions, and an over-riding concern for regional manufacture:

 

                       '... mon père avait toujours le désir, pas

                       uniquement là, pas uniquement en grès ... En grès,

                       en verre, en poterie ... dans la porcelaine,

                       la .  Il avait toujours le désir d'exploiter

                       au maximum la possibilité de fabrication locale ...' (30)

 

      In addition, the potters of the traditional industry were already accustomed to making a small series of forms for special clients, 'il pouvait en faire cent cinquante, ou deux cents.  Le potier acceptait volontiers de changer ses habitudes ... un pot spéciale pour un charcutier.' (3l)  Though obviously satisfied that their skills equipped them to throw to his designs, and to interpret them in different scales, initial examples of any one piece were mostly co-operative exercises, effected during the week-end visits of François and Madame Guillaume.  With original ideas in mind, or on paper, and then described to the potter, the latter started throwing the prototype.  When a satisfactory form had been realised, his work was halted:

 

                       '... Arrêtez vous, c'est bien comme ça, ça vous

                       plait?

                       Vous comprenez?  Dessiner, avant, des choses, des

                       porte parapluies ... et alors, on avait fait des

                       coupes, on faisait des épreuves, comme ça ...' (32)

 

      Designs l, 2 and 4, those shown in the June exhibition, are the 'Cachepot MAI' in three sizes, the large 'Cachepot MATRAS', in eight, with the 'Coupe MEZAIL', the inverted saloir lid being produced in four sizes with two handles, and two sizes with four handles. (Fig. l3l)  Except for a few forms, all were glazed with the yellow glaze - 'l'émail jaune doré' (33), he had recorded in his 'Notes', with the colour of the clay body determining the final tone.  Many of his designs catered for long established needs, such as the 'Bougeoir Menetou à trois trous', the 'lampe à huile Marmande' and the 'cachepot Marmagne', (Figs. l32i,132ii) but for others:

 

                       '... mon père avaient ajouté aux objets

                       domestiques de la table, les pichets, les bols,

                       les assiettes, ... il avait ajouté des

                       accessoires pour le jardin, pour la décoration

                       de la maison, pour les fleurs, pour la

                       presentation des fruits ...' (34) (Table 2)

 

      In this liaison with Bedu, Guillaume had specifically wished to produce articles which were 'rustiques, locales, nouvelles' (35) and, except for an occasional piece like the 'Cachepot Marmagne' all conformed to the taste of the period, being conceived as rigorously severe and geometric.  Given the restrictions imposed by the forming procedures used, and the glazes available, in the village, all decoration had to rely on either impressed or raised motifs or elements.  The cachepot 'MATRAS', in addition to its handles, was embellished with impressed horizontal bands, realised with the finger while the piece was still in the process of being made,  the technique being expanded, as in the Cachepot 'Mont' (Fig. l33) to become an integral part of the form.  Similar bands, though raised and possibly achieved by throwing against a profile, can be seen in the porte-parapluie 'Mordoré' (Fig. l34) and the small 'bouteille à Marc'. (Fig. l35)  As had happened earlier, the Guillaumes still engaged in the process themselves, the small 'bouteille' (Fig. l36), decorated in l937 by Madame Guillaume, showing the 'Cocotte' motif framed in an ornate border, impressed with the handle of a fork. (36)  Others, like the 'cylindre orné' (Fig. l37) were finished with either a raised band of simple geometric additions or overall impressed textures.

 

    Some of Armand Bedu's bills, from between l937 and l940, reveal that in any one firing, quantities of a single item could range from a solitary example to more than fifty, but the largest series appears to have been made in l937 when Guillaume requested that Bedu should make 'un pot à yaourt de l0 centilitres de même form que le pot à tabac que je vous ai fait faire dans la dernière cuisson. (Fig. l38, l32) ... Est-il possible de se tenir, sur un ordre de l000 àl500 pieces aux environs ...'. (37)  All such pieces were made to be sold directly through the shop, but on occasions, special orders were made for specific clients.  One such was the noted Parisian florist, Baumann, whose shop was adjacent to 'La Coupole', the restaurant which had become one of the most important rendezvous for artists in the nineteen twenties and thirties. (38)

 

