Retrospective

Souvenir d'Issenheim
Souvenir d'Issenheim
Oil on canvas, 60 cm x 92 cm
Paris, May 1977

Souvenir d'Issenheim

Souvenir of Issenheim refers to the Issenheim Altarpiece painted by Matthias Grünwald and now visible in the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar. Montlaur’s painting reminds us of the innermost panel of the polyptich representing the torment of Saint Anthony by half-human, half- bird monsters sent by Satan. One can recognize the yellow and green colors of the monsters. The saint is lying on the ground with his blue robe. We can see the black veil behind him and the gray mountains at the top right. The chaos in both paintings is absolute.

Le Souvenir d’Issenheim was the last painting by Guy de Montlaur.

Quae est Ista
Quae est Ista
Oil on canvas, 195 cm x 114 cm
Paris, May 1977

Quae est Ista

Quae est Ista quae ascendit
sicut aurora consurgens,
pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol,
terribilis ut castorum acies ordinata?

Who is This who ascends
like the rising dawn,
beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun,
terrible as an army drawn up in battle array?

(Song of songs, 6:9)

What more beautiful tribute, could the painter have paid to the Queen of the World, than this magnificent work, full of majesty, his very last, painted three months before his death?

Peinture à l'usage des enfants
Peinture à l'usage des enfants
Oil on canvas, 92 cm x 60 cm
Paris, March 1977

Peinture à l'usage des enfants

(Painting intended for Children)

The overall structure of the painting is geometric, it is composed and simple. Pastel colors are highlighted by deep black shapes. Here again, the superimposed layers of color appear when scraped. There is no violence, the painter is serene. He bequeaths his art, his technique to posterity, to children; it is as though he was telling them: “this is what I know how to do!”

Le courage
Le courage
Oil on canvas, 54.5 cm x 65 cm
Paris, August 1976 - February 1977

Le courage

(Courage)

Montlaur never lacked of courage during the war years. From October 1939, he fought with the “Corps Francs” - commando-type units - and carried-out numerous raids in the Saar region, on the other side of the German border. In May-June 1940, he fought fiercely against the German troops that were storming through France, he fought well after the shameful armistice signed by Pétain and the Nazi regime. His courage is mentioned by Professor Guy Vourc’h in his tribute to his friend at his funeral on August 13, 1977: “I saw him when he arrived early 1943 (note: in London). I offered him the chance to join the Commandos which were the modern equivalent of cavalry, an arm used for reconnaissance and lightly armed bold raids. From that time onward, we were always together. First as group leaders, then as section leaders, training together with Commandant Kieffer, Lofi, Hattu, Chausse, Bégot, and Wallerand, we built up together an instrument of attack, which had the honor of being chosen as first to land, here, on our native soil of France. When all the officers of my company were wounded, it was Guy de Montlaur who took over in command. Later, at Flushing and Walcheren, wounded as he was near me, he refused to be evacuated. His courage was close to insolence; he was not just fighting but humiliating the enemy: by the age of 25 he had received seven citations for valor in battle and the French Légion d’Honneur.”

In February 1977, six months before the end of his life, Montlaur did not fear death which had been his intimate companion for so many years.

Le passeur des jours futurs - La mort d'une étoile
Le passeur des jours futurs - La mort d'une étoile
Oil on canvas, 100 cm x 65 cm
Franval (Normandy, France), 1975 - 1977

Le passeur des jours futurs - La mort d'une étoile

(The Ferryman of Future Days - Death of a Star)

Premonition of the painter’s death. The ferryman of future days is the guardian of the Styx: he is the center of attraction in this painting, dark red, color of blood, color of death. He is at the entrance of a world illuminated with pure white light. The painting was started in 1975 and completed in 1977, only a few months before Montlaur’s death.

Quare conturbas me?
Quare conturbas me?
Oil on canvas, 65 cm x 54 cm
Franval (Normandy, France), July 1976

Quare conturbas me?

(Why are you creating disorder within me?)

Iudica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me.
Quia tu es, Deus, fortitudo mea: quare me repulisti? et quare tristis incedo, dum affligit me inimicus?
Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam: ipsa me deduxerunt, et adduxerunt in montem sanctum tuum, et in tabernacula tua.
Et introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui laetificat iuventutem meam. Confitebor tibi in cithara, Deus, Deus meus.
Quare tristis es, anima mea? Et quare conturbas me? Spera in Deo, quoniam adhuc confitebor illi, salutare vultus mei, et Deus meus.

(Ps 43)

Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.
For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.
Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

(Psalm 43, King James version)

 As in the psalm, the painting shows weariness and sadness, symbolized by the shape’s bent back and hanging arms. However, hope is present, it is the red and golden sun that has taken the place of the heart.

