Jeanne Malivel, a Bretonne who knew how to paint

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Hotel de Sens houses Bibliothèque Forney in the Marais

An American friend, who knows everything happening in Art Deco in Paris, mentioned this exhibition of paintings and furniture by Jeanne Malivel, 1895-1926,  at Bibliothèque Forney and of course I rushed… She probably would have remained in the reserves if she had not been a woman, who died at 31, and a Bretonne on top of it. Mostly self taught and raised by a mother who was a feminist, she started with wood block prints made on a pice from the pear tree in her garden and a medical bistouri. She worked on stained glass, designed fabrics, painted large portraits and created furniture for her sister’s wedding. She had a passion for applied arts and promoted popular crafts and artisans. She produced china for Henriot in Quimper and created the octogonal geometrical plate which could still easily be sold today.

The octogonal plate Malivel designed for Henriot in 1925

She was one of the founders with René-Yves Creston, in July 1923 in Locronan, of a movement called “Seiz Breur” (seven brothers) in breton, who entirely filled the salle de l’Osté at the International exhibition of decorative arts of 1925. These were determinant into publicizing Breton Art Deco between the two wars. She had studied drawing in Rennes with Louise Gicquel who took to Paris to Académie Julian where she painted large canvases. Her parents had a grocery store in Loudéac,  south of Saint Brieuc, and supported her art so she was able to live alone in Paris as a student at a very young age. But she missed Brittany.

A chair designed for salon Osté in 1925, private collection

One of ther striking works is the Descent from the Cross painted and engraved around 1922 and where a woman helps take down the body of Christ from the cross, a definitive feminist statement. Her parents were, as often in Brittany, practicing catholics and with the theme of nature and trees, religious scenes are common in her work. There are a few portraits including one of her brother Jean, of her sister Yvonne with a violin, some self portraits and very strong pencil and lavis drawings.

Embroidered cushion cir 1920-1921, private collection

She was made famous by the publication of “Histoire de Notre Bretagne” written by Jeanne Coroller and  published in Dinard in 1922, which she illustrated with a map of Brittany and seventy two prints. The publisher Camille Le Mercier was a friend of Guillaume Apollinaire and one of the founders of the Parti national Breton in 1911.

Until July 1, at Bibliothèque Forney, 1 rue du Figuier, 75004. Entrance is free.

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