February 09, 2016

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

old postcard (from 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 Ferdinand Cheval, Abbé Fouré and Raymond Isidore (Picassiette), who currently still are on the top of the list in France.

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 also 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 had a career in the military, but after his parents had died, he returned to his birth region to dedicate himself to the agriculture business of his parents. He also engaged in construction works 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 transparent globe of glass and concrete, on which a sculpture stands depicting Marianne, France's symbol. This decoration currently doesn't exist anymore; 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 1920s and/or 1930s, when Wallart was aged between 50 and 70.

The sculpture that takes the most important position, center front, depicts marshal 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 result in 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 marshal 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 marshal Foch depict general de Gaulle and marshal Leclerc. Originally the porch had four sculptures of French generals.

The concrete medallions 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.

* Website Mémoires de pierre
* Website Habitants-paysagistes (Lille Art Museum from march 2018 on) has a series of pictures (1983) by Francis David

first published February 2016, last revised March 2018

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, dept Pas-de-Calais, region Hauts-de-France, France
no visits

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