Georges Folmer

Biography

1895

November 19th, Georges Folmer was born in Nancy, in the province of Lorraine in France. His father Emile-Georges Folmer (1864-1911) is a manager with signing authority at the Banque Renaud. His mother Madeleine Jost (1867-1953) is an elementary schoolteacher. Georges Folmer is the eldest of four siblings. Born after him were: Jean, Jacques et Suzanne.

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Émile-Georges Folmer, the artist’s father.
Madeleine Jost, his wife and the artist’s mother.

1909

Successfully passes his Certificat d’études and gets into the École nationale professionnelle in Nancy, the Lycée Loritz, where he follows a technical skills programme: industrial drawing, wood- and iron-work.

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Lycée Loritz in Nancy, 1911.

1911

Enters the École nationale des Beaux-Arts in Nancy and follows both academic and pluri-disciplinary courses: drawing, engraving, sculpting, painting, architecture, Art history. His father’s death that same year affects him deeply.

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École des beaux-arts of Nancy, before 1914.

1914

Sojourn in Germany during the holidays: regular exchanges between the Folmer family and German families. Is arrested during August 1914 and held as a civilian prisoner in the camp at Holzminden (Germany).

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Holzminden, Cat. 11, 1914.

1914-1916

Founds a small theatre group with his artist friends within the camp: Etiévan, Héraut, Natton, Nat (future star at Théâtre Baty, Gaston Baty’s theatre). He makes theatre sets. Does numerous watercolours, and satirical drawings that will comprise a first exhibit in Geneva in 1917.

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Théâtre Montparnasse-Gaston Baty.

1917

Released on parole and transferred to Geneva where he is assigned to residence. He takes advantage of being restricted to the local area to enroll in the École des beaux-arts de Genève and complete his studies there in the summer of 1918.

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“Haute École d’art et de design”, formerly “École des beaux-arts de Genève”.

1918-1919

Upon his return to France he is obliged to do his military service as an infantryman. He is sent to Algeria and Tunisia where he discovers the power of light and colour. Shares all of his impressions of the region in a series of watercolours. Numerous sketchbooks of drawings done “on the fly”.

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Cat. 43, Passage, Alger, 1918

1919-1920

When he returns from North Africa he settles in Paris on rue Dulac. The veterans of Holzminden introduce him to Henri-Gabriel Ibels, key figure amongst the nabis painters, and known as the nabi journaliste. He is hired in Ibels’ theatre workshop, at Germain Pillon, to create costumes, and he designs those of the famous actor Charles Dullin. Is friendly with members of the avant-garde circles of the French capital and with artists close to Ibels: Maurice Denis, Paul Sérusier. At the time, his painting is figurative, using impressionist-like themes: suburban landscapes, riverbanks of the Seine, churches. Spends the summer of 1920 at the Île d’Oléron. In the sand dune and pine tree landscapes that he does in pastel, he makes use of nabi influences: stylisation of the shapes, black outlines, simplification of composition. Considerable evolution in his choice of subject and the way he handles shape.

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Cat. 70, Ibels de profil, 1919.

1921

Continues his work at Ibels’ and takes on other projects to round out his earnings: furniture design for an interior decorator and the creation of a wallpaper collection for a manufacturer in Bourg-en-Bresse. Discovers the cubist movement and is particularly interested in Gleizes and Braque.

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Albert Gleizes

1922

Shows his works at the Salon de Nancy: the critics commend the solidness of the construction, the breadth of the workmanship and the cadence in the colour scheme. Also exhibits the enamels he had included on the lids of boxes made in precious wood that bring to mind his initial cubist explorations. The same year, he marries Nelly Dolbeck, a stylist at an English couture house. Participates in the first Exposition de la Société Lorraine des Amis des Arts where he will remain present until 1945.

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Cat. 117, Le Café, 1922

1923

First series of solo exhibits, at the Galerie Mosser in Nancy. Folmer shows approximately a hundred pieces: oils, watercolours, charcoal sketches, wood engravings, enamels. The show is widely commended on by the local critics, and the French State will acquire several works between 1920 and 1925.

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Cat. 898, Femme à l’éventail, circa 1923-1924. Couvercle en émail d’une boite en acajou.

