CHAPTER IX

 

THE ORGANISATION OF THE EXHIBITION

 

 
                    By mid-May, the exhibition was beginning to take its final form.

It is evident that for the body of pieces to be displayed François Guillaume was relying almost exclusively on his friends in the region who possessed examples of La Borne ware.  Some of these, by publicising their own involvement, were responsible for procuring other examples and, as is shown by the following letter from Dr. Pellerin, of Mehun-sur-Yevre, who himself was to contribute eight pieces, the reputation of Francois Guillaume as a focus of interest for those interested in La Borne ware was growing:

 

                       '... Ayant ce matin, parlé de vôtre exposition

                       à mon oncle le Dr. Compoint, de Vouzeron, il m'a

                       confié, dans le cas ou cet objet pourrait vous

                       intéresser un pichet à tricorne, à couverte

                       gris-verdâtre.  Mon oncle serait heureux de le

                       voir figurer à votre exposition, c'est dans le

                       but que je vous le signale et le tiens à vôtre

                       disposition-je vous joint le dessin qui peut-être

                       vous permettre de lui attribuer une date ...'(l)

 

      He encountered one obstacle, however, when requesting the loan of pieces from the Musée d'Issoudun, receiving a reply that, being a municipal museum, their regulations prohibited such loans.(2)  By contrast, the enthusiasm and energy of Joseph de la Nèziére was bearing fruit in Paris.  A Monsieur Golden, writing from l3, rue Ernest Cresson on l4 May, promised to dispatch, that very day, the pieces which he had in his possession, adding that, because of his interest, it was possible that he would travel to Bourges to visit the exhibition.(3)  As important, from the point of view of gaining more widespread publicity for the 'art populaire' of the village, was the letter he received, on l7 May, from Jacques Gervais, of the arts magazine, 'Comoedia'.  Acknowledging Guillaume's invitation, Gervais informs him that he will attend without fail, since 'Monsieur de la Nèziére m'a dit devoir être tout à fait intéressante'.(4)  He adds also that Comte de Scoraille of the Château de Montfaucon, à Villequiers, Cher, has some pieces of La Borne, 'dont une extrêmement intéressante ou plus exactement amusante - Il serait je crois très heureux de vous la prêter...'(5)

 

      Joseph de la Nèziére himself wrote on Monday, 20 May, to inform Guillaume that he would be travelling to Bourges the following Friday for a meeting of the Commission des Monuments Historiques and that he would take the opportunity of the visit to call at Guillaume's premises.  His interest on this occasion was as much concerned with his reputation as a gourmet than as an artist and aesthete; requesting Guillaume to order 'cinq des ces excellentes andouillettes que fait le charcutier qui habite Place Planchat, au coin de la rue des Arénes',(6) for a dinner which he was giving in his Montmartre home on Saturday.  Their subsequent discussion on Friday seems to have centered on most of the organisational details of the exhibition since, on the evening of Saturday 25 May, de la Nèziére wrote once more to inform his friend that he had written to the editor of l'Illustration, patently with a view to using his personal prestige to influence the prior decision of the journal, one that, contained in a response from Jacques Baschet, of the Direction des Services Artistiques, had been far from encouraging:

 

                        '... Il faudrait donc que nous puissions nous

                       rendre à Bourges au mois de Mai, au moment de

                       vôtre exposition.  Or ce mois de Mai étant très

                       chargé pour nous en raison des grandes

                       mainfestations d'art qui ont lieu a Paris, il me

                       sera probablement bien difficile de me déplacer.

                       C'est ce qui rend si difficile d'ailleurs les

                       réproductions des oeuvres provinciales car il

                       nous faut pour faire de belles planches de

                       nombreux déplacements avec nos opérateurs et nos

                       graveurs, et étant donné la bousculade dans

                       laquelle nous vivons nous renonçons bien souvent

                       à des projets intéressants.  Je regrette de ne

                       pouvoir vous donner, pour le moment, plus

                       d'assurance.  Tout depend du temps dont je

                       disposerai à ce moment...'(7)

 

      In soliciting the support of that journal, François Guillaume had been quite clear about his immediate objectives, namely, that he personally was striving to ensure that as many pieces as possible of the 'art populaire' of La Borne did not perish, as others previously had.  He had also publicly revealed his intention to mount the exhibition in his premises.  However, the letter clearly reveals that, at that particular time, he does not appear to have formulated any long term plans to continue with that which he was initiating, 'Ce sera l'occasion peut être unique.' (8)

 

