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Portrait de Peintre
by Eric Mercier
The youthful painting of Michel de Gallard
Michel de Gallard was born in Villefranche-d’Allier on April 22, 1921. He spent his childhood and schooldays in this region. His parents had a precocious vision of their son’s destiny – he would become a surgeon in the family tradition. Indeed, his maternal grandfather, for whom he had great affection, was an eminent surgeon and a member of the Academy of Medicine. This predestined career therefore justified a rigorous education.
At seven years of age, Michel had his first taste of the severe boarding school of the Marists in Montluçon followed from age 16 by the Brothers in Moulins. But to his parents great despair, it was not the medical virus that Michel contracted from his grandfather but that of painting and drawing! They used to meet once the vacations arrived and spend the summer days travelling the Berry region looking for inspiration.
The adolescent dreamt of becoming an architect. Indeed he did not make an enormous detour in choosing to become a painter “because his work, in the broadest sense of the term, is architecture. It is architecture by the structural conception of things and the world, by the high vision of the universe”.
Once he decided on his future, Michel understood that it was preferable to take his time and more importantly not to upset his parents. Time became his greatest ally in helping them to see that medicine was not for him. Michel de Gallard successfully obtained two Baccalaureates and enrolled in his first year of medicine in Clermont-Ferrand. But the painting demon haunted him and lessons became an excuse for him to draw. For example, his dissection sketches were such models that his Biology Professor regularly advised his student to enrol in the Beaux-Arts! The war interrupted his studies.
During the Occupation, he was sent to a youth camp where his originality was not greatly appreciated. He spent his time decorating the barracks by painting bohemia or by convincing his comrades that they had better to do than to parade each morning. The result was not long in coming : the ‘chief’ Gallard is expelled. Greater problems await in that he had to escape from the compulsory work service in Germany which he managed to do through his position as a student in medicine.
At the Liberation, he bravely explained to his disappointed parents that he had completely forgotten everything from his medical studies, that he didn’t wish to recommence but instead wished to prepare for Arts Deco. Michel used the lustre and prestige of the establishment to impress and reassure them and to make them forget their hopes for a Hippocratic Oath.
 Roland Piétri and Pierre Gaudibert, Michel de Gallard, Editions Pierre Cailler, 1962
Moving to La Ruche
To prepare for his admission to the prestigious school on Ulm Street, Michel de Gallard moved to Paris in 1944. He enrolled in the Charpentier lessons where he met Paul Rebeyrolle (born in 1926) and in the Academy of la Grande Chaumière where he was instructed by Brayer (1907-1990), Mac Avoy (1905-1991) and Othon Friesz (1879-1949). In 1946, he met Bernard Lorjou (1908-1986) in his atelier in Montmartre. The discovery of rigorous, robust and expressive painting and that of a charismatic personality influenced the first paintings of the young artist. Breughel and Lorjou, as well as Utrillo (1883-1955) and Gruber (1912-1948) were the pillars of Michel de Gallard’s art. Lorjou’s influence abated quite quickly contrary to that of the three other masters.
In 1948, with Thompson (born in 1921) and Rebeyrolle, Michel participated in the famous exhibition ‘l’Homme Témoin’ concocted by the critic Jean Bouret.
The young painter continued the following year with ‘le Sécond Manifeste’, at the Galérie Claude this time. These years also correspond with his move to La Ruche in 1946. The painter discovered the atelier for rent while walking in the streets of Paris.
Like all other young painters of his generation, he wasn’t very familiar with the history of the great masters of the early 20th century. The war and Occupation established a gap between those aged under twenty in 1939 and their immediate elders. Without knowing it, Michel was moving into a mythic place of French painting. La Ruche, since the Liberation wasn’t lived in by artists but was mainly inhabited by Russian taxi drivers, abattoir killers and a few Trotsky followers. Michel de Gallard moved in and worked there until 1955. Due to the young de Gallard, Rebeyrolle, Michel Thompson and a few others, the Montparnasse rotunda rediscovered it’s original vocation : welcoming young creators. Once again, the ateliers of Soutine (1894-1943), Chagall (1887-1985) and Zadkine (1890-1967) flourished and the evenings in La Ruche resounded with noisy meetings.