La connaissance des choses
La connaissance des choses
Oil on canvas, 65 cm x 54 cm
Paris, February 1976

La connaissance des choses

(The Knowledge of Things)

This painting is a storm of colors, all vivid, never elementary: black is stained with yellow, green, blue, it is never sinister. The whites are slightly “dirty” (in the painter’s words). The reds are vermilion and carmine, blood-like. The patches of colors are almost always “scraped”, disclosing sometimes slightly, often frankly the color of the underlying layer. In some places one can perceive the texture of the canvas.

A black figure stretching out both arms can be distinguished. Above it, there is a strange dark red sky and black, green, red and yellow rectangular shapes.

The title, in English, is : “The knowledge of things”. What is painter referring to? Is this about knowing the things of the world, i.e. scientific and philosophical knowledge? Then, why the black silhouette? Nothing in the painting seems to confirm this interpretation. Did he mean: “I know my destiny”? We are in 1976, the painter died 18 months after completing this painting. He probably knows he has little time to live. He’s waiting for his old acquaintance, Death. He doesn’t fear her. Last hypothesis, close to the one we have just considered: the the soldier-painter with such a heavy past will undergo his last judgment. He is standing, his hands are extended towards the “Judge” who knows all things; he is confident.

Arma virumque cano
Arma Virumque Cano
Oil on canvas, 92 cm x 73 cm
Paris, December 1975

Arma Virumque Cano

Montlaur quotes the first verse of the Aeneid to explain the object of his painting: he sings about the hero’s feats of arms and his long journey after the war. One does not feel the horror of memory in this evocation, there is no blood, little black. The colors here are very unusual, they are clear and vivid and contrast with the green and blue fog of the landscape. At the focal point of the painting, we see a bright yellow, solar structure that could represent Lavium, founded by Aeneas the ancestor of the illustrious twins, founders of Rome.

Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
Italiam, fato profugus, Laviniaque venit
litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto
vi superum saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram;
multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem,
inferretque deos Latio, genus unde Latinum,
Albanique patres, atque altae moenia Romae.

(Publii Vergili Maronis, Aeneidos liber primus, 1-7)

I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate, first came from the coast of Troy to Italy, and to Lavinian shores – hurled about endlessly by land and sea, by the will of the gods, by cruel Juno’s remorseless anger, long suffering also in war, until he founded a city and brought his gods to Latium: from that the Latin people came, the lords of Alba Longa, the walls of noble Rome.

(Virgil, Aeneid (Book 1.1-7)

 (Translated by A. S. Kline, Poetry in Translation, 2002)

Ma Désirade
Ma Désirade
Oil on canvas, 60 cm x 92 cm
Paris, December 1975

Ma Désirade

(My Desired One) (La Désirade is also an Island off Guadeloupe)

Apollinaire’s beautiful poem about a past love

The painting show through a porthole the harbor, the coast of the island or the silhouette of the beloved woman?

O Milky Way, whose sisterly
white streams flow on through Canaan’s land.
The white of lover’s bodies. We
must follow swimmers left unmanned
and swim to further nebulae.

The panther eyes I had to shun,
and beautiful but still a whore’s,
those Florentine, false kisses won,
in which the bitterness restores
distaste for what we might have done.

When looks across the evening brim
with stars that tremble in their haste,
and eyes in which the sirens swim,
and kisses blooded with such taste
to make the one who guards us grim.

In truth it is for her I’m sent,
and in my heart and soul’s recall,
and on that bridge where life’s re-sent
it may not have her sent at all
to tell her that I am content.

My heart and head are emptied wide,
all heaven’s flowing out of them,
and, heaped-up Danaïdes aside,
what happiness must I condemn
to be again a little child?

I’d not forget, though far I rove,
my dove upon the whitened road.
O marguerite in leaves unclothed,
my distant island, Désirade:
such rose you are and tree of clove.

(Guillaume Apollinaire, La Chanson du mal-aimé)

(Translated by C. John Holcombe)

Zénon ! Cruel Zénon ! Zénon d’Élée !
Zénon ! Cruel Zénon ! Zénon d’Élée !
Oil on canvas, 93 cm x 65 cm
Franval, Normandy, France, August 1975

Zénon ! Cruel Zénon ! Zénon d’Élée !

Zénon! Cruel Zénon! Zénon of Êlée!
You pierced me of this winged arrow
That vibrates, flies, and that does not fly!
The sound gives birth me and the arrow kills me!
Ah! the sun. . . Which shadow of tortoise
For the soul, motionless Achille to big step!

 No, no! . . . Standing! In the successive era!
Break, my body, this pensive form!
Drink, my breast, the wind birth!
A freshness, exhaled sea,
returns Me my soul. . . O power salty!
Run to the wave some to reflect living.

