Charles Despiau (Mont-de-Marsan, 1874 - Paris, 1946)

1874-1904, the first years

Charles Despiau was born on November 4, 1874, in Mont-de-Marsan, in the Landes province. His father, like his grandfather, was a plasterer. His brother, eight years older, accidentally died at the age of 17. Charles Despiau completes his school studies in his hometown, showing no particular skills, except in drawing and plastic arts.

His art professor notices his talent and pushes him to pursue in that direction as do his parents, no doubt his first admirers. In 1892, at the age of 17, he registers at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, with a departmental scholarship which wile help him to settle in the capital. Apart from these studies, he learns stone cutting, first with practitioners and finally with HALOU (1900 – 1901).

In early 1894, he will try the entry examination to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He fails. A failure which will not prevent him from enrolling in one of the school’s Atelier: he chooses that of BARRIAS. One year later, he tries again the examination, and he is admitted in the beginning of March 1895. He is 21. Military service is compulsory and he must interrupt his studies, and after that, he returns to the Beaux-Arts. Even though he wins a price of « figure modeling », Despiau is remote from the school’s academic teaching: only his good technique wins him the award. However, he does not free himself from the School right away: he needs his departmental scholarship to live.

For a long time already he has started visiting museums, filling his eyes with classical shapes, particularly antiques. That is what he really prefers, disliking the academism of the time, in search of a realism which he wants to imprint on his work.

In 1904, passionately in love with Marie Rudel, he marries her. She will sit for him several times, and this very good-looking woman will inspire his first portraits, full of interior life and character, which he will develop so well during all his life. The beginnings of their married life are particularly difficult. Charles Despiau does not earn enough to cope with the household expenses and in order to survive, they will both colour postcards. Nevertheless, Despiau persists in the way he has chosen. Stubborn? No doubt he is, and with reason. He wins laudatory praise, but this does not bring in many commissions – commissions which will take a long time to come.

Despiau and Rodin

As early as 1904, he draws the attention of Georges WERNERT, alias FORTUNIO, art critic and senior civil servant (Despair will execute a first state of his wife’s bust, in 1907; this will never be completed as Mme Wernert dies). Claude ROGER-MARX, one of the most well known art critic of the time notices him. He has already exhibited, as early as 1898, at the Salon des Artistes Français. At the very beginning of the XXth century, he draws the attention of RODIN, who, stopping in front of Pauline’s bust, is said to have uttered « this one is for the fines gueules». Rodin will hire Despiau as a practitioner, which will improve financially the daily life of the couple.

However, Despiau has a strong character, is against any form of compromise and he warns Rodin hat he is willing to cut the stone for him, but according to his own sensibility, his own feeling: no slavish copying. Rodin accepts, understanding that he has discovered a true artist who is to become a master in his art. It is the point here to refute a legend: Despiau has never been Rodin’s pupil, but a practitioner, a mere assistant, determined to preserve his own personal vision of art.

paulette-(bronze).jpgA part from the work for Rodin (Mme ELISSEIEF, GABRITCHEVSKI, then the GENIE du REPOS ETERNEL), a few commissions come in but that does not bring in a sensible financial improvement. They just allow him to abandon colouring postcards, and to move in 1906 from the Boulevard des Batignolles where he lives with Marie to Villa Corot, where he rents his first studio. No comfort, certainly, but at least to live Villa Corot means having a good-natured artist’s life among other artists. Moreover, at the time, Villa Corot is like the countryside, where animals live freely, running around the courtyards and paths as well as in the studios. When Rodin entrusts him with the carving in marble of his GENIE du Repos Eternel, then intended for the monument commemorative of the painter PUVIS DE CHAVANNES, Rodin has to take up the cost of renting a second studio Villa Corot so that Despiau can carry out his job: the GENIE is monumental. Despiau, in fact, has never worked on Rodin’s premises, as most of his practitioners did. But he was friendly with these, many of whom were part of the « Bande à Schnegg », a group of sculptors who did not particularly engender melancholy.

