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Georges Folmer

(French, 1895-1977)


Georges Folmer was born in 1895 in Nancy. At the age of 15, he enrolled at the Art School of his native town where he studied painting, sculpture and architecture for the next three years. During the outbreak of war he happened to be in Germany, where he was imprisoned. He put his enforced idleness to good use by painting the scenery for a small theatre organised by the prisoners, who included well-known artists such as Etievant and Lucien Nat, the future star of the Baty theatre. After that, Folmer was sent as a prisoner on parole to Geneva, where he quickly became a student at the Art School. He spent a year there before the hazards of war took him to Algeria. Delighting in the light he found there, he discovered the colours which he used in his paintings during his travels in both Algeria and Tunisia.


Once the war was over, he decided against returning to Nancy and settled instead in Paris in 1919, where he became a regular exhibitor at, and then a member of, the Salons des Indépendants d’automne and at the Tuileries. In order to earn his living, the artist’s eternal problem, he worked in various professions connected with art. This included designing the theatrical costumes for the actor Dullin at the Ibels workshop. This gave him the opportunity to frequent literary and modern art circles, and in 1926 he met Del Marle for the first time, along with members of the Vouloir group, including Lempereur-Haut, who was to become a loyal friend. He continued with his painting whilst at the same time doing wood engraving and enamel work. Critics at the time remarked on his new style – ‘solidity in construction’ and ‘colourful cadence’ - which was his first move towards Cubism: “Thanks be to the Billiet-Vorms Gallery for having revealed the new Georges Folmer to us.”


From the Thirties onwards and without abandoning his Cubist vision, he studied the influence of Cubism in comparison with the first attempts at abstract art. In 1932, he met Auguste Herbin and was attracted by the young ‘Abstraction-Creation’ movement. He continued developing his studies and his practical and technical research work on the Section d’Or and on the harmonic division of space, split up into different planes. In 1935, he exhibited at the first Salon d’Art mural alongside Delaunay, Gleizes and Kandinsky. From then on, he totally expressed ‘non-imitative plastic art’, according to Del Marle’s definition. In 1939 his work was shown together with that of Frédo-Sides at the Galerie Charpentier at the still-famous event which included all the non-representational artists of the time. This event was the precursor of the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles which opened in 1946 after the war. Georges Folmer exhibited there regularly until 1972 and from 1947 onwards he showed his spatial constructions and his paintings on canvas. Before that, in 1942, he had created a new technique for his drawings, which he called ‘Monotypes,’ involving the superimposing of various printing inks applied with rollers or tools he devised himself. In 1949 at the Café du Globe he, Gorin, Servanes and Beothy were among the first nine artists who, at Del Marle’s initiative, made preparations for forming what was to become the Groupe Espace, whose famous manifesto he signed in 1952.


In the 1950s his art blossomed: individual exhibitions at Colette Allendy’s, where he showed his sculptures in polychromatic wood. At the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles under the aegis of Herbin, he developed constructivist representation and became responsible for the ‘geometric section’. In 1956, he was appointed Secretary-General of the Salon, which prompted Michel Seuphor to comment in ‘L’Oeil’ in October 1959, “he’s a tenacious constructor…one of the moral pillars of the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles.” In 1960 he founded the Mesure Groupe, of which he was the President and Gorin the Vice-President. This group, devoted to experimenting with formal plastic research, wanted the ideas of architects and plastic artists, painters and sculptors of exclusively geometric designs, to be brought together into a close dialogue. In this spirit, the Groupe Mesure continued its work with the Cercle culturel de l’abbaye de Royaumont - the Gouin-Lang foundation, and with the Association Française des Coloristes Conseils (AFCC).


The Groupe Mesure held exhibitions in France and Germany until 1965. At the same time, Georges Folmer developed his plastic experiments still further and constructed his ‘roto-paintings’: pictures brought to life by a polychromatic relief, giving the feeling of movement on an abstract plane. These pictures represented the very essence of the transformable work, the humanity of which reveals the vast possibilities offered to movement. His ‘roto-paintings,’ and subsequently his mobile sculptures, translated his own expression into kinetic art. As R.V. Gindertael wrote in his preface to the individual exhibition held in 1966 at the Galerie Cazenave, Folmer created “contemporary art of monumental character that is perfectly in tune with the boldest trends of a forward-looking architecture”. He continued taking part in several group exhibitions, including one which he organised together with Denise René at the Centre Culturel of the city of Toulouse in 1967.


In 1968 he retired to the banks of the Rhine where he went back to working on the monotypes, which he exhibited at the Galerie Landwerlin in Strasbourg in 1969. In his last years in Strasbourg he led a solitary life, devoting himself to writing his reflections on art. Before his death in January 1977, he made his last journey to Paris in June 1972 on the occasion of his Jubilee, which was organised for him by the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles.

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