Salons and Galleries
The Liberation of Paris allowed the young artist to show his work. In 1945, he sent a first canvas to the Salon for under thirties where he exposed until it’s definitive closure in 1948. In the same year, ‘Etude pour les Laveuses’ was presented at the Independents and the jury from the Autumn Salon retained ‘Barques dans le port de Villefranche’.
The following year, in the Beaux-Arts Gallery, de Gallard had little success with ‘Enfant à la crèche’ for selection in the Hallmark Prize. A new step, decisive for the career of the young tenant of La Ruche : his dedication in the early stages of the Salon for Young Painters. He exhibited there for six years and was a member of the organisational committee until 1956. He met the painter Claude Autenheimer (born in 1926) who became his companion and later his wife in 1955.
Michel exhibited in 1951 at the National Salon des Beaux-Arts and won a prize entitled ‘the Friends of Art’.
In the same year he was invited to participate in Salon de Mai where he presented ‘Maison aux volets rouges’. His painting is now recognised and appreciated.
In 1952, a double consecration, at the second Biennale de Menton he obtained the Friends prize and especially the Antral prize with a canvas representing a country scene. A few years later in 1960, ‘Comparaisons’ won him the Lilas Bug prize. The painter was also invited to exhibit at the ‘School of Paris’ in the Charpentier Gallery.
Isis Kischka and the painters of their era met from 1957 onwards to illustrate Sport. Embarrassed by a subject so far removed from his theme, but nevertheless keen to participate the artist owes his success to his fishing themed painting ‘Pêcheurs en bord de Marne’, an imposing canvas dedicated to this national sport.
The same year, invited by Jean-Albert Cartier, the painter participated at the Biennale of Young Contemporary Painting with ‘Bataille de Coqs’.
As did Bernard Buffet, Michel de Gallard decided to leave Paris to live in the countryside. The young couple moved to a little village near Sens in 1956. The same year, his merchant at the time, Maurice Combe, organised his first personal exhibition at the Framond Gallery. A second follwed two years later.
Thereafter he had exhibitions at the Hervé Gallery, Maurice Garnier Gallery and again today at Galérie de la Présidence.
The painter’s art
If Michel de Gallard’s work presents undeniable continuity, successive influences pierce the first years. They nourish the inevitable period of gestation which proceeded the affirmation of his identity.
The first decisive pictorial meeting with Bernard Lorjou gave birth to the canvasses from 1945 to 1948.
We can easily imagine the impact that Lorjou’s painting and personality would have had on a young painter of 25 years, to whom on top of that, he owed his first important exhibition.
Quickly, this influence declined and was replaced more durably by that of Utrillo, de Breughel and Gruber, the emblematic artist of young painting in the fifties. Michel’s work testifies to the architect within – wanting to restore rigorously constructed and orderly roofs and facades. This is sufficient for the first years.
Later, they can be seen in the background through the naked trees. Their branches, black and intertwined which suggest the lead in stained glass windows, contribute to the composition’s atmosphere. Beside the stones, walls or facades stand telegraph poles similar to those appreciated by the artists of the ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’.
Human representation, if rarely present is not a stranger to his work. ‘Le Portrait de Claude Autenheimer’ presented at the Salon of Young Painting in 1954 or rural scenes of women hanging out their laundry or plucking chickens confirm it. But it is one of the other : the painter has little taste for animated country scenes. Michel de Gallard remains faithful to the painting of his youth, always executed from a silent palette, always supported by a drawing with little by little more place accorded to light.
His work is a wonderful illustration of ‘la Jeune Peinture’.
In filigree, the young child who wished to become an architect remains. It is hardly surprising that the painter admires Vieira da Silva. He lives and works for the last fifty years, indifferent to the agitations of up-and-coming painters. And when the time comes to rediscover the figuration of the fifties, a detour to a little place in the Yonne is called for.
Born in the Allier region.
After his classical studies, he left medical school and dedicated himself to painting ; Académie de la Grande Chaumière and Arts Décoratifs. Moved to la Ruche, historic nursery of the Ecole de Paris where artists like Chagall, Soutine and Léger once lived…
The sordidly realistic movement (“the misérabilisme”) influenced by Gruber begins. Michel de Gallard is one of the best of this group.
One of the founding members of the Salon de la Jeune Peinture with Bernard Buffet.
Won the Prix des Amis des Arts.
Prix Antral, Prix Portica de la Biennale de Menton.
Prix de la Ville de Saint-Dénis, Prix des Amis de la Biennale de Menton.
