CHAPTER XVI

 

 

THE RENEWAL OF LA BORNE: l944

 

      During l944, the year in which the war in France was to come to an end, five further entries were made in Guillaume's sales ledger, one each for January, April, June, September and October.  Unlike the previous year, mention is not made of 'cuissons', though the periodic staging of the entries appears to correspond to those occasions on which the output of the atelier was fired in Armand Bedu's 'grand four'.  For April, Guillaume has recorded the sale in his premises of three works made by André Rozay.  Otherwise, all others relate to pieces made by Jean Lerat and Jacqueline Bouvet, Table 9 showing the total return for each entry of the three personalities involved.

 

                                                           TABLE 9

 

                       Month                 Lerat               Bouvet            Rozay

                       January             l3,860 fcs.       7,785 fcs.

                       April                  l7,930 fcs.       l5,609 fcs.     3,500 fcs.

                       June                 7,l75 fcs.          5,585 fcs.

                       September       9,595 fcs.         5,l20 fcs.

                       October            l5,2l5 fcs.         5,375 fcs.

 

The decrease in sales which is evident in mid-year can be attributed to two factors, one of which was having an impact on the nation as a whole, namely, 'La débâcle allemande', the northward retreat during mid-year of the German armed forces in the face of advancing allied troops who had earlier established beach-heads on the southern coasts.  Deriving from this was the concern of the Bouvet family which, further south in Mâcon, had requested that their daughter should return home.  As a result, Jacqueline Bouvet was forced to absent herself from the village for almost five months, leaving in May and returning sometime in October, (l) a period which is confirmed by her absence from the 'Livre de Paye' of the Maison Guillaume. (2)

 

 

The Production of Jean Lerat: l944

 

      Table l0 represents an analysis of the fiches of Jean Lerat for the year l944, and the fact that some of the vases and coupes of fiches l95 and l96 are recorded in the sales ledger as having been sold in June permits one to divide his production into two periods, those up to and including fiche l97 being taken as identifying his output for the early half of the year, with the remainder being produced by the time Guillaume made his final sales entry in October.

 

 

Early Period

 

      Returning to a by-then favourite theme, Jean Lerat executed three sculptures of the Virgin and Child.  These, along with ten slab-formed crucifix based on earlier and successful models, were the only sculptural works produced by him during the first half of the year.  The remainder of his output consisted of vases, coupes and porte-parapluies.  In the vases particularly, a more restrained sense of form is evident, with horizontal banding restricting the ground for decoration to either a shallow collar or foot.  In other pieces a similar restraint prevails, with the form becoming the more dominant aesthetic element, decoration being restricted to an emphasis on terminal features such as rims, or where the profile changes direction.  It is conceivable that it was a similar aesthetic that he brought to the execution of the three 'Vierges et enfants' of fiche l97.  The pronounced deformation of the initial wheel-thrown shape which is evident in the 'Vierges' of fiche l86 has been abandoned, so that the main body of each of the figures remains a pure thrown form, the subject then being completed by small additions in the form of limbs, head and in each instance, the figure of the infant. (Fig. 2l7)

 

 

The production of Jacqueline Bouvet: January-May l944

 

      Prior to her departure for Mâcon, Jacqueline Bouvet had been making types of ware similar to those she had produced during the previous year with, in addition, some small sculptural pieces.  Except for one which may have been developed from an early sketch, these tend to coincide in theme with that of the single female figure or the 'Vierge et enfant' to which Jean Lerat had been returning periodically for some time.  One of those of Jacqueline Bouvet, 'jeune femme à l'enfant' appears in the ledger for April, the other two, 'Vierge à l'enfant au coq' and 'Vierge à la chaise' are entered in June.  The fact that those of Lerat are recorded as having been sold in April suggests that both may have been engaged in the production of all six at the same period.  The possibility that this may have developed into a more purposive collaboration is suggested by an examination of the fiches of Jean Lerat, where some of the sketches appear to be executed in a style more akin to that of Jacqueline Bouvet.  If such a co-operative approach to the execution of some wares had occurred, its development would have to be deferred, since it was at this time that Jacqueline Bouvet had been recalled to Mâcon by her father.