(The Graveyard by the Sea, translated by Cecil Day Lewis)

Quatrain
Quatrain
Oil on canvas, 60 cm x 92 cm
Paris, May 1975

Quatrain

(Quatrain)

L’étoile a pleuré rose au cœur de tes oreilles,
L’infini roulé blanc de ta nuque à tes reins
La mer a perlé rousse à tes mammes vermeilles
Et l’homme saigné noir à ton flanc souverain

The star has wept rose-colour in the heart of your ears,
The infinite rolled white from your nape to the small of your back
The sea has broken russet at your vermilion nipples,
And Man bled black at your royal side.

(Quatrain, by Arthur Rimbaud, translated by Oliver Bernard)

Montlaur made a sketch of this painting (see above) which was quite unusual for him. This sketch is interesting and useful because it is more figurative than the painting and allows us to make a link between the quatrain-painting and Rimbaud’s quatrain-poem. In the sketch, the ear is clearly seen, like the breasts, and nipples and the roll from the neck to the lower back. The man is difficult to identify. In the quatrain-painting, the colors, so important for Rimbaud, are relatively well respected. The bled black man appears unequivocally.

The painter is faithful to the poet: the painting and poem are an ode to the beauty of the woman, or, more appropriately, of the goddess (star, infinity, sea). The man, bleeding black blood, may represent Christ with his side pierced.

La terre est bleue comme une orange
La terre est bleue comme une orange
Oil on paper on board, 55 cm x 46 cm
Rothéneuf (Brittany, France), July 1974

La terre est bleue comme une orange

This painting exudes the happiness and calm that Montlaur found in Rothéneuf. One can see a bowed head, is it that of the beloved? The sky of Brittany is blue like Gala’s eyes.

The earth is blue like an orange
Never an error, words do not lie
They do not give you cause to sing
Turning these kisses to get along
The crazy ones and the lovers
Her, her mouth of alliance
All the secrets, all the smiles
And what clothing of indulgence
To believe her naked

The wasps bloom green
The dawn passes around the neck
Wings cover the leaves
You have all the joys of the sun
All the sun in the world
On the path of your beauty.

(Paul Eluard, Love, Poetry, 1929)

(Translated by Anna Scanlon)

Le soleil du détroit de Messine
Le soleil du détroit de Messine
Oil on canvas, 92 cm x 65 cm
Paris, January 1974

Le soleil du détroit de Messine

(The Sun of the Strait of Messina)

The painter must have had in mind the tragic choice of Ulysses who sacrificed part of his crew by preferring to pass near Scylla rather than Charybdis. The painting represents the hero, standing on his ship, the violent waves of the strait and the red and gold sun. Scylla’s black heads tear off and devour the bodies of his companions.

L’étoile se lève claire sur un matin sale
L’étoile se lève claire sur un matin sale
Oil on paper on wood, 55cm × 46cm
Paris, January 1974

L’étoile se lève claire sur un matin sale

(The star rises bright on a dirty morning)

The colors are less strong than usual, they are almost pastel; they are applied in successive layers which are partially scraped with a palette knife revealing extraordinary overlays. The overall form is very constructed. We see can see a star explode in the middle of this painting and flood it with its radiance. We can clearly feel the evolution of the painter’s technique during the last ten years of his life.

La nuit d’Aurélia
La nuit d’Aurélia
Oil on canvas, 60 cm x 73 cm
Paris, 1963 - 1974

La nuit d’Aurélia

(Aurelia’s night)

Gérard de Nerval was one of Montlaur’s preferred poets. Several paintings refer to his tragic death: “La nuit du 25 janvier 1855 rue de la vieille Lanterne” (The night of January 25th 1855, Rue de la Vieille Lanterne) and “La mort du poète” (The Death of the Poet), and to his works written just before he committed suicide: “Je suis l’inconsolé” ( I am the Inconsable), “Les filles du feu” (The Daughters of Fire) and “ La nuit d’Aurélia” (Aurelia’s Night ).
Nerval’s prose poem “Aurélia ou le rêve et la vie” (Aurelia or the Dream and the Life) narrates his dream-hallucinations, and his love for Aurélia, now dead, whom he can only meet in the underworld. He speaks of his own madness which, according to Albert Béguin, “is a poetic act par excellence” (L’âme romantique et le rêve, José Corti, 1939, p.358). Nerval mentions that he also translates his dream memories by tracing colored drawings - “series of frescoes” - which he hangs on the wall of his hospital room. For him, the border between dream (delirium) and reality (lucidity) is always blurred, uncertain. Montlaur could not help but be touched by the poet’s descriptions.
Abstraction allows the painter-reader to convey his perception of “Aurélia” to the viewer of the painting “The Night of Aurelia”. Here, he perfectly masters the art of reproducing the blurring of shapes and colors. Hallucination-madness invades the whole painting, we perceive human forms in the foreground “The outlines of their figures varied like the flame of a lamp, and at all times something from one passed into the other; the smile, the voice, the color of the hair, the size, the familiar gestures, were exchanged as if they had lived the same life, and each was thus a composite of all” (Aurelia). In the background, a giant star - is this metamorphosed Aurelia? Protective arms. A dark night sky.