The 1914 – 1918 war starts. Mobilized, Despiau must abandon his work, the clays he was modeling and which Marie will try to keep humidified as long as possible so that they do not decay, and also Rodin’s GENIE. He is drafted into the camouflage unit where, after his hours of duty, he continues to model, and above all, he creates friendly ties with other artists, faithful and long- standing friendships which will last long after the war.

Finally demobilized at the end of this terrible war, he can verify, Villa Corot, the damages on the works he had started before the war. Even though Marie had been dampening them regularly, most of the clays are broken, and the marble of the GENIE he was cutting for Rodin has remained unfinished.

Rodin who had donated his works to the State, had died in 1917. The Commissaries in charge of Rodin’s work ask Despiau to terminate the carving of the GENIE. Despiau refuses: the Master is no longer there to supervise its course or decide an eventual modification of his work as carved in the marble.

1919-1927, first successes

Financially, a difficult period starts again. Indeed, appraisal of his work is there. It is confirmed. Indeed, a few works, certain of which important, are commissioned, like CIRCE (1912) and the monument to ARISTOBULO DEL VALLEE (1914) for Buenos-Aires in Argentina; the MONUMENT TO THE DEAD of Mont-de-Marsan (1920) and LA FAUNESSE (1925) of Saint-Nazaire; several commissions for portraits: Mme de BOISDEFFRE, around 1920; Mme ZUNZ (1921); ZIZOU, daughter of the art historian Elie FAURE (1924); various tablets LE FAUNE (1912), LEDA ET LE CYGNE (1917), les HEURES CLAIRES and IDYLLE COMIQUE (1921) all these merely permit him to survive. Commercial success has not come. He continues making portraits for himself, having his friends sit for him, like JEAN WEILL (started in 1914); CRA-CRA (Melle Mouveau, 1917); Mme DERAIN (1922); NENETTE (Melle Wernert, 1923); Mme LEOPOLD-LEVY (1923); Mme FRIESZ (1924)… Several figures also: SUZANNE (1920), l’ATHLETE AU REPOS (1923), le NU ASSIS (also called LE PRINTEMPS, 1923).

Despiau no longer exhibits in the Salon only. He also holds exhibitions in galleries (has a contract with galerie BARBAZANGES), where amateurs admire also his drawings. Despiau is a great draftsman. He relaxes in drawing, and the art lover will immediately recognize the rare steadiness of his hand, evidencing his sensibility and his talent. 1 500, 2 000 drawings, more? No one knows exactly. No day passed when he did not draw, one model, or another: a diversion… Drawing is his second passion, a passion in which he excels – in which he always excelled, from his school days – strong, realistic. Preparatory drawings for sculpture? We are inclined to say no. It is true that Despiau, totally absorbed by the model he was working on, sketched that model. However, we believe that when we identify the model of a drawing as that of a sculpture, we must conclude that Despiau was so inhabited by his model that he could draw no one else. It is therefore an extension, a unique inspiration which leads him to transpose in another technique, the object of his current concern. We can observe that Despiau has always worked directly with his model. His quest for perfection was endless (he would get up during the night…) and long. Reworked with a pellet here and there, the clays he modelled were never definitive; when moulded in plaster, he would correct them with plastiline before sending the final plaster to be casted in bronze. Certain models sat for two or three years before Despiau considered their bust or portrait achieved. Even then, worse than any experienced art critic, he would still find something to reprove.

As an example of his perfectionism, let us consider the portrait of PRINCESSE MURAT: her hairdo, should the parting be on the left or on the right? Dilemma. Both versions exist, and for any eye other than Despiau’s, there is no difference. His anxiety over the meanest detail is enormous… One does not feel this anxiety in the drawings, executed with a steady hand, without any hesitation, promptly and masterfully achieved. The result is an important number of drawings which we feel it will never be possible to realize an exhaustive catalogue.