 

 

Jacqueline Bouvet: Absence from La Borne - May to October, l944

 

      Writing to François Guillaume from La Borne, on l2 May, Jacqueline Bouvet explained her desire to return to Mâcon for a period that she evidently expected to be of short duration, 'j'espére pouvoir revenir d'ici une quinzaine.' (3)  However, recognising the uncertainty of the times, she continued, 'Il est vrai que je n'ose faire des projets.' (4)  The caution was well founded, hatreds engendered during the occupation having led to reprisals and assassinations.  Some time after her return, her father, Jean Bouvet 'socialiste, résistant et pacifiste', was murdered by the Milice. (5)  Remaining to comfort her mother, she travelled with her to stay with some friends in the Midi, before being able to contemplate rejoining Jean Lerat in La Borne.  This itself proved difficult since the conflict had devastated the transport system, and it was only when trains were beginning to run again that she was able to travel to Bourges, taking the first available train through Lyons and Nevers, eventually arriving in the village in October. (6)

 

 

L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Bourges - the acquisition of the first kiln

 

      In the meantime, Jean Lerat continued to work alone in village, except for his regular journeys to Bourges to forward the development of the new ceramic section in the Ecole des Beaux Arts.  Progress on this had been retarded because of wartime restrictions but the opportunity to acquire the school's first kiln arose when Henri Malvaux heard, through the Directeur de la Jeunesse et de Sport, that an electric model, manufactured by the firm Druel, was available in Paris:

 

          '... On a pu l'obtenir d'une façon absolument

          invraisemblable pendant la guerre où toutes

          les matières premières étaient complètement

          rarifiées, taxées, controlées ...' (7)

 

      Malvaux had the good fortune to be on friendly terms with the director of the Secours National, 'qui était lui aussi un peintre, qui avait suivi mes cours et qui aimait beaucoup la céramique ... il avait des céramiques de Lerat, des céramiques achetées chez Guillaume.' (8)  On hearing of the affair, and knowing that Malvaux did not have transport available, the director offered to provide space on one of the vans of the Secours National which was setting off for Paris to obtain relief supplies.   Just north of Bourges, and for the succeeding hundred kilometres, they were forced to drive through the routed German troops who on foot, on bicycle and in private cars, were retreating towards Orléans where they eventually surrendered.  On arriving in Paris, Malvaux had the kiln loaded into the van and, returning by the same badly surfaced roads, reached Bourges where it was installed in the Beaux Arts, to begin to realise his ambition to establish a 'Section Céramique' with Jean Lerat as its first teacher. (9)

 

 

The Guillaume Atelier: October - December l944

 

      Jacqueline Bouvet's lengthy absence from La Borne had not diminished a growing affection, soon to ripen into love, that was beginning to unite both the lives and the work of herself and Jean Lerat.  Her own production consisted of a number of pieces which generally conformed to themes No. 2 and No. 3 of Guillaume's initial letter, with, in addition, an increasing number of small sculptural projects, two of each based on the following subjects, 'Vierge sous charmille', 'jeune fille au chapeau', 'coq, pique fleurs' and 'petit coq stylisé'. (l0)

 

      In what appears to be preparation for the end of the year, Lerat produced the thirty-four vases and seven coupes depicted on the two final fiches, 205 and 206 respectively.  Along with twelve tobacco jars, these represent the only examples of decorated pottery he made during the period.  More so than his vases and coupes, the tobacco jars display some of the simplified characteristics that he had revealed earlier in the year, the plain containers being sealed, in most instances with a pronounced lid surmounted by a small modelled form. (Fig. 2l8)  Returning to a technique he had abandoned for some time, he also produced eight slab crosses either decorated with conventional Christian symbols or which exploited the flow of glaze which welled in the regularly impressed pattern. (Fig. 2l9)

