he Dining Room
 
 

he walls are entirely occupied by a fresco entitled “Happy France,” made by Alfred Courmes between December 1937, and July 1939. This France is one of the first paid vacations of 1936, but also one when the Second World War was declared. The procedure used is wax paint, a “raphaelic” technique of a complex handling, which gives the colours a rare richness, and depth. It is worth to note the fullness of the work, since Alfred Courmes represented no less than 243 people, and 90 animals.


Alfred COURMES

The scene represented is of a day in the life of a village in Provence during the 1930s. The Provence scenery brings unity to the ten panels that make up the fresco.

NORTHERN SIDE:
Between the four large windows of the room, three themes are represented : the fish market, the beach, and the hunt.

The fish market :
The elements of marine life, and Provence mix together and offer a scene full of life. The architecture, the bright shimmer of colours recall midday in France, while the boats, on the shore or in the ocean, the fisherman that is unloading the product of his catch, the net mender, or even the fish display illustrate the theme of the fish market.

The beach :
Symbol of the arrival of the first paid vacations in 1936, the year the artist painted this panel, the beach highlights the summer. Children at play can be seen, divers, swimmers, which the artist accentuated the movements for a quite realistic aerial rendering. The pine forests, and the coast underlines the Southern French appearance of the composition.


The Hunt

The hunt :
This panel has hunters at rest, or conversing near a recently defeated boar, as its theme. Once again, the vegetation is rare, the appearance of the ground, and the sombre hills in the distance, which are not without reminding of the Lubéron, describe a scene typical of Provence.

The EASTERN PANEL abandons the rural scenes, and summer to return to a moment in the life of a more prosaic urbanism. In effect, it depicts the departure of the conscripts for the barracks. The patriotic references are numerous, with the immense tricolour flag, and the sign “Vive la France.” To the left, an officer delivers the conscription orders, whereas on the right, a light infantry man frames the recruits of the quota. The artist did not forget the more earthly aspects, since, at the bottom, a marine is chatting with a young woman without hiding his intentions.

By coincidence: this panel was finished on July 31st, 1939. 43 days later, this scene would repeat itself in all the villages of France on the occasion of the general mobilisation order. Intuition? The sky is blue, but with some clouds, the men are calm, but serious. Nothing that indicates a happy departure…


The Blacksmith


The game of petanque :
this traditional French Southern bowl game points out the location of the scene, Provence.

The three Parcae :
this allusion to Greek mythology that has as its theme the three divinities of destiny, who are conversing underneath an arbour.


The three Parcae

Children and pigeons :
The author wanted to insist on a trusting and peaceful childhood, innocently playing with the birds, under the watch of a mother, holding her new-born in her arms.


The pleasures of the table in France

The pleasures of the table:
Several people illustrate the pleasures of the table in France, sitting around a table in front of a bottle of red wine.

The return from the labours :
Courmes took on the return from the labours as the subject here. Young men and women holding fruits, putting away the barrels, and taking care of the horses can be seen.

A pastoral scene :
Situated under the long green marble shelf, which conceals the view in part, the artist wanted to represent a pastoral scene, where a young shepherd and his dog are watching over some sheep.


The wine

Between the two windows that overlook the park, Courmes created a scene entitled “the wine,” which comprises of several scenes relative to the grape harvesting : after the harvesting of the cluster of grapes on the vines, sketched on the left, he particularly insisted on the work of the “crusher” of the grape. He also painted a blacksmith and coach maker, illustrating man’s work.


The antique ruins

The antique ruins, finally, are a reminder of the historic monuments, particularly of Roman origin, that are abundant in France. It is an interpretation of the Orange Arch of Triumph.

© Embassy of France in Canada

 
 
 
 
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