Gnose
Gnose
Oil on canvas, 92 cm × 60 cm
Paris, March 1960 - January 1974

Gnose

Gnosis γνῶσις, (knowledge). According to this philosophical approach, the salvation of the soul is only possible through the knowledge of divinity, and thereby, through the knowledge of oneself. Montlaur certainly had in mind Erik Satie’s “Gnossiennes” that he sometimes listened to while painting. He greatly appreciated the work of Satie, Apollinaire’s friend. “Gnosis” - the painting - was started in 1960, and finished in 1974. We can easily recognize the very dynamic gesture of Montlaur’s 1960s period, and his 1970’s “finish” brings a chromatic richness that we find in all his later paintings. For Montlaur, getting to know his deepest self was only made possible, ironically, by the wound he got to his skull; wherefore gnosis had become an autopsy. We can see the white outline of the head and neck and the shine of shrapnel, square and black, which entered Montlaur’s ocular cavity on the morning of November 1, 1944 (as he was landing with the Commandos in Flushing, Holland). That made him cruelly suffer all his life.

Listen to the “ Gnossiennes ”

Peinture ambigüe et figurative de Saint Christophe - ou - There are Things that it would be far Better not to Know
Peinture ambigüe et figurative de Saint Christophe - or - There are things that it would be far better not to know
Oil on paper on wood, 55 cm x 46 cm
Paris, January 1974

Peinture ambigüe et figurative de Saint Christophe - or - There are things that it would be far better not to know

The painting has two titles: “Peinture ambigüe et figurative de Saint Christophe” (Ambiguous and figurative painting of Saint Christopher) and “There are things that it would be far better not to know

One can clearly see, in the background, the river the saint is crossing and the cross he carries. The head, surprisingly, resembles that of the painter; did he really represent himself in the painting?

And why the cryptic phrase “There are things that it would be far better not to know”? What is the painter referring to? Past memories? Things that are unspeakable but representable on the canvas provided they are ambiguous and abstract.

La mort dans l’âme
La mort dans l’âme
Oil on canvas, 195 cm x 114 cm
Paris, November 1973

La mort dans l’âme

(With a Heavy Heart)

There is so much grief in this painting with such an explicit title! The work leaves room for the imagination of the observer, it imposes it. Is this the painter we see, standing, his shoulders down? The blue of his back and arms contrasts with the black of the terrifying creatures surrounding him. Contrast also with the red ocher roofs of the city, and with the mountains, behind, with unreal colors.

Facies personae
Facies Personae
Oil on canvas, 81 cm x 54 cm
Paris, May 1973

Facies Personae

Facies personae” can be translated as “silhouette of a person” or “mask of a character”. We have very few elements that would help us decipher this painting properly. A resistant friend of the painter, Jacqueline Péry d’Alincourt, who had been deported to the Ravensbrück concentration camp (from April 44 to April 45) and who had survived, told him that she could find in this painting fragments of her memory of the camp: silhouettes of deportees, the smoking chimney of the crematorium ovens at the top of the painting. We can see of course, a lifeless mask which occupies the entire center of the painting. Note the black background of the scene, and the yellow sky blackened by the smoke from the ovens.

Es war ein wunderlicher krieg
Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg
Oil on canvas, 65 cm x 81 cm
Paris, January 1973

Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg

The title given to the painting is the first verse of the 5th movement of Johann Sebastian Bach cantata BWV n ° 4 “Christ Lag in Todes Banden” (Christ Lied in the Ties of Death) in which the musician celebrates the victory of life over death in a strange battle. The text of the cantata was written by Martin Luther in 1524.

The painter-soldier, inspired by the musical work, reproduces on the canvas the war scene, his war: he paints the hand-to-hand combat of the forces of good - the blue forms - against those of evil - the black forms- in the midst of vermilion flames.

The text of the 5th stanza of the cantata is as follows:

Es war ein wunderlicher Krieg,
Da Tod und Leben rungen,
Das Leben behielt den Sieg,
Es hat den Tod verschlungen.
Die Schrift hat verkündigt das,
Wie ein Tod den andern fraß,
Ein Spott aus dem Tod ist worden.
Halleluja!

It was a strange battle
where death and life struggled.
Life won the victory,
it has swallowed up death.
Scripture has proclaimed
how one death ate the other,
death has become a mockery.
Alleluia!

(Translated by Francis Brown)

To listen Es war ein wunderlicher Kriegs

Souvenir normand
Souvenir normand
Oil on paper on wood, 46 cm x 55 cm
Rothéneuf (Brittany, France), July 1972

Souvenir normand

(Memory from Normandy)

The painting depicts the day of June 6, 1944 when Montlaur, the soldier, landed on French lands, at Colleville-sur-Orne (now Colleville-Montgomery). We can only see flashes, explosions, shards of black metal, blood. This is how Montlaur, the painter, remembers Normandy on D-Day, 28 years later.

