As part of the publication of a monograph on the work of Georges Folmer (1895-1977), written by Lydia Harambourg at Editions El Viso, the gallery is pleased to present a selection of works by the artist. This more contemporary reading of his works will allow everyone to get an idea of the contribution to geometric art of this artist, who was also the founder of the Measure Group (1961-1966), bringing together artists such as Marcelle Cahn, Günter Fruhtrunk, Jean Gorin or even Aurélie Nemours.
Born in 1895 in Nancy, the home of Art Nouveau, Georges Folmer trained in drawing and applied arts techniques before joining the fine arts school in his city, which offered a multidisciplinary education. A few months before the outbreak of war, he stayed in Germany as an exchange student. Arrested in August 1914, he was interned as a civilian prisoner in the Holzminden prisoner-of-war camp, where he produced his first drawings and watercolours and founded a small theatre group. Transferred to Geneva, he enrolled at the School of Fine Arts and had his first exhibition in 1917. Once back in Paris, obliged to do military service, he was sent to Algeria and Tunisia. He discovered the power of light and colour, which was reflected in his numerous watercolours and sketchbooks executed from life, striking in their accuracy and graphic mastery.
From the Nabis to Cubism
When he returned to Paris in 1919, he came into contact with the Nabi painter and designer Henri-Gabriel Ibels, who hired him to design costumes for his theatre workshop. He frequented the avant-garde circles of Maurice Denis and Paul Sérusier, who had a significant influence on his early paintings, which evolved from Impressionism (the banks of the Seine, landscapes, churches) to a Nabi spirit through the stylisation of forms framed in black. This refinement prefigured a cubist approach from his first attempts to decompose forms and multiply points of view : small still lifes.
In 1926, his meeting with Félix del Marle was decisive and launched his artistic career, resolutely oriented towards a study of the theories of Piet Mondrian, Theo Van Doesburg and Georges Vantongerlo. The subjects of his cubist paintings were inspired by the world of the circus : harlequins, trapeze artists. By accentuating the geometric character of his compositions, he managed to eliminate the subject.
Abstraction-Création (1930), Cercle et Carré Group (1931)
Following his encounter with Auguste Herbin, he joined the militants of Abstraction-Création, befriended Domela and Jean Gorin and adopted geometric abstraction, continuing to analyse Mondrian’s writings, which convinced him of the necessity of pure forms.
In 1934, Georges Folmer had a solo exhibition in Paris at the Galerie Billet-Worms, which was warmly received by critics and public alike.
The Golden Ratio
In 1935, Folmer moved to La Ruche. His studio was located at the Coin des Princes. He would leave it in 1968 after having lived there for thirty-three years. 1935 was a key year for the painter : he participated in the first Salon d’Art Mural in Paris, alongside Albert Gleizes, André Lhote, Wassily Kandinsky and Gorin. He produced his first abstract drawings, in pencil, red chalk and charcoal, and ink, and experimented with new mediums such as striated coating and eggshell. In 1937, the City of Paris commissioned him to create a monumental panel for the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques : Jupiter lançant la foudre, a figurative interlude in a period when Folmer was immersed in Mondrian’s neoplastic theories.
At the same time, since 1934, he had been pursuing research into the golden ratio and polyhedra. Under the guidance of his studio neighbour, the mathematician and painter Dimitri Viner, he delved into the mathematical secrets of this knowledge, which he applied to his painting.
In 1939, he participated in the international abstraction exhibition at the Galerie Charpentier, which anticipated the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. Bonds were forged between Folmer, Gorin, István (Etienne) Beöthy, Del Marle and Servanes.
From 1941 to 1942, Folmer’s abstract maturity was reached with his monotype-ink drawings and works in polychrome wood. Symphonie harmonique (1942), acquired by the MNAM in Paris, openly referred to the golden ratio.
1945 : Creation of the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles
Founded by Frédo Sidès, the Salon was intended exclusively for non-figurative works and was held annually. Folmer exhibited at the 2nd Salon in 1946 and in 1948 was one of the signatories of the Manifesto. He took a stand against the systematic elimination of abstract works from official exhibitions and actively participated in the meetings organised by Félix Del Marle, who brought together the fervent members of the Constructivist Section of the Réalités Nouvelles. In the desire to integrate plastic arts into daily life and the architectural environment, the Espace group took shape with Gorin and Beöthy in 1949.
1950 : The “Espace Room” at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles
Folmer was asked to set up the Espace room under the aegis of Del Marle and Herbin.
He had his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Colette Allendy, where he presented his spatial constructions which characterised his language : construction, balance, harmony, rigour. In a few years, rhythm and light would merge geometric abstraction with poetic abstraction in paintings which would borrow their titles from Stéphane Mallarmé’s verses.
1951 : The Manifesto of the Espace group created by André Bloc, of which Folmer became an active member alongside Sonia Delaunay, Fernand Léger, Serge Poliakoff, Walter Gropius, Léo Breuer, Jean Arp and Aurélie Nemours, among others. Among Espace’s missions, he is in charge of fitting out student rooms for the Maison de la Tunisie at the Cité Universitaire.
Folmer exhibited his monotype-ink drawings at Art Témoin in Paris. His constructed art was based on the relationship between form/colour/surface.
Herbin appointed him head of the Geometric Section of the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles.
This tenacious builder, according to Michel Seuphor, who considered him one of the moral pillars of the Salon, remained the only geometricist on the committee following Herbin’s resignation. In 1957, he was appointed general secretary of the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles.
1961 : Folmer founded Mesure, “an experimental group of formal plastic research”, which he chaired, Jean Gorin was vice-president. The group presented exhibitions in Germany and in Paris, at the Galerie Hautefeuille.
Folmer diversified his compositions by introducing ovoid forms and curves. From 1963 to1964, he worked on mobiles and roto-bodies which he exhibited at the Galerie Cazenave in Paris. Roger V.Gindertaël wrote the catalogue preface.
After the Mesure group ceased to exist, his activity in favour of a synthesis of the arts continued to forge its path. Exhibitions were organised, but following his departure from La Ruche, Folmer moved to Germany in 1968.
His last exhibitions were held in Strasbourg and in 1972, his jubilee was organised at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles.
In his small studio in Neumühl he continued to work on mosaic projects, taking up his readings of Friedrich Nietzsche, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Maxim Gorky.
Georges Folmer died in 1977 and was buried in the village cemetery.
Correspondante of the Institut Académie des Beaux-Arts