Georges Valmier (1885-1937)
‘The Impressionists have rinsed our eyes – but we must also rinse our hearts and our minds.’ Bulletin de l’Effort Moderne, 1923.
Born to a military musician in 1885, Georges Valmier received an education in the arts that revealed his aptitude for drawing and his appreciation of music. He made his first works when he returned from military service in 1905, creating portraits of his family and landscapes with colourful shadows rendered in fragmented strokes.
At the recommendation of the director of Académie Humbert, he joined the École des Beaux-Arts in the class of Luc-Olivier Merson in 1907, the same year Cézanne had a retrospective at the Salon d’Automne.
Finding the school’s teaching to be too traditional, he followed the example of his illustrious elder and moved onto a new style of expression. He began by painting portraits, self-portraits, still lifes, and landscapes of his neighbourhood Montmartre, geometrising forms and simplifying volumes and planes. He then constructed rhythmic compositions with dynamic diagonals containing multifaceted volumes. Valmier thus developed his own Cubist art, much like the pioneers of Cubism.
He decided to exhibit at the Salon des Indépendants in 1913 and was noticed by André Salmon in 1914 (Salmon called Valmier a ‘Post-Cubist’), but his artistic career was interrupted when he was conscripted to the front-lines.
When he returned to Montmartre after the war, his fellow soldiers the painter Albert Gleizes and the composer Florent Schmitt introduced him to Léonce Rosenberg, Director of L’Effort Moderne gallery in Paris.
His painting practice shifted in 1919 from a quality of austerity to the complex, multi-plane overlapping and interlocking of shapes composed of large areas of colour. He employed certain processes of Synthetic Cubism, such as dotted lines, chevrons, and wavelets, which were also used after the war by artists like Henri Hayden.
From this time on, Valmier began to paint up to six or seven preparatory gouaches before moving to the final canvas, their variants revealing the intricate finesse of his journey toward the ultimate work.
In 1920, he entered into a contract with Léonce Rosenberg which would last until the artist’s death in 1937. In 1921, Rosenberg organised a special exhibition in which he included Valmier: ‘Masters of Cubism,’ at L’Effort Moderne. Valmier’s art evolved during this period as the artist sought greater simplification of his compositions, employing wider geometric planes and suppressing details, sometimes resulting in a veritable abstraction.
‘The invisible is the opposite of nothingness, since it is the essence and spirit of life itself. Why should we not paint the invisible from nature?’ (Abstraction-Création, 1933.)
Valmier returned to figurative art in 1922, creating eurhythmic compositions, balanced and vividly coloured, in which we can also identify the purist style Le Corbusier initiated in 1918. This is also the year Valmier started making theatre set designs and costumes for the futurist ‘Art and Action’ works under the guidance of Marinetti. His desire for a total art, accessible to all, is also extended into the realisation of models for everyday objects.
Valmier returned definitively to abstraction in the early 1930s, becoming very active in the Abstraction-Création group alongside Jean Arp, Albert Gleizes, and Kupka, until its dissolution in 1936. His works are characterised, in particular, by curved lines and subtly degraded values.
He died in Montmartre in 1937, while carrying out preparatory work for three monumental compositions for the decoration of the Palais des Chemins de Fer cinema at the Universal Exhibition.
Georges Valmier is represented at the Centre Pompidou and the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris.
(Martine Heudron)read more >>
read more >>
Art works from Georges Valmier
You may also be interested in…
work is available
in the works are available