Mathurin Méheut

His life and works

Mathurin Méheut (1882, Lamballe - 1958, Paris)
Painter, designer, illustrator, interior decorator, ceramicist, sculptor, engraver

Education

The son of a self-employed craftsman in Lamballe, Méheut showed his artistic gift at a very early age and left the School of Fine Art at Rennes at the age of twenty with a first class diploma. He then enrolled at the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris and followed courses in drawing under Eugène Grasset at the École normale d'enseignement du dessin (Teacher Training College for Drawing). He was very soon involved as a painter decorator by the prestigious publication ‘Art et Décoration'. He then went to the

Centre for Marine Biology in Roscoff to do the illustrations for ‘Étude de la mer, flore et faune de la Manche et de l'Océan'. This book was published in 1913 and, displayed alongside other works, made him famous.

In 1914 with the aid of a ‘Round the World' travel grant from the Albert Kahn Foundation, he left for Japan. This confirmed his chosen style of drawing: using minimal means to convey the essence of a subject. His stay was interrupted by the general call-up in France. Starting as a simple foot-soldier in the trenches, Mathurin Méheut was promoted to lieutenant in 1917 and attached to the topographical service at the headquarters of the 1st Army. As a painter fighting on the front at Artois and Argonne, he drew the daily life of his fellow soldiers. With a pencil or a brush permanently in his hand, he brought back a large number of drawings from this period.

Fame in 1921 and the large commissions

Demobilised in 1919, he withdrew to his home region in Brittany to recharge his batteries. For two years he prepared for his second one-man exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris about which he had been thinking since his return from Japan. This exhibition needed to be of the same quality as the previous exhibition in 1913.

Some of the works reflected his previous style while others heralded, either by their style or subject matter, the Méheut of the 30s and 40s. It was the second part of the exhibition devoted to his native Brittany which drew out the best of his artistic skills and established him as the painter par excellence of Brittany. The exhibition of around a dozen decorative panels on life in Brittany confirmed his talent as an interior decorator, as a result of which he obtained a number of public and private commissions.

Between the wars, Méheut was at the height of his career. He was equally as well known as an interior decorator, illustrator and ceramicist. After the Second World War, he began a thirty-year-collaboration with the Henriot pottery in Quimper but also with the Manufacture nationale de Sèvres and Villeroy & Boch. The large shipping lines commissioned Méheut to undertake the interior decoration of their most beautiful liners, the ambassadors of graceful living. In addition, publishers called upon him as the person in Paris who could bring Brittany to life.

He also taught in several prestigious schools: from 1912 to 1913 and again from 1919 to 1928 at the École Boulle and briefly in 1921 at the École Estienne. After an interruption of a few years in order to devote himself to his artistic career, he again had the opportunity of teaching during the Second World War from 1941 to 1943 in the School of Fine Art in Rennes where he had been a pupil. From these last years as a teacher, one of his pupils, inspired by his teacher, would later have an international career in screen animation: Frédéric Back.

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Mathurin Méheut à Rennes vers 1900

Mathurin Méheut à Roscoff (1910-1912)

Mathurin Méheut dans son atelier à Paris