Cosmogonie pratique
Cosmogonie pratique
Oil on canvas, 73 cm x 92 cm
Paris, May 1962

Cosmogonie pratique

(Practical Cosmogony)

Montlaurian version of the creation of the world. Note the star that is born from the earth under a radiant sky.

Actus Tragicus
Actus Tragicus
Oil on canvas, 92 cm x 60 cm
Paris, January 1972

Actus Tragicus

Montlaur always painted to music and most of the time he listened to Johann Sebastian Bach. The title of this painting is that of cantata BWV 106 “Gottes Zeit ist die Allerbeste Zeit” (God’s time is the best of times), a short work composed when Bach was about 23 years old. The theme is that of death which arrives at the time chosen by God. The recorders are particularly moving. The voices are consoling but remain very sad.

Is it the dead we can perceive? The black shadow of a head behind a curtain of gray and white tears that flow profusely? There is a light in the center of the painting: a glimmer of hope and confidence that death is opening the way to paradise, and therefore to happiness.

Listen to Actus Tragicus

Pseudo-métabolisme
Pseudo-métabolisme
Oil on paper on wood, 38 cm x 46 cm
Paris, September 1971

Pseudo-métabolisme

(Pseudo-Metabolism)

Does the painter feel affected by a disease he cannot control? We can see in the center of the painting a black form encompassing and crushing like in a vise a scarlet heart. Can we interpret this as war memories (information or “material” in the sense of Fritz Perls, founder of the Gestalt Therapy) which cannot be assimilated (“metabolized”) and are projected in the form of aggression? I imagine that Montlaur was able to discuss about Perls’ theory with his friend Professor André-Dominique Nenna, a doctor and a collector, a great lover of paintings, Montlaur’s in particular.

Anchise
Anchise
Oil on canvas, 116 cm x 89 cm
Paris, January 1971

Anchise

(Anchises)

Aeneas carries his father Anchises to escape the city of Troy on fire. We can imagine Aeneas - in blue - carrying the massive Anchises - in black and white. The sky is red with the city fire.

Lonesome October
Lonesome October
Oil on canvas, 65 cm x 92 cm
Paris, November 1968

Lonesome October

The chateau de Montlaur as seen by Montlaur in 1968. The painter represented the Renaissance facade of the castle with the chapel and its red roof and the majestic entrance surmounted by a cross-window.

The chateau de Montlaur (11th century) is the cradle of the Montlaur family. It is located 18km North-East of Montpellier. It has not been inhabited since 1622 when it was besieged, taken and partially razed by the Protestant troops of the Duke of Rohan.

Je vous demande pardon, ma Mère Courage
Je vous demande pardon, ma Mère Courage
Oil on paper on wood, 38 cm x 55 cm
Dinard (Brittany, France), August 1968

Je vous demande pardon, ma Mère Courage

(I Ask for your Pardon, my Mother Courage)

It is a vision of storm and calamity. The ground is black, marked by fire. The mother, a dark shape, is holding in her arms her dead daughter -a white form with red hair.

The painter identifies with the murderous soldiers and asks the mother to forgive him.

L'abbaye de Thélème
L'abbaye de Thélème
Oil on board, 55 cm x 38 cm
Dinard (Brittany) - Paris, August - November 1967

L'abbaye de Thélème

(The Abbey of Theleme)

“The architecture was in a figure hexagonal, and in such a fashion that in every one of the six corners there was built a great round tower of threescore foot in diameter, and were all of a like form and bigness. Upon the north side ran along the river of Loire, on the bank whereof was situated the tower called Arctic.”

(François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, Book I, Chapter LIII)

(Translated by Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty and Peter Antony Motteux)

The abbey occupies the center of attraction of the painting. Its shape is triangular rather than hexagonal. One can clearly see the round towers as well as the Loire river. The painting is balanced and reflects the joie de vivre of the monks of the abbey.

Hypostase d’un peintre singulier … et peut-être universel
Hypostase d’un peintre singulier … et peut-être universel
Oil on canvas, 73 cm x 54 cm
Paris, June 1967

Hypostase d’un peintre singulier … et peut-être universel

(Hypostasis of a Singular … and Perhaps Universal Painter)

Hypostasis: (ὑπόστασις) action of placing oneself (στάσις) below (ὑπό-) = foundation, first substance.

The painter is hermetic, as is often the case; is he talking about his soul engendered - or not - by his intellect? Does he believe he can achieve (universal) beauty through abstraction? Yet, his painting remains hermetic: in the foreground, we can see a humble silhouette with red hair, the author and above it, another form, threatening and violent, all of fire and light under a dark sky.

Souvenez-vous
Souvenez-vous
Oil on canvas, 61 cm x 46 cm
Paris, January 1967

Souvenez-vous

(Remember)

The painting is peaceful and strong. We can see a sphinx, majestic, powerful and patient. He is surrounded with light and fire.

