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fut From Helen’s (1921) to Jack’s portraits (1992) : the big splits ! 6th, Issue.


Seventeen years elapsed between the painting of Helen’s portrait in 1921 and Jack Lang’s one at end of 1981, and finished in May 1982.



Some History :

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Alfred Courmes is born in 1898 at Bormes-les-Mimosas, in a marine Officer family.

He changes addresses quite often, depending on his Father’s various appointments. His Father shares his free time between music, painting, mathematics and chemistry. Alfred starts drawing around the age of eleven years, his first watercolour paintings being made while he lived in Monaco (1912). His Father ask to him then to follow painting lessons. The first oil paintings date back to 1917. He shall paint up to his death, in Paris, in January 1993.

About 150 canvasses can be traced in 75 years of painting.

Alfred Courmes has realized rather few portraits, about fifteen, including the famous portrait of Peggy Guggenheim (5th issue) and some self portraits. They date mostly of periods before the second World War. Then he painted a last one, the one of Jack Lang who was then State Minister for Culture and Communication.



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            “Hélène Courmes” oil on canvas (92 x 74 cm),  Musée des Années TrenteBoulogne-Billancourt .© adagp



Observers will no doubt wonder why Hélène, his sister, then aged 16, turns her head towards her right side while she is seated facing us in her armchair. The reason of this unacademic position is that she was victim of an accident while playing with her brothers. One of her eyes is damaged, she had, as some say, received a dart in her eye.


“This painting I have shown to Roger de la Fresnaye *, in 1924 in Grasse where he stayed with his brother; he did not like it.”

This portrait has been acquired in 1992 by the Museum of years 1930/1940 paintings in Boulogne-Billancourt. It was reproduced on the cover of the book devoted to the museum published in 1998.





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“His Excellence Jack Lang, State Minister”, 1992 (146 x 114 cm), private ownership © adagp




jack lang,ministère de la culture

Alfred Courmes is 94 years old when he signs this portrait of Jack Lang. He went a few times at the Ministry of cultural affairs, in Valois Street in Paris for the first studies of the portrait.

The Ministry is located in part of the Palais Royal. In order to grasp any detail of the model and his surroundings – classified among historical treasures – he required some photographs to be taken.

They both met for the first time inaugurating the exhibition on Alfred Courmes’ work at the Georges Pompidou museum in Paris, in September 1989. This exhibition, initiated by the Roubaix museum, will be shown at Poitiers, then at Beaubourg in Paris under supervision of Jean Hubert Martin, Manager of the modern Art Museum of Paris. Unluckily, a strike of the personnel in charge of the upkeep of this museum obliged to keep it closed to the public a few days after inauguration for quite a time. The “Parisian” rendez-vous of Alfred with the public will be rather shortened …

On October 17th, 1991, Jack Lang will remit Alfred Courmes the Legion of Honour decoration. The ceremony takes place at Berggruen Gallery, University Street in Paris. Antoine Mendiharat was the owner of this Gallery and had been selling Courmes works for about ten years. He died some time before this remittance of decoration.

Alfred is obviously very happy of his late reconnaissance by an Institution that he had so much contempted in the past !


3299891319.png“The main thing for me is to start again every morning my job of painter. I would be happy if History would place me among the twenty best painters of my generation.”

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jack lang, courmes,


                 Remittance of the Legion of Honour ceremony, on October 17th,1991.



Some portraits without commentary


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17 Portrait de Jean Lecointre hui1917110.jpg


"Jean Lecointre", 1917.  © adagp                                                         " Alfred Courmes",1923.  ©adagp



21 Portrait de reine Courmes hui192164.jpg

19 Reine Courmes hui1919159.jpg


"Reine Courmes", 1920, 1921.© adagp



29 Portait de Mme Corman min 1929419 (réduit).jpg


28 Portrait de Mme mathieu Corman hui1928248.jpg 47 Portrait de Sabine Van Riel hui194784.jpg

           "Madame Mathieu Corman", 1929. © adagp                                        "Sabine Van Riel", 1947. © adagp


Roger de la Fresnayepainter in the cubist art of the beginning of the twentieth century, who accepted Alfred Courmes as his sole disciple, will be the subject of a next issue. Part of the correspondence between disciple and master is kept at the Kandisky library at the Georges Pompidou museum, Paris.



To know more :


On Helen’s portrait :


- 1922, Salon de Printemps, organised by the Lyon Society of Fine Arts, Bondy Palace, from February 4th to March 26th, Lyon.

- 1989,  Retrospective, "La Piscine" Museum, from April 29th to June 11th (date extended to June 25th) Roubaix.

- 1989, Retrospective,  Georges Pompidou museum, from September 12th to October 22th Paris.

- 1990, March Exhibition (Salon de Mars), the Berggruen Gallery shows works by Alfred Courmes and Irène Iliopoulos, Paris.

- 2003, "Alfred Courmes en son pays" organised by the Réseau Lalan, from  September 7th to  November 9th, Bormes-les-Mimosas.



- Emmanuel Bréon and Michèle Lefrançois, The Museum of the years 1930/1940, foreword by Pierre Rosenberg, Somogy editor, Art Edition, 1998, cover page.

- Vitalie Andriveau – Gilles Bernard, Alfred COURMES, foreword by Michel Onfray, le cherche midi editor, 2003, page 19.


On Jack Lang’s portrait:


- Vitalie Andriveau – Gilles Bernard, Alfred COURMES, foreword by Michel Onfray, le cherche midi editor, 2003, page 177.



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