 

      His sculptural works fall once more into two categories, being either directly modelled or deriving from wheel-thrown forms.  The former technique has been used to execute the animals, the Ark (Fig. 220) and the small figures of fiches l98, 204 and 200, with the latter being reserved for an 'épi de faîtage' (fiche l99) and the two 'vierges' of fiches 203.  In these latter pieces, one again encounters the suggestion of a close collaboration with Jacqueline Bouvet.  Though classified as 'vierges', the subject of both is, in fact, a 'Vierge et l'enfant' and each, in its own way, manifests a consolidation of previously explored ideas.  Recorded in Guillaume's ledger as 'Vierge au Manteau', piece A85 of fiche 203 (Fig. 22l) shows a simpler conception of the subject than had previously obtained.  The robe swathed body of the Virgin is energetically decorated with an incised diamond-patterned ground on which are applied winged cherub heads.  With the infant drawn close to the mother's head, it has been possible to treat the piece more monolithically, thus retaining most of the volume and character of the initial thrown form.(Fig.221i)

 

      The Virgin and Child of A84, entitled 'Vierge romane' in the ledger, proposes a different interpretation of the theme.  Most likely developed from the earlier 'Vierge à la chaise' of Jacqueline Bouvet, the thrown elements of the plinth and the body of the figure, and the slab and modelled additions, are combined to form a slender structure with pronounced vertical emphasis which has departed significantly from the more realistic earlier models of Jean Lerat, and in which the profusion of decorative ovoids that comprise the members of the chair have a marked similarity to the treatment of some of Jacqueline Bouvet's crèches. (Fig. 222)

 

      Towards the end of the year Jean Lerat and Jacqueline Bouvet had announced their engagement and François Guillaume settled his accounts with them, at the end of October and the end of November respectively. (ll)  No further work appears to have been produced during December, most likely due to the fact that, during the Christmas vacation, Jacqueline Bouvet brought Jean Lerat to Mâcon to be introduced to the family of his bride-to-be, before their forthcoming marriage in February l945. (l2)

 

      In what appears to have been a realisation that the enterprise, as he had initially conceived it, had either come to an end or was poised to enter a new phase with Jean Lerat and the future Madame Jacqueline Lerat, François Guillaume closed his ledger at the end of l944.  There are no further entries following those recorded for October, except for two pages devoted to the 'Solde de l'Année l944' in which virtually all the pieces depicted in Lerat's final fiches are noted, accompanied by their selling prices.  Presumably stocking the shop for the Christmas and New Year demand, Lerat had furnished Guillaume with thirty-four vases and seven coupes.  At the end of the entries Guillaume has recorded the financial return on all the wares sold since the inception of the venture in May l94l.  Until July l943, when Jacqueline Bouvet arrived, he had sold works to the value of l70,830.50 francs.  Since then, he had realised a further 227,600 francs, giving a grand total of 398,430.50 francs. (l3)  Taken at its face value, the figure is an imposing one, but an elucidation of its commercial benefit can be made by having to resort to some figures which he fortuitously jotted down in margins of some pages of the ledger.

 

      For October, he has noted an outlay of 8327 francs for the 'cuisson' (14), but since he paid Armand Bedu for the clay provided as well as the firing costs (l5) this figure must be taken as including both.  Figures appended to his April entry give a more precise breakdown.  Takings had realised 37,039.50 francs and his outlay had been 28,302 francs comprised of l3,739.20 francs for 'frais', presumably to Armand Bedu, and two amounts, 8597 francs and 5966 francs. (l6)  These latter figures correspond to the gross salaries for January, February and March for Jean Lerat and Jacqueline Bouvet respectively, as recorded in the 'Livre de Paye.' (l7)  This left him with a profit of 8737.50 francs, that is 23.3%, before further deductions would be made for the salaries of his other employees and the maintainance of his premises in the rue des Arènes.