Now let us follow the dates, as they are our historical points of reference: in 1923, Despiau is founder-member of the Salon des Tuileries, with sculptors whose names are still famous today, or sometimes have been forgotten by the public: MAILLOL (a museum in Paris, founded by Dina VIERNY), WLERICK (who shares the Mont-de-Marsan Museum with Despiau), BOURDELLE (a museum in Paris, founded by his daughter, DEJEAN, DRIVIER, BOUCHARD (a museum in Paris, founded by his son), among others. He was made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur on October 20, 1911, then Officer, on May 19, 1926, and subsequently Commandeur, on July 30, 1936. Among other decorations he received in the course of his career: June 23, 1934, nomination as Officer of the Order of Leopold III, King of Belgium; nomination as member of the Academie des Beaux-Arts of Stockholm (Sweden) on April 27, 1936.

In 1923, Despiau is 49 years old, and fame is still not round the corner, even though he has been fully recognized by the specialists. He is a kind of a « drudger » of sculpture who progressively moves up, perfectly acknowledged by his equals, appreciated by the critics and by certain clever art collectors (who still exist today, in 2005), but unknown to the public at large, whose appreciation does not interest him. He actually does not seek approval from anyone. He must have been happy of being professionally recognized, but he does not look for anything else, does not dream of fame. He lives modestly, but his passion is all his life. What more to ask?

The support of his audience by enthusiastic art critics enables him to exhibit abroad, in Prague and Stockholm. In 1923, EVE, exhibited at the Salon, in Paris, brings him praise and attention. In 1924, an article published in the United States by FORBES WATSON brings him, for the first time, to the attention of the Americans. He is also particularly noticed at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs, in 1925. Little by little, he becomes known in the international art world.

1927-1939, the years of fame

It is in 1927, in New York, that fame, and commissions, really come. His first personal exhibition is organized in the gallery of JOSEPH BRUMMER. Everything is sold. Commissions literally flow in. FRANK CROWNINSHIELD, owner of the famous magazine VANITY FAIR, became the most important collector of Charles Despiau’s works in U.S.A. (his collection were sold by him in two public auctions at PARKE-BERNET, New York, in 1943 and 1948). The American press is laudatory, enthusiastic, the word is not too weak. So much, that France will finally realize it and offer him at last, progressively, the fame he deserves.

As the true son of a modest family – let us be practical – Despiau who has finally come into some money, acquires a piece of land rue Brillat-Savarin, not far from Villa Corot, and has a studio built there, which will also be his home. He does not need a monumental studio (4.5 meters high in largely enough – one 60 square meters studio, another 30 square meters one). His figures even when they are later enlarged, or his portraits, do not require a lot of space.

For little history sake, let us say that the studios in Villa Corot, inhabited successively by artists, craftsmen, artists again, were perpetually under the menace of expulsion. Which expulsion finally took place in year 2000! Despiau had plenty of time to move out! Despiau buys a car. He does not like to drive, so he hires a chauffeur, who also serves as handyman. Raymond often drives him to the Landes province where he regularly goes hunting – another life-long passion. He finally buys a house on the lake of Hossegor, adjoins a studio to it, and enjoys regular stays, drawing a lot, landscapes, among others.

There is no change whatsoever in Despiau’s personal life. He faces praise and money in the same way he had endured the difficult days of the past. Only art is important for him: an obsessive passion which obnubilates his whole existence. He lives only for it, regardless of anything else.

In 1927, when renown finally arrives from the United States, Despiau is 53 years old. In general, at that age, a career is already well advanced. For Despiau, it is the age of professional recognition, a real start, which will allow him to live comfortably with Marie until his death and to honour all the commissions of prestigious portraits for which his models accepted long delays of execution, incredibly long hours of sittings: DOMINIQUE JEANNES (1925); Mme HODEBERT (1927); Mme HENRAUX (1927); Mme STONE (two versions, 1926 and 1927).