                       '... déjà à l'époque, il faisait des compositions

                       florales.  Il avait demandé à mon père de lui

                       faire ses coupes qu'on appelait 'marron d'Inde',

                       pour présenter des petits fleurs - des violets,

                       des marguerites - que des petites fleurs!  Il

                       en a fait de quantité ...' (39)

 

      The form, round or conical was based on the tiny baskets which children playfully fashioned from the horse-chestnut. (Fig. l35)  As with all other pieces, those were signed by Armand Bedu, with authorisation, 'Guillaume', (40) unlike imitations which, stimulated by the success of the project at La Borne, were signed, 'F. Guillaume'. (4l)  Such innovations, for new forms and functions, were to be repeatedly tried right into the early months of World War II, with ideas proposed for decorative motifs for architectural and garden ornament, mostly deriving from reinterpretations of some traditional products, like the bricks and heavy floor tiles, hollowed out, and the composite pots, made from thrown cylinders, that might serve as 'jardinières'. (Figs l39, l40)

 

      Despite the activity and its success, when viewed in the context of the quantity of work required to keep the 'grands fours' in action, the number of pieces produced by Guillaume could not, in themselves, do other than blaze the trail.  In the thirties, some other potters, particularly those in 'Les Grandes Poteries', Joseph Talbot, Gabriel and Henri Talbot had tried, by developing their own new lines (Fig. l4l) (42) or, it is claimed, by working to ideas proposed by Guillaume. (43) (Fig. l42)  Armand Bedu, himself a willing innovator, had shown his willingness to accept new challenges, but both the time and the reaction of many of his confrères were against him:

 

                       '... il a compris que la poterie se meurt dans

                       sa forme traditionnelle; lui-même produira une

                       oeuvre de grande valeur, mais il ne réussira

                       pas à faire bouger La Borne, se heurtant au

                       scepticisme des autres potiers et à des

                       conditions économiques très défavorables ...' (44)

 

 

François Guillaume: Editions; Production et 'La Maison Renault, Argent-

sur-Sauldre (Cher) (l937-l939)

 

      In addition to his La Borne editions, François Guillaume engaged in a similar venture with 'La Maison Renault' which, in l934, had manufactured the series of 'berrichons et berrichonnes' figures designed by Jean Lerat.  Until a disagreement over patent rights caused him to withdraw (45), Guillaume had a number of his designs produced in the factory, in this instance low-fired ware.  Some sheets, included within his 'visual records', show that the co-operation lasted at least between l937 and l939.  As was the case with most of his other products, they were given local names, and like his forms at La Borne, most were based on simple geometric ideas and were almost exclusively tableware. (Fig. l43) Just as was the case in all his other collaborative design activities, La Borne included, he worked within the parameters dictated by the specific decorative qualities attainable, restricting himself at Argent to simple thrown forms finished with a coloured, mostly blue glaze, (Fig. l44) directions for their use being noted in his records. (Fig. l45)

 

 

François Guillaume: Participation in the Exposition Internationale des

Arts et Techniques de la Vie Moderne, Paris l937

 

     In France, the unfavourable economic circumstances which had helped to blight La Borne were being exacerbated by deepening political unrest.  As one author had put it, 'L'histoire de l'Expo, de l937 devrait être écrit par un journaliste sportif plutôt que par un amateur d'histoire', (46) the event being the ring in which, both nationally and internationally, the combatants of the Right and Left were simultaneously contestants and audience in the wider arena in which it was conceived, planned and visited.  Supporters of the Left, though jubilant with electoral success at home, were dismayed by the fate of  their international comrades, purged in Moscow and slaughtered in Madrid.

 

                       '... Par contre les 'aficionados' de La Droite,

                       s'en donnent à cœur joie devant les difficultés

                       de leur adversaire et ne doutent pas plus du

                       triomphe de leur champion que la puissance de

                       leur axe Rome-Berlin ...' (47)

 

      Formally proposed by the 'Conseil Municipal de Paris', in March l934, public attention became increasingly focused on it a month later when both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate voted the funds necessary to organise a spectacle of this scale.  After the digression of the l93l Exposition Coloniale, when it had been housed in the Bois de Vincennes, that of l937 was, once more, planned for the heart of the capital with projects that would permanently transform its physical appearance; the enlargement of the Pont d'Iéna and the demolition of the Palais du Trocadéro of l878, to be replaced by the Palais de Chaillot and the Musée d'Art Moderne.  Initially planned as a re-take of l925, it ultimately became a more ambitious undertaking, to encompass both the arts and industry in contemporary life:

 

                                   '... Elle réunira les œuvres originales des

                       artistes et industriels.  Elle s'efforcera de

                       montrer que des réalisations artistiques peuvent

                       intervenir dans les plus modestes domaines,

                       qu'aucune incompatibilité n'existe entre le beau

                       et l'utile, que l'art et les techniques doivent

                       être indissolublement liés, que si le progrès

                       naturel se développe sous le signe de l'art, il

                       favorise l'épanouissement des valeurs spirituelles,

                       patrimoine supérieur à l'humanité.  Elle sera

                       ouverte à toutes les productions qui présenteront

                       un caractère indiscutable d'art et de nouveauté ...' (48)

 

      For the many visitors expected to come from the Old and New Worlds, a major attraction was planned, 'notre Centre Régional, (Fig. l46) symbolisant l'union de tous les Français avec les nuances d'âmes qui leur sont particulières, le spectacle d'une France confiante dans ses destinées.' (49)

 

      On 24 June l935, just after Guillaume's La Borne exhibition, delegates assigned by the respective Chambers of Commerce of the Nineteenth Economic Region (Cher, Indre, Nièvre and Allier) convoked a meeting in Bourges at which was constituted a regional action committee to plan and organise regional participation. (50)  The departments of Cher, Indre and Nièvre eventually went on to form the Région Vl bis, which established a fundamental principle:

 

                       '... que rien autant que possible dans la

                       construction et l'aménagement: matériaux,

                       architectes, entrepreneurs, artistes,

                       industriels, commerçants, produits de toutes

                       sortes, ne devrait être étranger au Berry et

                       au Nivernais ...' (5l)

 

      In l936, François Guillaume was appointed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, on the recommendation of the 'Directeur du Centre Régional', to a seat on the 'Berry-Nivernais' committee (52) where he was able to join many friends and promoters of La Borne; Duneufgermain was one of the 'Commissaires Généraux', Marc Larchevêque and other porcelain and glass manufacturers who produced his editions were on the 'Comité de propagande , while providing liaison with the central organising body, the Commissariat Général, was Joseph de la Nézière.  By mid-l936, Joseph Massé took his place on the 'Comité d'honneur' as a Député du Cher, having successfully contested the elections as an Independent Republican. (53)  In addition to facilitating the region's participation in l937, the committee set itself another aim, that of organising all of the regional resources, crafts, sites and momuments, arts and sciences, in anticipation of tourists and guided trips foreseen in the central planning:

 

                       '... avec le plaisir que nous éprouvons à leur

                       faire constater que notre pays a su conserver

                       ses vieilles traditions de politesse et de

                       courtoisie et que les amitiés françaises n'ont

                       rien perdu de leur profondeur et de leur

                       intensité ...' (54)

 

      In an early stage in its deliberations the committee decided to organise a 'concours Régionaux de Céramiqué et de Verrerie de Table', since the Berry-Nivernais Pavillion at the Centre Regional was to be equipped with a bar, common room and restaurant, each serving regional products.  For the latter, it was deemed essential to provide vessels and containers in glass and ceramics which would have harnessed the best efforts of local designers and industrialists.  The 'commissariat général' had already established the theme of 'Modernity' - 'sont rigoureusement exclues les copies, imitations et contrefaçons de styles anciens (55) - and the regional committee followed suit adding, 'Un objet ainsi conçu ne sera ni plus difficile, ni plus coûteux àproduire que tel autre de forme grossière.' (56)  The overall competition was sub-divided into ten clearly defined sub-sections.

 

SUJET DES CONCOURS

 

      Le Comité exécutif met au concours, entre les artistes et artisans des départements de l'Indre, du Cher et de la Nièvre les modèles suivants qu'ils pourront présenter àleur choix:

 

 

ler concours             une bouteille en grès pour huile de noix d'une

                                   contenance d'un litre;

2ème concours       une bouteille à vin de la région et son verre;

3ème concours       un pichet à vin et son gobelet (faïence, grès ou

                                   verre);

4ème concours       un cruchon pour une liqueur régionale;

5ème concours       un bibelot - souvenir du pavillon Berry-Nivernais

                                   (sifflet, petit porte-bouquet, ou telle autre pièce

                                   en porcelaine, faïence, grès, verrerie, etc);

