May 16, 2009

Marcel Dhièvre, Au Petit Paris/At Little Paris

This facade of a former clothing store, a decorated exterior, is currently still extant in Saint Dizier, a town in the Champagne-Ardenne area in north-western France. 

Life and works

Marcel Dhièvre (1898-1977), born in a family of agricultural workers, from birth on had an handicap: he could not use his right hand because it was paralyzed. Nevertheless he has become known beacuse of the way he decorated the walls of his shop of clothing and related items on the Avenue de la République, he opened in 1923

The story of the decorations begins after World War II. Around 1950 Dhièvre made some mosaic decorations on the facade of the house outside St. Dizier where he lived and soon he shifted his attention to the facade of his shop in town. 

He began decorating the shop's exterior with mosaics, little ornaments and representations of flowers, trees and birds. A number of mosaics refer to Parisian buildings, like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Chambre des Députés. 

He also decorated the interior with wall paintings and frescoes and he made paintings on canvas in a naive style, which nowadays are in the collection of the local art museum

Marcel Dhièvre has continued this project untill 1970.  He died in 1977.

Situation after Dhièvre died

After Dhièvre's death the house was sold to a new owner. who was interested in saving it as an art environment. In 1984 the house was registered as a Monument Historique and in 1985 the local museum had an exhibition of Dhièvre's artwork.

However, the new owner hadn't the necessary funds available and could not prevent some decay, like mosaics losing their colors and parts of them falling down. 

A local group of friends of the Little Paris, Entre Tenir, took action to promote the preservation of the decorations. With succes, since in 2008 the mayor of Saint Dizier announced that the city's budget for 2009 would allow the city to buy the property and start a renovation.

Restoration 2011-2012 

In 2009 the city bought Little Paris indeed and developed plans to restore it. The project was entrusted to Renaud Dubrigny, an employee of the city of Joinville who had a lot of experience in doing this kind of work.

The restoration project started in march 2011 and went well.

Renaud Dubrigny at work

In the weekend of september 17/18 2011, during the journées patrimoines (heritage days), the public for the first time in many years could take a look at the decorations in the interior. 


The restored house was officially inaugurated on September 15, 2012, during the Journées du Patrimoine.

At this occasion a new website was published (authored by the information department of the city of Saint-Dizier). On this website you'll find an article by french art critic Laurent Danchin, republished in a translation into english in my collection of OEE texts.

More pictures/documentation
* pictures of the exterior on the weblogs of Sophie Lepetit and of Brigitte Rebollar
* pictures of paintings by Marcel Dhièvre, mostly done in a naive style, in the collection of the local museum (temporarily closed because of renovations) (post of november 4, 2011)
* video of the renovation by Voix de la Haute Marne (Daily Motion, 3'47")

* article by Laurent Danchin, translated into english and republished in OEE-texts

first published may 2009, revised jan 2014

Marcel Dhièvre
au Petit Paris
avenue de la République 476
52100 St. Dizier, Haute-Marne, France

(Champagne-Ardenne area)
can be seen from the street 

1 comment:

  1. I agree, it should be saved...looks like a real work of art to me. Never ceases to amaze me what kind of crazy things one can find if one looks a little bit... thanks Henk !