After that exhibition in Brummer’s gallery, Despiau will never more live in poverty. And he will impose his style, being sometimes considered the « leader » of Independent Art. Despiau is approached for honours. He accepts them, as he will always welcome any young artist to whom he never will be able to say he is going the wrong way, or is a bad sculptor. For him, their enthusiasm is good enough as a passport. Technique, hard work, craftsmanship contribute to the permanent evolution of each sculptor, to this research. He is ready to give counsel, untiringly, but he will always be respectful of everyone’s art. Numerous are those who consider themselves as Despiau’s pupils because they met him, discussed with him about sculpture. But while Despiau knew how to show, he had problems communicating about his art, even more, criticizing. Despiau has never had pupils. He was too modest to think that he held the truth and everyone had to find his place by himself. He accepted a professorship at the Ecole Scandinave de Paris (1927) but the experience did not last. He turned down Kemal Atatürk’s invitation to take the direction of the School of Fine-Arts of Istanbul (1930). He is not made for these jobs.

In 1930, Léon DESHAIRS, eminent art critic, publishes a book on Charles Despiau and his works, a kind of Catalogue raisonné in anticipation. It has been the only one published so far.

Personal exhibitions, retrospectives, follow one another.

In 1937, he will lend 52 sculptures for the International Exhibition at the Petit Palais in Paris, nearly as many as MAILLOL: this is a French consecration of his talent. He is 63, and it is not too early for such recognition. But remember, Rodin has not been treated much better, as he was obstinately stepping out of the path of academism. His talent was being refuted by the academicists on the accusation that he made his moulds directly on living bodies. And now, in 2005, the reputation and admiration for Rodin’s work are undying! This is very positive, it is the recognition of what a real Master of sculpture brought to a century which artistic values are still recognized.

After the Brummer exhibition there are more and more approaches for commissions. We will have the model of the ADOLESCENTE (started in 1927) deriving from SUZANNE, literally « sliced ». With or without legs. Without arms, nor head, without arm, with no legs, or the head alone. Example of division, familiar to many sculptors, which give us, here, remarkable sculptures. And the requests for portraits are unending.

Despiau’s number of sculptures consists of little more than 150 models. That is not a great number, considering his long career and the numerous of sketches and drawings he produced, by far the most numerous works he realized, as of course a drawing takes a short time to be made, compared to the sculpture. We have the portraits of MARIA LANI (two versions, 1929); Mme MEYER (1929); MAUD CHESTER DALE (1931); Mme POMARET (two versions, 1934); PRINCESSE MURAT (1932); Mme FONTAINE (1933); Mme DAVID-WEILL (1934); JACQUES ROUCHE, director o the Paris Opéra (1936) and many others. The great-seated figure of LE REALISATEUR, intended for the tomb of the Luxemburg industrialist, MAYRISCH. Despiau is then in fashion, and the grands bourgeois want to have their portraits made by him. Of course, he will also work with professional models: the bust of ODETTE (1934); ODETTE SEATED (1935), who will later become the main figure of the MONUMENT TO GEORGES LEYGUE, in Villeneuve-sur-Lot (cast in 1950); ASSIA, one of his best know sculptures. He holds an important position in the art world, and in the contemporary press and literature he is one of the « holy trilogy ’: Maillol, Bourdelle and Despiau.

Apart from the sculptures shown in the Petit Palais for the 1937 International Exhibition, Despiau has received an order for an APOLLON, more than 5 meters high, to be cast in bronze, which was to stand on the Museum of Modern Art front. An important commission. But Despiau was incapable of complying with the time constraints, and preferred not to deliver rather than delivering to promptly for his taste. He worked on APOLLON until he died, in 1946- ten years – always considering it unachieved. A cast was made after his death: would Despiau have approved it? No one knows, even though some critics consider it to be his « artistic will ».

1939-1946, Second world war, the dark years

During the war period, Despiau made few portraits: Mme LINDBERGH (1939); the painter DUNOYER DE SEGONZAC (1939); GISELE GERARD (1939 – 1942); Mme JANNINCK, also named LA SUISSESSE (1941); Docteur DEBAT, of the Debat Laboratory (1942 – 1944); EDOUARD POURTALE and CLOTAIRE BOUDY (1943).