1925

Birth of his son Michel (1925-1986). Pursues his research in the field of woodengraving and cloisonné. Simplification and stylisation of his subjects. First attempts at deconstructing shapes and multiplying points of view. Period when he challenges the conventional ways of realists and academics. Very first cubist pieces: small still-life’s, theatre characters.

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Georges Folmer and his son, Michel, at La Ruche in 1946.

1926

Meets Félix Del Marle and those associated with the Lille-based magazine Vouloir: a decisive encounter for the future of his artistic journey, which also cast light upon his artistic heritage. A first step towards his initiation in abstract art and neoplasticism. He chooses to follow this path: studies the theories of Mondrian, Van Doesburg, and Vantongerloo.
First cubist canvases that use subjects from the theatre or circus world: clowns, harlequins and imaginary characters.

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Félix Del Marle

1930

Discovers the Groupe Cercle et Carré, founded by Michel Seuphor, artist and writer, who would keep an attentive, critical eye on Folmer, yet one often full of praise, all throughout his career. Accentuates the geometry in his cubist pieces, gravitates toward the elimination of subjects.

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Michel Seuphor

1932

Meets Auguste Herbin, president of the Association Abstraction-Création, born in 1931. Frequents Domela and becomes friends with Jean Gorin. Gets very involved in a new phase of pictorial research oriented towards abstract geometrics; continues to work with Mondrian’s writings which make him aware of the efficiency of pure shape.

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Auguste Herbin

1934

Solo exhibit in Paris at the Galerie Billet-Worms. The critics are satisfied and write: the artist is on the right path with his new method. Continues his in-depth work on the Golden Ratio and polyhedrons, guided by his studio neighbour, mathematician and painter, Dimitri Viner. Having been taught by the prince Matyla Ghyka himself, the author of an extensive masterful study about the Golden Ratio, Folmer takes advantage of such exceptional knowledge.


Prince Matila Ghyka

1935

Participates in the 1st Salon d’Art Mural in Paris alongside Gleizes, Kandinsky, Lhote, Gorin. This same year Folmer settles down in his workshop in La Ruche, in the Coin des Princes, famous artist’s phalanstery. He would reside there for thirty-three years.

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The artist’s office in the little studio at La Ruche.

1937

Does his first abstract drawings in pencil, sanguine and charcoal, graphic creations that are the result of flawed harmonious endeavours, while bringing in various materials: ink, textured plaster, crushed egg shell. At the 1937 World Fair he shows a monumental wall panel commissioned by the City of Paris for its pavilion: Jupiter lançant la foudre (cat. 257).

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Cat. 257, Jupiter lançant la foudre, 1937.

1938

Continues to absorb Mondrian’s néo plastiques (new ‘fine art’) theories and paints his first abstract oil paintings. Some of them still reflect, via their workmanship, a certain penchant for colour blending.

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Piet Mondrian

1939

Nelly Van Doesburg and Frédo Sidès found the Groupe Renaissance Plastique. And, according to René Massat, Folmer hangs work at the Exposition Internationale d’Abstraction at the Galerie Charpentier, a special preview event at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. The long-lasting friendship between Folmer, Gorin, Béothy, Del Marle and Servanes strengthens and grows during this time.

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Galerie Charpentier

1941-1942

He acquires a certain maturity in abstract work with his ink-monotypes, his multi-coloured wood pieces and constructions spatiales. Successful reference to the Golden Ratio in the 1942 painting, Symphonie harmonique (cat. 329), which is acquired by the MNAM of Paris in 1947.

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Cat. 329, Symphonie harmonique, 1941-1942

1943

Breaks away from all figurative depictions and choses to side with abstraction.

« [The essence] of non-figurative Art is to seek the deepest aspects of the artist’s personality; to swing with precision between the artist’s sense of balance, sensitivity, imagination… Balancing surfaces and lines that both communicate measurement and reason »Handwritten node dated 1950

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Cat. 337, Composition aux polyèdres, 1943

1945

Frédo Sidès reunites the veterans of the exhibit at Charpentier’s (gallery) and founds the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles; Herbin is their ally. The first Salon in 1946 is dedicated to “Masters” of abstraction Kupka, Malevitch and Pevsner amongst others. The goal of this Salon is to do annual shows of non-figurative works to ensure that there be no uncertainty about the origins of this art and its evolution. Marriage to Renée Lambert, violinist. Birth of his daughter Catherine.