      As his own personal documentation, his 'Notes', has shown, Guillaume had resorted to a form of visual record comprised of a miscellany of drawings and schematic renderings, each valuable in its own way in describing particular aspects of some of the individual pieces.  But this variety of interpretation also brought with it its own drawbacks; form and scale were not always adequately reported, glaze and other surface finishes could not be satisfactorily reproduced and precise translations of the decorative elements were reliant both on the skill and perception of the individual executant.  Why François Guillaume did not undertake to compile a photographic record of all the pieces, it is not possible to explain.  Understandably in the mid- thirties quality colour photographs would have been out of the question from a financial point of view, but even accepting the limitations imposed by the then popular black-and-white reproduction, he was already accustomed to using the services of a professional photographer, a M. Robert Brault, for much of his advertising.  In addition, Guillaume's own father, Emile, had been a keen amateur photographer, (9) and, as his own family photograph album displays, his wife Elisabeth used this popular medium for recording events.  Such 'snap-shots' of his collaborators at La Borne were well composed records of carefully chosen locations and sensitive interpretations of character.  Possibly anticipating an unenthusiastic response from Jacques Baschet, de la Nèziére was sufficiently fore-sighted to caution Guillaume, 'vous feriez bien de faire prendre d'avance des clichés des piéces les plus intéressantes, de celles du Musée, par exemple'(l0).  This he did using the services of Robert Brault.

 

      Continuing with the more pressing organisational detail, de la Nèziére was pleased to confirm Jacques Gervais' intention of visiting Bourges on 2 June, as well as the fact that the Comte de Scoraille was lending 'un encrier à personnages très amusant (un maître d'école et ses élèves)'.(ll)  As far as his own personal collection was concerned, he suggested that Guillaume select any which he found to be interesting at Le Beugnon, his house in Bourges.

 

      In addition, he noted that he had written to Henri Laudier, Mayor of Bourges, to remind him of the La Borne exhibition.  Of particular interest in this letter is de la Nèziére's reference to Albert Laprade - 'Laprade vous a t-il repondu?' (l2).  Albert Laprade was 'Architecte en Chef des Bâtiments Civils et Palais Nationaux' as well as 'Inspecteur Général de l'Enseignement Artistique' and was, if one was to judge from the form he used in adressing Guillaume in his card of l2 May l935 - 'Monsieur et cher compatriote' - already familiar with the latter's work. (l3)  Having expressed an interest in the exhibition, he appended a footnote which could only have satisfied Guillaume's aspirations for the future of La Borne:

 

                       '... En vue de la Foire artisanale du printemps,

                       et en vue de l937, il serait intéressant de

                       faire renaître en effet cette vieille fabrication

                       de La Borne ...'(l4)

 

      As it transpired, Laprade was not present at the opening of the exhibition and on l3 June, his secretary wrote to Guillaume to inform him that, having to go to Bourges on 7 July to a conferment ceremony in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Albert Laprade 'vous fera une visite aprés ou avant la distribution des prix pour voir les poteries dont lui a parlé son camarade de la Néziére.'(l5)

 

      A few days before the exhibition, Guillaume received a letter which indicated that 'les milieux officiels de la céramique' were beginning to respond.  Writing from Sèvres, Georges Lechevalier-Chevignard indicated his intention of travelling to Bourges on Saturday evening, this time accompanied by M. Haumont, the conservateur of the Musée de Sèvres, to whom Guillaume had forwarded an invitation on 20 May (l6).  Responding, Haumont wrote: 'je connais ce très intéressant centre d'art local dont, malheuresement nous ne possedons rien ... et j'aurais grand plaisir d'aller voir vôtre exposition.'(l7)  Finally, as the press of the nation and the region awaited expectantly the attempt of the 'Normandie' to mount its challenge for the Blue Riband, La Dépêche du Berry reported the 'bénédiction du paquebot et la consacration de la chapelle'.(l8)  That same day Guillaume received another hurried note from Joseph de la Nèziére;

 

                       '...je pars demain matin sur le train spécial

                       pour dejeuner sur 'Normandie', puis je prends

                       passage à bord pour aller à Southampton ... nous

                       arriverons à minuit. Deux jours à Londres et

                       retour samedi soir à Paris...(l9)

 

      The occasion was significant in the artisitic and official career of de la Néziére.  The French government had stipulated that the new vessel 'had to be not less than equal to the best foreign ship in commission or under construction'(20), thus the Normandie had been conceived and constructed 'sous la coque la plus bellement rationnelle et de plus pur "style paquebot" un véritable palais "terrestre", d'une étonnante somptuosité d'ornements'.(2l)  In addition to furniture by Ruhlman, such artistes-décorateurs as Eugène Süe, Dominique Leleu and Montagnac had helped to create 'cet ensemble d'un faste sans ostentation.'(22)  Of the eight private salons adjoining the vast dining-room, one had been decorated with paintings commissioned from Joseph de la Nèziére.(23)  In his letter to Guillaume, the latter continues:

 

                       '...Vous savez que Le Chevalier-Chevignard,

                       l'r. et d'r. de Sévres vient voir vôtre exposition. 

                       Probablement acceptera t-il mon invitation

                       pour dejeuner, dimanche, à la Boule d'Or avec

                       Gervais et Massé.  Si vous pourrez venir,

                       celà me ferait grand plaisir, mais je n'ose

                       insister pour cette fois (midi ).  Vous allez

                       être trop occupé!... Andouillettes

                       excellentes, Merci mille fois...'(24)