Following the death of the painter in 1958, a number of people, brought together by René Pleven, the President of the Conseil Générale des Côtes du Nord (the county council) and Minister of Justice, established the Association ‘Les Amis de Mathurin Méheut’ to take possession of the artworks donated by the artist’s widow and daughter and any subsequent acquisitions and donations, with the aim of promoting the artist’s reputation.
The first president of the Association was Jean-Marie, chairman of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. He was succeeded by Henri Froment-Meurice, a French Ambassador, who held the position for some thirty years, a period which saw a marked development of the museum and its public profile. The current president of the Association is Alain Leclair, a bank director who, during his youth, knew the artist very well.
The works of art were installed in the Maison du Bourreau (the house of the executioner) , a superb 15th century half-timbered building on the Place du Martray in Lamballe. This was donated by the Association to the Conseil Générale des Côtes du Nord. A classified historic monument, the building was restored by Bâtiments de France. The classification and the hanging of the artworks was organised under the supervision of Georges-Henri Rivière , a famous museum director, the creator of the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires, the nephew of the painter Henri Rivière, also a friend of Méheut. In this, he was aided by Yvonne Jean-Haffen who had been a pupil of Méheut. The museum, inaugurated in 1972, became a museum regulated by the state. Yvonne Jean-Haffen was the curator until 1992.
She was succeeded by Anne de Stoop, the co-author with Denise Delouche and Patrick Le Tiec of the major monograph on Méheut (published by éditions de Chasse-Marée), who held the position until 2005. The position is currently held by Chrystèle Rozé, who, like her predecessors, is employed by the Association.
The mission statement of the Association as the owner of the original donations and numerous later acquisitions and donations, is set out in its founding document. It is ‘to maintain the collections and perpetuate the memory of the painter and his works … through the organisation of exhibitions and other activities designed to increase the prestige of the deceased artist’.
In the last twenty years, more than 200 exhibitions in Lamballe, in Brittany, in other regions of France and even abroad, and the ceaseless activities of the Association and its directors have resulted in the increased awareness and reputation of the artist. In 2001, in recognition of the Association’s work, the museum obtained the status as a Museum of France.
In 2006 the Association, conscious that the physical limitations of the museum restricted the scale of exhibitions and the number of members of the public who it could safely welcome, considered extending the exhibition space. In partnership with Lamballe town council, it produced a ‘Scientific and Cultural Programme’ with the collaboration of the Département des Côtes d’Armor, the region of Brittany and the Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles (DRAC) (a regional organisation to encourage the arts). The aim is also to benefit from the programme of the creation and restoration of regional museums launched in 2010 by the Ministry of Culture.
Symbol of Brittany
Over three hundred members of the Association support the work of an artist who is the perfect symbol of Brittany, its people and its riches and an undisputed cultural reference for future generations.