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.
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.
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 :
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 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
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
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