6ème concours        un service de table en porcelaine pour le restaurant

                                  Berry-Nivernais; présenter une assiette plate, une

                                   assiette à potage, un légumier, un plat et un bol,

                                   ensemble d'o découlera le service complet; il

                                   pourra être joint un surtout de table composé

                                   d'éléments décoratifs;

7ème concours       un service de table en faïence pour le restaurant

                                   Berry-Nivernais; présenter une assiette plate, une

                                   assiette à potage, un légumier, un plat et un bol,

                                   ensemble d'où découlera le service complet; il

                                   pourra être joint un surtout de table composé

                                   d'éléments décoratifs;

8ème concours       verrerie de table - service composé d'un verre à

                                   eau, d'un verre à vin, d'un broc et d'un carafe,

                                   d'une coupe, ensemble d'où découlera le service

                                   complet.

9ème concours       huilier dit "ménagère", flacon à huile, flacon à

                                   vinaigre, moutardier, récipient à sel, récipient à

                                   poivre;

l0ème concours      fourchettes, cuillères, couteaux et porte-couteaux.

 

      Les oeuvres présentées devront être inédites, avoir un caractère régionaliste et traditionnel, tout en présentant une note d'art tirée d'une ligne plus pure et en restant dans la parfaite adaptation de l'objet à son usage. (57)

 

      A sheet of handwritten notes suggests that Guillaume either contemplated submitting, or in fact did submit, entries for eight of the sections, obviously being able to capitalise on his editing experiences in such fields.  When, on 8 March l937, a jury, presided over by Henri Cluzot, 'délegué du Centre Régional et du Comité général d'admissions' of the Expostion Internationale, announced its finding, Guillaume and all his friends had been successful:

 

l.   Edouard Duneufgermain - furniture for the bureau and common room.

2.  Jean Lerat - the set of 'berrichons et berrichonnes' he had

                 designed for Guillaume, and a head of Medusa, (Fig.

                 l47)

3.  Eugène Lion - vases en grès.

4.  Joseph Massé - 'pour son envoi si divers et si intéressant.'

5.  François Guillaume -    (i)    Service de Table

                                               (ii)   Le Service Baffier

                                               (iii)  le modèle de bouteille pour les vins

                                                      Berry-Nivernais (Fig. l48)

                                               (iv)   'des poteries exécutées à La Borne.'

 

      Collectively the potters of La Borne were chosen for an 'ensemble des pichets ... d'après les dessins de l'école nationale des arts appliqués.' (58)  This was not, however, to be the only way in which the craft of the village was to be brought to a wider audience.  In the regional art journal, 'Le Gargaillou', which produced a commemorative issue on 'La Collaboration Berry-Nivernais', three articles by Guillaume were included, one on the history of porcelain in the region, that on Joseph Massé, published by Beaux-Arts in June l934, and a brief but comprehensive one on the potters and pottery of La Borne.  In more tangible ways, they were also represented, bas-reliefs by the sculptor Popineau of Saint-Armand formed a decorative band on the exterior of the Berry-Nivernais pavillion. (Fig. l49)  Depicting the agricultural life, industry and crafts of the region, 'Ces bas-reliefs iront plus tard, l'Exposition terminée, lorsqu'ils auront été moulés et cuits en grès de La Borne, orner à Bourges l'Université des Métiers que le Sénateur - Maire Laudier va faire édifier en son antique cité modernisée.' (59)  Within, on the ground floor, the Berry-Nivernais committee had presented regional crafts men and women at work, and among whom were Achille Girault and Armand Bedu of La Borne, provided with a stand (60) (Fig. l50) and 'tour à bâton', making and displaying their traditional wares. (61)

 

      In the context of all his work on behalf of the village, the participation of the bornois potters, and the achievements of those who had assisted in that work, must have brought great satisfaction to François Guillaume; perhaps more than the success which he personally achieved.  Some of the pieces which he had 'edited' with Bedu at La Borne were acquired by the state and deposited in the Musée de Tokio.  A table service, one he had designed and had made by Renault of Argent-sur-Sauldre had been chosen for use in 'La Salle Commune', (62) while another, designed in conjunction with Jean Chièze, and produced in porcelain by the firm Taillemite of Vierzon, was awarded a gold medal. (Fig. l5l)