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The artist, his wife Renée and their daughter, Catherine at La Ruche in 1950.

1947

At the 2nd Salon des Réalités Nouvelles he shows an abstract canvas that still carries an echo of chiaroscuro. His ink pieces predominantly use blacks, gradually
introducing pure colour and ridding themselves of blurred blending.

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Poster of the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles

1948

Signs the Manifesto of the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles and joins those who are rebelling against the systematic elimination of abstract pieces from all official events: The social and humanist role of art is reviled. Works conceived of and done in the most selfless manner possible are kept in the shadows and their authors held in misery.

Participates in meetings organised by Félix Del Marle at Café de la Boule d’Or, place Saint-Michel in Paris. The core of the constructivists section in Réalités Nouvelles debate the integration of visual arts in daily life and architectural environments.

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Cat. 398, Perspective, 1948

1949

Under the auspices of Del Marle, Folmer prepares the creation of the Groupe Espace with Gorin and Beauty. Contemplates integrating constructivist visual arts into architecture and speaks in favour of synthesizing the Arts.

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Jean Gorin

1950

Folmer establishes, under the auspices of Del Marle and Herbin the Salle Espace at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles with pieces that recall Mondrian’s legacy. First large solo exhibit at Colette Allendy’s, the only gallery in Paris, aside from Denise René’s, to defend geometric abstraction. This exhibit displays the Constructions spatiales in particular, which will characterize his art as: construction, balance, thrift, harmony, rigor. Works on polychromy of building façades. Folmer’s wife Renée leaves him.

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Poster of the exhibit

1951

André Bloc, who manages the magazine Art d’aujourd’hui creates the Groupe Espace: The association’s goal is to provide conditions that favour collaborative projects between architects, painters, sculptors and visual artists, thus facilitating the harmonious development of human activities via fine art. Folmer signs the Manifesto and becomes an active member of Groupe Espace alongside Sonia Delaunay, Walter Gropius, Fernand Léger, Serge Poliakoff, André Bruyère, Léo Breuer, Aurélie Nemours, Jean Arp, Bozzolini.

Exhibits his ink-monotypes at Art Témoin in Paris and is the only artist invited two years consecutively to the Colette Allendy gallery where he would hang a set of graphic works and canvases. Maintains a constructed art (style) solely based on the relationships between shape/colour/surface.

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Manifesto of the Groupe Espace

1952

Within the framework of the missions of Espace he is responsible for doing the room layouts in the student bedrooms at the Maison de la Tunisie and the Cité Universitaire Internationale de Paris. He sets up this project with Sonia Delaunay, Gilioli, Poliakoff, Desserprit: including furniture design and colour schemes. Herbin nominates him manager of the Section Géométrique of the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. He has become a major player in the French art scene.

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Studio in La Ruche in 1952.

1954

He makes two maquettes of Montmartre: one of that era, and one of Le Montmartre de l’an 2000 according to Claude Charpentier, architect, project manager. The work is done at the studio at La Ruche and lasts for two years. A maquette is on permanent exhibit at the Museum of Vieux Montmartre in Paris.

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Entrance of the Museum of Montmartre

1955

Tachistes and ‘Informale’ artists confront the constructivists at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles: Herbin resigns. Folmer, a tenacious builder according to Michel Seuphor, struggles to preserve a room exclusively dedicated to geometric works. He remains the only “geometric” within the Comité.

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Cat. 652, Composition, 1955

1956

As a reaction to André Bloc’s policy at the time of Del Marle’s death, Folmer resigns from the Groupe Espace; his friends Gorin and Servanes would follow him a few months later. That same year, he is appointed general secretary of the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, and Michel Seuphor describes him as one of the moral pillars of the Salon.

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Cat. 659, Le Grand Erebe, 1956

1957

Exhibits work at the Salon Structures at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux. He centres this creative period around rhythm and light, and, according to René Massat: creates a fusion between geometric abstraction and poetic abstraction, referring to the titles that Folmer gives to his works: Mallarmé’s verse.

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Musée des Beaux-Arts of Bordeaux

1959

Has diversified his compositions for some time already: introducing curves, ovoids; increasingly placing his creations in a surface-space, yet extending them beyond the frame.