What and who should we remember? What is the sphinx looking at? Does he protect us?

Du sang sur la route
Du sang sur la route
Oil on Board, 61 cm x 38 cm
Dinard (Brittany, France), August 1966

Du sang sur la route

(Blood on the Road)

In August 1966, Montlaur was on vacation in Brittany. The car in which he is a passenger collides with a young boy on the road. Montlaur assists him, he tries to reassure him but the boy quickly dies. This tragic episode will deeply and for a long time mark the painter. The horror of the painting does not need to be described. The title says it all.

On commence à comprendre - ou - On n'a jamais rien compris
On commence à comprendre - or - On n'a jamais rien compris
Oil on board, 38 cm x 61 cm
Dinard (Brittany, France), July 1966

On commence à comprendre - or - On n'a jamais rien compris

The painting has two titles: “On commence à comprendre(We are Starting to Understand) and “On n’a jamais rien compris(We have Never Understood Anything).

Unlike in older paintings, the shapes are no longer geometrically arranged. We thought we understood, now everything is blurred, but the harmony is intact, the colors are strong and contrasting. We are in Brittany, the sea is rough, blue and green, the rocks are evil.

Hommage à Gustave Courbet
Hommage à Gustave Courbet
Oil on canvas, 38 cm x 61 cm
Paris, December 1964 - June 1965

Hommage à Gustave Courbet

(A Tribute to Gustave Courbet)

How can one not to see Courbet’s “The Origin of the World” in this painting?

Montlaur had great admiration for the work of Gustave Courbet and for his participation in the Paris Commune (March 18 to May 28, 1871). It should be remembered that Courbet was an elected representative of the Commune and was elected President of the Federation of Artists. He prevented, among other things, the Louvre collections to be looted and damaged.

Sans titre
Untitled
Oil on board, 55 cm x 46 cm
Paris, March 1965

Untitled

Montlaur’s style has evolved: it is more structured and planned. His painting is much less violent than before: the colors are pale and the shapes are polygonal. he does not use glazing to There is no more glazing effect and the top layers are scraped with a palette knife to reveal a spectacular play of colors.

Avant le déluge
Avant le déluge
Oil on board, 55 cm x 46 cm
Paris, February 1965

Avant le déluge

(Before the Flood)

Head of a man, with flaming hair, black sky on fire. The disaster is coming!

Portrait de femme
Portrait de femme
Oil on board, 61 cm x 38 cm
Paris, December 1964

Portrait de femme

(Portrait of a Woman)

Beautiful portrait of a woman, full of life

Le bord de mer
Le bord de mer
Oil on board, 38 cm x 55 cm
Dinard (Brittany, France), August 1964

Le bord de mer

(The Seaside)

Seemingly figurative painting of the Breton coast. One can see the sea, the sand, a black sky with birds. A red sail boat?

Le jugement de Pâris
Le jugement de Pâris
Oil on canvas, 33 cm x 55 cm
Paris, February 1964

Le jugement de Pâris

(Judgement of Paris)

Montlaur’s painting is an “abstractized” copy of the “Judgment of Paris” attributed to the Italian Renaissance painter Giulio Romano (1499 - 1546), a disciple of Raphael. The three goddesses Aphrodite, Athena and Hera are about to see one of them, Aphrodite, be declared by Paris the most beautiful goddess of the Olympus and receive the apple. In Montlaur’s “Judgement” , we can see Aphrodite, naked, sitting at the foot of massive and dark trees, Athena is standing and the volutes of Hera’s scarf are obvious. The background is also reproduced: the sky and the distant landscape are blue and green, the earth is ocher.

Où sont mes amis morts ?
Où sont mes amis morts ?
Oil on bard, 61 cm x 38 cm
Paris, September 1963

Où sont mes amis morts ?

(Where are my Dead Friends?)

Crowd of dead comrades, their faces covered with blood. Recurring nightmare of the painter who endlessly relives his battles.

Lest we forget!

Mater Dei
Mater Dei
Oil on canvas, 73 cm x 60 cm
Paris, February 1963

Mater Dei

(Mother of God)

The portrait is peaceful, gentle, full of kindness and sorrow. Blue predominates in the background. White plays a fundamental role: it softens the scene and, together with black, provides volume to the picture. Red is rare - only the lips, surprisingly.

Montlaur writes: “I understood that for me (painting) was more ‘allusive’ than any other mode of expression. Music and the verb (spoken or written) are obviously equally so for others. The difference with painting is that it concerns me directly. I had the revelation that I could express the mystery, my mystery, through painting, my painting” (Petits écrits de nuit, 1961).