Exhibition in the Salon de L’Ecole de Paris in the Gallery Charpentier, Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
Married Claude Autenheimer.
Numerous acquisitions of his art by the French State, the city of Paris and foreign museums.
Moved to the countryside near Sens.
Prix Biennal Lilas-Bug at the Salon des Comparaisons.
Prix du Conseil Genéral des Yvelines at the Salon de Mantes-la-Jolie.
Prix du Syndicat d’Initiative de la Ville de Mantes-la-Jolie.
He regularly exhibited in the most important Parisian galleries (Galerie Framond, Galerie Hervé, Galerie David et Garnier, Galerie Maurice Garnier, Galerie de la Présidence) and also abroad : Japan, Canada, South Africa, England and United States.
Regular participation in the Salons ; Salon d’Automne, Salon des Peintres Témoins de leur Temps, Salon des Comparaisons, Salon des Indépendents, Salon du Dessin and Salon de la Peinture à l‘Eau.
Died in July
- 1956 Galerie Framond, Paris.
- 1958 Galerie Framond, Paris.
- 1959 Galerie Combes, Clermont-Ferrand.
- 1960 Galerie Hervé Odermatt, Paris.
- 1961 Galerie Saint-Georges, Lyon.
- 1962 Galerie Dresdnère, Toronto, Canada. Galerie David et Garnier, Paris.
- 1964 Galerie Musson, Orléans. Galerie Lefévre, London, England.
- 1965 Galerie David et Garnier, Paris.
- 1966 Galerie Chappe-Lautier, Toulouse. Galerie Malaval, Lyon.
- 1967 Galerie Arte Moderno, Caracas, Venezuela.
- 1968 Galerie Lefévre, London, Paris. Galerie Moyon Avenard, Nantes. Zantman Gallery, Carmel, California, USA.
- 1969 Galerie Maurice Garnier, Paris.
- 1970 Zantman Gallery, Carmel, California, USA. Tamenaga Gallery, Tokyo, Japan.
- 1971 Galerie Lefévre, London, England.
- 1972 Zantman Gallery, Carmel, California, USA.
- 1974 Martal Gallery, Montreal, Canada. Zantman Gallery, Carmel, California, USA.
- 1975 Zantman Gallery, Carmel, California, USA. Galerie d’Art Contemporain, La Rochère, Vosges.
- 1976 Château de la Bertrandière, Saint-Etienne.
- 1977 Zantman Gallery, Carmel, California, USA. Pieter Wenning Gallery, Johannesbourg, South Africa.
- 1978 Zantman Gallery, Carmel, California, USA. Galerie de la Présidence, Paris.
- 1980 Zantman Gallery, Carmel, California, USA.
- 1983 Atelier 4, Sens. Everard Read Gallery, Johannesbourg, South Africa.
- 1984 Tamenaga Gallery, Osaka, Tokyo, Nagoya, Japan.
- 1985 Zantman Gallery, Carmel, California, USA. Galerie Le Cadre Noir, Reunion Islands.
- 1986 Galerie Le Réhaut, Lyon. Galerie de la Présidence, Paris.
- 1988 Yu Gallery, Nagoya, Japan.
- 1989 Four Room Gallery, Yokohama, Japan.
- 1990 Daimaru Gallery, Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka, Japan.
- 1993 Galerie de la Présidence, Paris.
- 1997 Musée des Beaux-Arts de Villeneuve s/Yonne (drawings).
- 1999 Château de Val (Corrèze), retrospective.
- 2006 Collégiale Saint-Lazare, Avallon, retrospective.
Michel de Gallard participated in all the important Salons in Paris:
- Salon des Moins de Trente Ans- Salon des Jeunes Peintres
- Salon d’Automne
- Le Salon des Indépendants
- Salon des Tuileries
- L’Ecole de Paris à la Galerie Charpentier
- Salon des Peintres Témoins de leur Temps
- Salon Comparaisons
- Le Salon du Dessin et de la Peinture à l’Eau
- Salon de Mai
- Salon Terres Latines
- Le Salon le Migame
- Salon de Paris
- Salon Bijorhca
- Exposition Internationale de Peinture de Paris
- Musée de la Ville de Paris
- Musée de Djakarta
- Bibliothèque Municipale de Riom
- Musée de Poitiers
- Musée Yamagata, Japan