Mathurin Méheut

The large commissions

Méheut the illustrator

Méheut is still probably best known as an illustrator. He published both documentary works in the Art Nouveau style and also novels and books on Brittany. During more than thirty years, Parisian publishers sought him out for his peerless iconography of Brittany rooted in reality and constantly enriched.

What interested Méheut were the techniques for reproducing images. All the while trying out different techniques, Méheut often reproached printers for a lack of accuracy in the reproduction since it is undeniable that all techniques take away at least in part the spontaneity of the artist's work. This explains the constant research and the multitude of techniques employed by the artist: heliochromy, wood engravings, stencils, lithography, zincography , collotype , offset lithography. He even invented a new process of engraving for Roger Vercel's book ‘Sous le pied de l'archange'.

His fame and his talent as an illustrator which had already been seen in magazines like Art et decoration or La Bretagne touristique led him to collaborate with authors such as Genevoix for Raboliot, Colette for Regarde, Loti for Pêcheurs d'Islande… Méheut illustrated around thirty books beginning with Fantôme de Terre-NeuveI in 1903 to his last book Pêcheurs des quatre mers by Roger Vercel in 1957.

Engraving is one of the lesser known aspects of the artist's work but, as with illustrations, Méheut tried every technique. From 1910 to 1926, he used traditional techniques and from 1939 to 1948 he used new techniques.

Méheut the interior decorator

During a visit to the Henriot pottery in Quimper, Méheut met one of the two sons of Jules Henriot. This led to a long and fruitful collaboration for over more than thirty years. From 1919, Méheut worked on ceramics. His aim was to point Quimper in a new direction by renewing the decorative style. From 1927, he also collaborated with the Manufacture nationale de Sèvres until 1940, and also with Villeroy & Boch in the Sarre.

After the 1921 exhibition, Méheut was commissioned by shipping companies. He worked for three companies: la Compagnie des Messageries maritimes between 1924 and 1935 (including the vessels l'Aramis, le Champollion), la Compagnie Générale Transatlantique between 1935 and 1952 (including vessels le Normandie, l'Isle-de-France) and the Société Françaises des Transports Pétroliers between 1951 and 1957 (including the vessels le Sologne, le Camargue). In all so far identified, he was commissioned for 25 ships. This led him to make the acquaintance of numerous engineers, architects and decorators. The themes handled by Méheut for these decors are very varied and are not always themes typical of the artist. Méheut was, however, always conscious of the need to comply with the order.

His most notable decors are those of the Heinz building in Pittsburg USA or that of the Geological Institute in Rennes, opened in 1947. This latter is the sole décor which still exists in its entirety. In 1939, he received an order from the Manufacture des Gobelins for a cartoon for a tapestry ‘Allegory of Marine Life'. The tapestry, finally called ‘The Sea' was completed in 1946. He was also responsible for the cartoons for the mosaics and the stained glass for the restaurant ‘L'Huitrière' in Lille and also for the sketches for the décor of the villa Le Caruhel (Étables-sur-Mer) realised by Odorico (mosaics) and Brandt (ironwork). In 1952, he completed the façade of the Henriot pottery and his final major commission for the Caisse d'épargne (savings bank) in Pont-l'Abbé.

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Couverture du livre Regarde par Colette et Méheut, 1929, musée Mathurin Méheut