L'ombre d'Anchise
L'ombre d'Anchise
Oil on board, 61 cm x 38 cm
Dinard (Brittany, France), July 1962

L'ombre d'Anchise

(The Shade of Anchises)

Aeneas accompanied by the Cumaean Sibyl descends into hell to bring back her father Anchises. The latter introduces him to his descendants: Romulus and Remus, Pompey, Caesar and Augustus. He refuses to go back to the world of the living. (Aeneid, book VI).

Portrait par lui-même d'un peintre aveugle
Portrait par lui-même d'un peintre aveugle
Oil on board, 61 cm x 38 cm
Paris, July 1962

Portrait par lui-même d'un peintre aveugle

(Self-Portrait of a Blind Painter)

Montlaur, while self-deprecating, continues to experiment with his color technique. He uses the glazing process on all his future works. The black background of his nights and his memories, will remain omnipresent.

My castle at Dusk
My Castle at Dusk
Oil on board, 33 cm x 55 cm
Dinard (Brittany, France), July - August 1961

My Castle at Dusk

This picture was painted in the summer in Brittany. The shapes and colors are calm but nevertheless bear witness to the melancholy of the seascape at dusk.

La promesse des fleurs
La promesse des fleurs
Oil on canvas, 73 cm x 92 cm
Paris, June 1961

La promesse des fleurs

The painter uses Malherbe’s words in his “Prayer for King Henry the Great” in which the poet celebrates the peace finally brought back to the country by King Henry IV. The colors remain violent, there are threatening black shapes, like painful memories that cannot be deleted.

Never again will we encounter these sad years
That, for the most fortunate brought nothing but tears.
Our families will be laden with all kinds of goods,
The harvest of our fields will become tedious for sickles,
And fruit will fulfill the promise of flowers.
The end of such great trouble we suffered
Will delight our senses with wonder and with joy;

(François de Malherbe, 1605)

(Translation by G de Montlaur)

Souvenir d'un meurtre
Souvenir d'un meurtre
Oil on paper on wood, 31 cm x 21.5 cm
Dinard (Brittany, France), July 1960

Souvenir d'un meurtre

(Recollection of a Murder)

What murder is this? We do not know. One can see the obvious burial cross, brown earth, mud, green decaying matter, red blood. The painter describes the horror of a memory, certainly wartime.

L'espoir a fui
L'espoir a fui
Oil on canvas, 92.5 cm x 60 cm
Paris, March 1960

L'espoir a fui

The painter quotes Verlaine who, in his “Colloque sentimental”, recalls his past love.
In the painting, shapes are cold and bloody, they pierce the black sky.

In the old park’s desolation and frost
 the paths of two ghostly figures have crossed.

 Their eyes are dead and their lips slack and gray
 and one can scarcely hear the words they say.

 In the old park’s desolation and frost
 two spectres have been evoking the past.

 - “Do you recall our bliss of that September?”
 - “Why ever should you wish me to remember?”

 - “Now when you hear my name does your heart-rate grow?
 Do you still see me in your dreams?”  - “No.”

 - Ah, the enchantment of loving so dearly,
 those kisses that we shared!” - “Did we really?”

 Skies were so blue and hopes so high, so proud!
Defeated hope has fled in a sombre cloud.

Thus did they walk in the wild grass swaying.
Only the night heard the words they were saying.

(Paul Verlaine, Colloque sentimental)

(Translation : Peter Low)

On a brûlé les ruches blanches
On a brûlé les ruches blanches
Oil on canvas, 61 cm x 38 cm
Paris, January 1960

On a brûlé les ruches blanches

Ever since he painted, Montlaur has always found his inspiration in the works of Guillaume Apollinaire, the poet closest to him figuratively but also physically. Montlaur kept Apollinaire’s “Alcohols” with him throughout the war, and in particularly when he landed on D-Day, on the Normandy beaches.

Winter is dead covered in snow
The white beehives have been burnt
In gardens and orchards
Birds on branches sing
Bright April airy Spring

Death of immortal argyraspids
The silver-scutcheoned snow
Flees pale dendrophori
In Spring beloved of poor folk
Whose dew-eyed smile comes back

My heart is as heavy
As a Damascene dame’s arse
My love I loved you too much
My pain is now too great
The seven swords unsheathed

Seven swords of melancholy
Your blunt-edged naked griefs
Lodge in my heart and madness
Argues for my wretchedness
How can I forget

(Alcools, Voie lactée - 1)

(Translated by Martin Sorell)

Ascendance à la nuit
Ascendance à la nuit
Oil on canvas, 81 cm x 54 cm
Paris, December 1959

Ascendance à la nuit

(Ascendance at night)

In 1959 the painter begins his lyrical period. Shapes are full of movement, highly contrasted colors are full of movement and loaded with painful memories.

In limine
In limine
Oil on canvas, 161 cm x 113 cm
Paris, October 1958

In limine

(At the threshold)

The painter technically masters the colors and experiments their superposition. The shapes are alive… are they animal creatures? They are violent!