Is elected a consultant within the Association française des Coloristes Conseils in the framework of the Cercle de l’Abbaye de Royaumont projects related to architecture and synthesising the Arts. Explores a new field of visual art by integrating movement in his works: he creates his roto-peintures, roto-corps, without optical effects, that a spectator can put into motion by hand.

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Cat. 852, Roto-peinture, 1966.

1961

He founds the Groupe Mesure, Groupe Expérimental de Recherches Plastiques Formelles, over which he presides, with Jean Gorin as vice president. Mesure’s goal is to organise events and exhibits, in France and abroad, of all forms of non-figurative works of art, especially in relation to architecture. Mesure’s programme emphasizes collaboration between painters, sculptors and architects. Its members all belong to the geometric abstraction current, amongst them are: Jean Gorin, Léo Breuer Marino Di Teana, Aurélie Nemours, Luc Peire, Marcelle Cahn, Francis Pellerin, Bernard Lassus. 1st Exhibit at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes.

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Cat. 752, Tout à coup et comme par jeu, 1961

1962

Mesure shows his works at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Céret and inaugurates a cycle of exhibits in Germany: Frankfurt, Bielefeld, Witten, Kaiserslautern… The success he enjoys is related in a letter from Folmer to Professor Carlo Belloli: Here, geometric (art) is truly climbing back up the slope and taking the place it deserves. In Paris the Galerie Hautefeuille, managed by Hélène Pillement, does individual shows featuring each artist of the Groupe, thus facilitating continual advertising.

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Cat. 753, Composition, 1962

1963-1964

By including foreign artists as members: Germans, Belgians, Swedes… a woman from Iceland Mesure enriches itself. Folmer pursues his work on mobiles and the roto-corps, always with the mind-set of integrating projects in architectural spaces. In the same spirit, he creates both in Paris, and particularly in Metz, two monumental mosaics which are built by his friends from La Ruche, mosaic specialists: Mélano, Guardili and Léoni, the very same people who made mosaics by Marc Chagall and Fernand Léger.

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Cat. 835, Roto-peinture, 1963

1965

However, Mesure does not find the “echo” it was looking for in France, nor in Paris in particular. In addition, the Groupe is facing financial problems, and is forced to abandon its endeavours in 1965. Nevertheless, its very existence will demonstrate its significance and serve as a new challenge: giving roots to the constructivistes and rekindling interest in synthesizing the Arts.

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Cat. 849, Roto-corps, 1965

1966

Exhibits his mobiles, roto-peintures and roto-corps at the Galerie Cazenave in Paris. The catalogue preface is by Roger V. Gindertaël: timely art of a monumental nature in perfect tune with the most audacious upcoming architectural trends. His works, indeed, testify to potential and undeniable advancements in modern art.

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Cat. 852, Roto-peinture, 1966

1967

He organises an exhibit focusing on abstraction at the Centre culturel in Toulouse with Denise René.

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Denise René

1968

The on-going threat that the artists studios at the Coin des Princes at La Ruche might be demolished becomes a reality, and he has to leave his studio after having lived there for over thirty years. In addition, his health is failing. To be closer to his last muse, Marguerite H., who inspired his final creations, he settles in Germany, in Neumühl, across from Strasbourg.

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Evicted in 1968 from the studio when the Coin des Princes at La Ruche is torn down.

1969

Shows his last pieces –ink, ink and gouache– in Strasbourg, at the Octave Landwerlin Gallery.

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Cat. 923, Autoportrait, 1969

1972

His profession pays him homage in Paris by organising a Jubilee celebration in his honour at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. It is R. V. Gindertaël once again who dedicates the catalogue preface to Folmer: […] from constructive “Geometrism” that allowed him to obtain clarity, harmony and, evidently, a style that suits our times.

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Cat. 924, Autoportrait, 1971

1973-1974

In the small studio in Neumühl he continues to make mosaic projects that will remain inside his cardboard boxes; his health is declining, forcing him to be somewhat isolated. He starts reading voraciously once again: Nietzsche, of course, and the Russians Dostoïevski, Tolstoï, Gorki, Soljenitsyne who show me real life. Writes his personal thoughts and his reflections on Art.

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Neumühl, Germany

1977

Death of Georges Folmer in Neumühl, Germany, the cemetery where he is buried is in the neighbouring village of Kork.

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Kork cemetery. Gravestone of sandstone des Vosges
with an undated epitaph according to his wishes.