February 09, 2016

Alphonse Wallart, La maison de la Couture/The house in la Couture


old postcard (from before world war II)

When in 1962 french photographer Gilles Ehrman published his book Les inspirés et leurs demeures (The inspired and their abodes) this marked the development of interest in art environments in France among a still small group of interested people. Ehrmann presented artists such as Fredinand Cheval, Abbé Fouré and Raymond Isidore (Picassiette), who currently still are on the top of the list.

But he also presented art environments whose creators remained unmentioned in later publications about art environments and currently seem to be forgotten, such as Alphonse Wallart, who decorated the exterior of his house in la Couture with sculptures of war heroes and politicians and with sculpted medallions of his parents amidst famous people.

Life and works 

Not much is known about Wallart's life.  He was born as son of a farmer in 1871 and died in 1958 at age 87. He probably spent all his life in la Couture, or in any case the main part of it, and was nicknamed le poète du ciment (the poet of cement).

The house he decorated in such a special way, is located in a small neighbourhood of la Couture, named le Touret. This house, on the corner of a local street and a departmental road, has a distinctive architecture, and it would be interesting to know if and if so in what way Wallart has been involved in the design of this house.

On its roof it has a large porch and a large build up provided with a lot of glassware. Kind of a loft avant la lettre....

Then, the roof is decorated with a vertical structure in the shape of a cone, topped with a transparant globe of glass and concrete, on which a sculpture stands depicting Marianne, France's symbol. This decoration currently no longer exists; it was removed or destroyed during world war II.


this picture (1950's?) from the website memoires de pierre
 by Thadée Szalamacha, who made various pictures of french war memorials

This might indicate that the construction and installation of the sculptures has started in the years before the second world war, so in the 1920's and/or 1930's, when Wallart was aged between 50 and 70.

The sculpture that takes the most important position, center front, depicts marshall Foch, seated on a horse. Foch was the supreme commander of the allied forces, that in september 1918 initiated a major offensive against the German forces. Their retreat would lead to the armistice of november 11, 1918.

The house is located in an area which has suffered much from this war and there are many war grave and monuments, also along the main road leading past Wallart's house.The sculpture of the horse-seated marshall Foch is both a war monument and a homage to this army chief, who became very popular in France.

Other sculptures on the porch, left and right of marshall Foch depict general de Gaulle and marshall Leclerc. Originally the porch had four sculptures of french generals.

The concrete medaillons Wallart added to the facade of the house depict his parents amidst famous people of his time such as the politicians Clémenceau and Poincaré, general Joffre, the king of Belgium and his wife, and Alexander I of Yugoslavia.

The house is also denoted by the name Villa des Verdures which refers to the greenery (verdures) that hides the facade from the view from the street.

Documentation
* Website Mémoires de pierre
* Article in Echo 62, Le Pas-de-Calais-en-Ligne, may 2007

Alphonse Wallart
La maison de la Couture
on the corner of the rue du Touret and 
the route d'Armentières (D171)
le Touret, La Couture, Pas-de-Calais, France
streetview
no visits

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