      Having decided to submit projects for the competitions in June l936, Guillaume had written to Jean Chièze in Grenoble, informing him of his plans and requesting his collaboration for a porcelain table service.  Eleven letters written from Grenoble, between 2l April l936 and February l937 are a perfect example of the way in which Guillaume preferred to collaborate with those he respected.  He and Chièze conversed not only of their joint venture but of artistic and national events as well, Joseph Massé's political aspirations meeting with Chièze's approval; 'vous pouvez voter pour J. Massé' (63) and 'L'élection de notre ami Massé fut la joie de nos sombres élections.  Je lui ai écrit pour le lui dire, Bravo aux électeurs!' (64)  Most space was consigned to discussing the forms and decorative elements.  The basic theme had been determined by Guillaume, motifs, representative of the three departments comprisng the Berry-Nivernais region, and by 2l April Chièze was bombarding Guillaume with requests for such local information.  Again in July, "interesting costumes of Berry; brochures, if possible on the pottery of La Borne, forms, colours etc; 'Que voyez vous comme dessins utiles dans la presentation des dites maquettes - Plats, assiettes, soupière, saucière etc... Ceci est très important!  J'aimerais fort renouveler avec vous et pour la céramique l'imagerie populaire.' (65)  As for the form, as perceived by Chièze, it ought to be '... à la manière de ces petites porcelaines chinoises que vous connaissez.  Un tel ensemble aurait, je crois, une tenue autoritoire et souple en rapport avec l'esthétique vers laquelle nous tendons (actuellement). (66)  At the end of such detailed discussions of form, treatment of rim, selection, suitability and placement of motifs, and in the midst of which Guillaume presented their ongoing work to the public in his December exhibition (67), the finished product was acclaimed.  The Nivernais was represented by Nevers, Château-Chinon, Clamecy and La Charité-sur-Loire, Haut-Berry by Bourges, Vierzon, Saint-Amand and Sancerre and Bas-Berry by Châteauroux, La Châtre, Issoudun and Le Blanc:

 

                       '... Toutes ces vignettes sont d'une composition

                       vigoureuse dans un esprit moderne très séduisant.

                       Les symboles sont choisis dans les caractéristiques

                       de la ville et des ses alentours.  Les notoriétés

                       ne sont représentées que par George Sand pour La

                       Chârtre.  Au centre de la vignette sont les

                       armoiries stylisées de la ville ...' (68) (Fig. l52i, 152ii)

 

      By October, Jean Chièze, now teaching in Marseille for one year before finally settling in Paris, was writing to say that, although he had only paid a short visit to the exhibition in July, he had seen the results of their joint endeavour, adding:

 

                       '... J'ai appris que le pavillon des industries

                       céramiques comportait votre nom à côté du mien,

                       je vous remercie de cette marque de collaboration

                       amicale ...' (69)

 

 

Exposition des Potiers et Imagiers de France: 9 August - l0 October l937

 

      In other ways, l937 was heralding a breakthrough which he could never have envisaged when he embarked on the organisation of his exhibition of June l935.  By the presence of some of the sculptural pieces of La Borne ware in the Exposition des Potiers et Imagiers de France in Paris, that aspect of their production was accorded official recognition for the first time.  In late March Guillaume was contacted by Georges-Henri Rivière, at the time in charge of the organisation of the 'Départment de Folklore des Musées Nationaux.'  Pierre-Louis Duchartre's letter of June would show that he had not been present at the l935 exhibition, and there is no evidence that Rivière had attended either.  Nevertheless, the significance of the event had not escaped his notice, 'nous avons gardé le souvenir de la belle exposition que vous avez organisée à Bourges, il y a deux ans.' (70)  The purpose of Rivière's letter was to request a copy of Guillaume's catalogue.  'Il serait remis à notre OFFICE DE DOCUMENTATION FOLKLORIQUE, qui sera à la disposition de tous les chercheurs.' (7l)  A prompt reply from Guillaume had obviously been intended to capitalise on the situation and to further promote the art of La Borne since, in her acknowledgement of 3 April, Madame Agnes Humbert, attaché du Département, informed him:

 

                       '... J'avise M. Duchartre par ce courrier de

                       votre proposition du sujet de la fontaine qui

                       pouvait éventuellement prendre place à

                       l'Exposition des Potiers et Imagiers de

                       France ...' (72)

 

