Félix Del Marle 

Félix Del Marle 

Biography of Félix Del Marle  ( 1889-1952 )

Concrete painting, not abstract, because nothing is more concrete, more real than a line, a color, a surface. It is the concretization of the creative spirit. Félix Del Marle

Born in Pont sur Sambre on October 21, 1889, Félix Del Marle seemed destined to take over the family brewery. But as a teenager, he decided to become a painter. He would become a protean artist, moving from Futurism to Surrealism, from abstraction to the neo-plastic polychromy of the Renault factories in Flins.

Félix Del Marle entered the Beaux-Arts de Valenciennes art school at the age of 16, and was soon noticed by his teachers, who rewarded him for his paintings and sketches. Despite the teenager's talent, his parents were not resigned to seeing him engage in such a "non-serious" activity. They threaten to cut him off if he doesn't decide to take over the brewery. Faced with his obstinacy, they put their threats into effect.

Determined to choose his own life, Del Marle became independent and, at the age of 18, embarked on a voyage to the Far East. He remained there for 2 years, until 1909. Back on dry land, he settled in Brussels, where he earned his living as a house painter. Parallel to this professional activity, he "flitted" between various art schools, painting courses and artists' studios. He soon returned to Lille, where he also took courses at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

In 1910, his parents arranged a marriage with a certain Adonia Marcq. They hoped this would calm his adventurous spirit. But the marriage and its attendant family obligations were short-lived, and Del Marle left to live alone in Paris in 1911.

Artistic vitality was very strong there. He met Apollinaire and made friends with Gino Severini, whose studio he shared for a time. He took part in the Futurist manifestos, writing the Futurist manifesto against Montmartre in 1912. This movement was supposed to represent the modernism, speed and violence of the world of the time. He painted canvases with evocative names: Le métro, Le boulevard, Cahots de l'automobile and, above all, Le Port (a futuristic transposition of his maritime peregrinations in the Far East). Del Marle is one of the few French representatives of Italian Futurism.

Meanwhile, in 1912, he met Marthe Leroy. She became his partner, giving birth to three children in 1916, 1920 and 1923. In 1914, war broke out. He went to the front and took advantage of the opportunity to sketch ruined towns and portraits of his fellow soldiers. It was in 1916, in the midst of the "slaughter", that he realized the absurdity of Futurism. He protested against the government's lack of interest in the fate of soldiers at the front. He then moved directly from Futurism to political cartooning, where, until 1923, he expressed his socialist convictions in satirical reviews.

From 1924, the country's economic and social situation improved. He returned to his pictorial research. He spent his life between Paris and Lille. His research led him to move gradually towards abstraction. He worked with a variety of materials on different supports: oil on canvas, Indian ink, pastel on paper, graphite on tracing paper. His most famous works of the period include the Rythmes marins series, the Bleus mouvants (4 canvases painted between 1923 and 1927) and the Contrastes gothiques (1925).

Between 1926 and 1928, he made his first forays into neoplasticism. His main aim was to promote architectural polychromy. He painted canvases and designed a great deal of interior furniture. All furniture designed by Del Marle was made by Camille Delhaye, a cabinetmaker in Pont sur Sambre.

In 1928, the painter, who was also passionate about aeronautics, became secretary of the Amicale des aviateurs et des aéronautes de l'arrondissement d'Avesnes. He painted a self-portrait, L'aviateur. It was also in this year that he became president of the Aulnoye section of the League of Human Rights and joined the Freemasons.

Finally fed up with this hectic life, he decided to settle permanently with his family in his villa in Wimereux. By chance, he came into contact with Benedictine monks from a nearby abbey. Their austerity, fervor and erudition made a deep impression on him. He stayed at the abbey several times, eventually converting. These numerous retreats were the subject of sketches depicting monastic life.

This late conversion to Catholicism (he was over 40) led to a shift in his work towards more realistic representations. He drew or painted carnivals and portraits, without losing sight of his religious-inspired work. This period lasted until 1940, when Del Marle rediscovered surrealism.

n 1940, after a brief stay in Mayenne following the evacuation, Del Marle returned to settle in Pont sur Sambre, in the middle of the occupied zone. This was his first taste of surrealism, which expressed an ideal of freedom in the face of fascism and Stalinism. Among other works, he painted La femme arbre and L'homme arbre, which it's hard not to think were inspired by the nearby Mormal forest.

In 1945, at the end of the war, he returned to abstraction and polychromy. From 1949 onwards, Del Marle attempted to apply his polychromatic pictorial research to architecture. In 1951, he founded the Groupe Espace with André Bloc, and commissioned architect Bernard Zehrfuss to paint the Renault factory in Flins. It's true that the period was favorable: urban growth was almost exponential, new buildings were numerous and the period was submerged by a wave of unbridled modernism. Felix Del Marle was convinced that the artist had a considerable role to play in this new society. He created the color scheme for the Lille fair, and polychromes for workers' housing. Just as he seemed to be reaching the peak of his career, he died of lung cancer in 1952.

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