Ciel strié d'oiseaux
Ciel strié d'oiseaux
Gouache, 31.5 cm x 41.5 cm
Island of Ré (France), July 1956

Ciel strié d'oiseaux

(Sky Streaked with Birds)

Expressionist style period.

The birds are like Stukas, black and threatening. They have invaded the sky which explodes with blinding colors. Nightmares never leave the painter’s nights.

La gloire du matin
La gloire du matin
Oil on canvas, 50 cm x 61 cm
Fontainebleau (France), April 1955

La gloire du matin

(Morning Glory)

“Fontainebleau” style period.

17 years later, the painter recalls the Forbach blast furnaces he saw in 1938 while doing his military service with the “18e de Chasseurs” (cavalry hunter batallion) at Saint-Avold in 1938.

Divertissement pour la nuit de Janvier
Divertissement pour la nuit de Janvier
Oil on canvas, 61 cm x 45 cm
Fontainebleau (France), March 1955

Divertissement pour la nuit de Janvier

(Entertainment for the Night of January)

Montlaur once again refers to the tragic end of Nerval, his suicide on the night of January 25 to 26, 1855, Rue de la Vieille Lanterne in Paris. It was only a few days after the publication of the first part of his book Aurélia where he described his premonitory dreams.

The painter is right in the middle of his “Fontainebleau” period: he uses almost exclusively the palette knife and plays on the superimpositions of layers of different colors by scratching them. The brightly colored shapes seem trapped in an ink-black world.

Le rêve de Nerval
Le rêve de Nerval
Oil on canvas, 60 cm x 72 cm
Fontainebleau (France), January 1955

Le rêve de Nerval

(Nerval’s Dream)

Montlaur refers to the hallucinatory dreams described by Gérard de Nerval in Aurélia. The publication of these dreams - where real and imagined life are undistinguishable - very shortly preceded the poet’s death by suicide.

The painter finally frees himself from form and geometry. He trades the brush for the palette knife, he destroys the outlines. His imagination can now express without hindrance his dreams, too often nightmares, and reality.

Clockwork
Clockwork
Oil on canvas, 146 cm x 114 cm
Fontainebleau, June 1953

Clockwork

In 1953, Montlaur moves to Fontainebleau, closer to his Parisian painter friends Atlan, Chapoval, Soulages, Poliakoff. His painting style loses its geometric simplicity, colors explode and contrasts are accentuated.

Étude Machine à remonter le temps
Étude Machine à remonter le temps
Gouache, 24 cm x 31.5 cm
Nice, October 1952

Étude Machine à remonter le temps

(Study for a Time Machine)

In Nice, in front of the Baie des Anges, in 1952, Montlaur has refined his style. The shapes have become geometric, the colors are balanced.

Le maître de Moulins
Le maître de Moulins
Oil on canvas, 73.5 cm x 92 cm
Nice, July 1952

Le maître de Moulins

(The Master of Moulins)

Montlaur pursues his search for perfection. He associates shapes and colors following the principles of his friend, the painter Gino Severini: “the colors are determined in an almost mathematical way and follow rigorously from the forms” (Du cubisme au classisisme, 1921). Here, the painter was inspired by the triptych of the cathedral of Moulins where the virgin and the child are encompassed in a mandorla, a nebulous sun shining in the blue of the sky.

Paysage n° 2
Paysage n° 2
Oil on canvas, 65 cm x 100 cm
Nice, August 1950

Paysage n° 2

(Landscape n° 2)

In 1950 Montlaur has abandoned the cubism of his American years. His painting is abstract and you can sense the influence of his friend and mentor Gino Severini. The shapes are dynamic and the colors bright, like the green of this landscape.

Portrait d'Adelaide de Montlaur
Portrait d'Adelaide de Montlaur
Oil on canvas, 61 cm x 51 cm
USA, 1948

Portrait d'Adelaide de Montlaur

Cubist portrait of Adelaide, comtesse de Montlaur .

Adelaide Piper Oates was born in Brooklyn, NJ. She went to France in 1937 to learn French and Fine Arts and met Guy de Montlaur in Paris. At the start of the war, she had to return to the United States. In order to join Guy de Montlaur, Adelaide obtained from the State Department to be sent to England at war. She arrived there in June 1943 and married Guy in Denham, Buckinghamshire (UK). Guy was then part of the Free-French N° 4 Commandos.

We will not forget her great strength of character and her courage.

Alcools
Alcools
Oil on canvas on cardboard, 49 cm x 68 cm
Waccabuc, NY, USA, June 1947

Alcools

This painting is dedicated to Guillaume Apollinaire’s poetry book “Alcools”. The book was with Montlaur throughout the war and even caught the water on the beach of Colleville-Montgomery (at the time Colleville-sur-Orne) one early morning of June 6, 1944. The painting was exhibited in March 1949 at the Gallery Lucienne-Léonce Rosenberg, in Paris.