      This exhibition, mounted under the auspices of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle was the first major enterprise of what was soon to become the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires.  Its duration, 9 August to l0 October, meant that it could hope to attract many of the visitors who would be arriving in the capital for the Exposition Internationale.  Duchartre, who was director of the organising committee, wrote to Guillaume on l2 June with the following request:

 

                       '... voici le prêt que je vous demanderais de

                       nous faire.  Le sujet est si vaste que la plus

                       difficulté est de faire les tentatives ... Je

                       prendrai les 3 bouteilles de Golden à Paris

                       pour éviter le transport, le Christ de Monsieur

                       Massé ... le nos. 83, 203, 205 en outre, s'il

                       veut bien me les prêter.

                       A Monsieur de la Nezière no. 4l, no. 52, no. 2ll,

                       no. 2l2, no. 220 de votre catalogue.  Enfin, s'il

                       est besoin, quelques pièces typées, actuelles ...' (73)

 

      In a much less formal way, Duchartre wrote to his friend Joseph de la Nézière on the following day, requesting his pieces and suggesting that all could be dispatched together from Bourges.  de la Nézière forwarded this letter to Guillaume, appending a hurried scribble which made it clear that he too had used his influence to ensure that La Borne would be represented. (Fig. l53)  With his authority, Guillaume took the requested pieces from de la Nézière's home La Beugnon and then made a selection of seven pieces from his own collection, recording their l935 catalogue numbers on Duchartre's letter.  Added to those of Golden, Massé and de la Nézière, there were nineteen examples altogether, nine of which were primarily utilitarian pieces, including the 'soupière' signed by François Panarioux, the 'pichet' signed by Louis Auchère of Neuvy-deux-Clochers and a 'mazagran' and 'tonnelet' he had just recently acquired.  A precedent for the inclusion of such utilitarian ware had already been established in l899 when, for the Exposition Universelle Internationale, François Guillepain had made the enormous 'saloir' and 'vinaigrier' now in the Musée du Berry. (74)

 

      All other pieces were examples of the decorative La Borne ware, including wares attributed to Marie and Jean Talbot, de la Nézière's 'Encrier représentant deux amoureux' and his own 'Encrier rond avec godet: petit personnage assis portant un oiseaux sur les genoux.'  Since Duchartre had let him know that insurance costs would be met by the museum authorities, Guillaume also noted these and when stated in 'old Francs', his evaluation is enlightening: l0 francs each for the mazagran and tonnelet, 600 for de la Nézière's encrier and l00 for his own!

 

 

Le Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires: initiation of research at

La Borne

 

      In his 'Propos Liminaires' to the catalogue of the l962 retrospective of La Borne, "Potiers en Terre' du Haut-Berry, Georges-Henri Rivière related for his readers his own brief recollection of the involvement of the museum.

 

                       '... Ce n'est pas d'aujourd'hui que le Musée

                       des Arts et Traditions Populaires porte intérêt à

                       La Borne.  La première visite que ses équipes en

                       firent - à laquelle j'étais présent - remonte au

                       l3 Septembre l937, alors que débutait notre

                       maison.  Si longtemps l'un des nôtres, Marcel

                       Maget, y réalisa par la suite d'importantes

                       études technologiques dont un résumé fut présente,

                       le Novembre l942, au Musée des Arts Décoratifs ...' (75)

 

      With such recognition achieved, and contacts made, François Guillaume remained a critical figure.  By the end of December l938, Duchartre was once more in communication, soliciting his assistance and conveying news that must have suggested that the future of the village was now assured.  Duchartre was requesting another catalogue to replace a lost original which he had lent, and in addition, a further copy for his friend Henri Cluzot, with whom he was collaborating on a book 'La Poterie en Terre en France', 'que devient par l'ampleur une véritable bible.  C'est passionnant mais quelle tâche! Vous serez cité bien entendu, et en honneur au chapitre 'La Borne.' (76)  Secondly, and presumably explaining his long absence from the Berry region, he related that he has been pre-occupied with preparations for 'the' exhibition in New York.  This event must have been discussed with Guillaume in some other correspondence since, once more in one of Duchartre's letters, he has noted three pieces, a bénitier, a pichet and the Jean Talbot épi de faîtage. (Fig. 34)  If these were included in the exhibition in the U.S.A. it was the first of many occasions when the work of the Talbot Dynasty appeared on the world stage.