He is 65 in 1939, when the Second World War breaks out. He will not be drafted, of course. He now has the reputation of a great sculptor which will lead to pressing requests and what will be judged, after the war, as dubious compromissions.

Since 1935, he has fallen in love with his cousin-in-law, Odette, who sits for him. Apart from her portrait and sculpted figures, he made magnificent drawings of her. Odette’s power – we can no longer call it influence – is very strong. She sees in the elderly man, sometimes irascible, but shy, an opportunity to gain some wealth, or at least, to settle. And she works at it. She is young, good looking. Marie, more or less the same age as her husband, cannot compete. During the war, Odette not only is the mistress of Despiau who is very jealous but cannot do anything about it, but she also has relationships with the occupation army.

At the same period, Arno BREKER who had come to Paris as a very young sculptor some twenty years before to seek advice from Despiau and who has now become the Reich official sculptor, arrives in Paris and visits Despiau dressed in his German army uniform. He is requested, if he comes back, to be in civilian clothes, and conscious of the problem, he will afterwards visit all his other French friends in civilian clothes. Mme Breker proposes to Marie the coal which is lacking to heat the studio, as everywhere else, so that Despiau can continue to work: an adamant refusal is the answer. The 1914 – 1918 war and slaughter, the deep-rooted hate of the German army are not so far to be forgotten. Breker’s uniform and official car have not passed unnoticed and swastikas blossom on the studio’s wall and the garage of rue Brillat-Savarin. They are just wiped out. The Despiau couple continues to have as little coal as all other Parisians, receiving no special advantages. Work has become difficult in these icy studios.

But let us get back to the Breker case; Arno Breker had been part of the Montparnasse crowd in the twenties, had met many artists, associated with the best sculptors of the time. He declares himself « Parisian by adoption » and it is in Paris that he wants to make a career, hoping to become a new Rodin. He will never succeed, considered by his peers « an honest craftsman, a toiler without surprise, a limited technician ». Unsuccessful in Paris, he returns to Germany in the thirties. There, luckily for his professional career, he will establish a very close friendship with ALBERT SPEER, an architect with no commission, entrusted with Berlin’s renovation and other projects by Hitler, himself a failed painter, who will be attracted by Monumental-the-monumental. His German studio will have up to 120 practitioners. When Breker comes back to Paris, with the German army, it is natural for him to go and visit the elders, Maillol, Despiau… What will follow will be the object of a lot of talk.

Breker will be judged at the Nuremberg trials. He will be sentenced to a 100 marks fine and will never be bothered again. Neverless, the monumental period is over. He will specialize in portraits, and much appraised.

In 1941, under Philippe Pétain’s regime, Despiau is approached to enter the Academie. This is not the first time, but that year, he agrees to apply. Some have said, in support of this application, that he considered that the French artists should get together, at that point in time, in a kind of « sacred union ». We have a doubt about this interpretation. Anyhow, his candidature was rejected, and he never applied again. It is also said that in fact, he was happy not to be « part of it ».

Unfortunately, as Despiau still sees no problem with it, he continues to see Breker. Innocently, he will compromise himself by participating in a trip of French artists to Germany, organized by the German government and essentially by Arno Breker. Many photographs testify it. At this time Despiau is very friendly with the sculptor PAUL BELMONDO (also invited to this prestigious trip), apparently Vice-President of the Plastic Arts Section of the group « Collaboration », together with BOUCHARD and FRIESZ. They will all frantically deny these vice-presidencies, inscribed, they say, without their knowing – which is quite possible, considering the methods of the time. For example, in May 1942, GEORGES GRAPPE had organized a reception for Breker at the Musée Rodin. Whether they had gone or not, all those who were named on the invitation list, were considered present – which created some problems for them after the war (now, prove that one was there or not…?). Despiau believes – and this is his great and unforgivable mistake – that an artist lives detached from everything except his Art (and he is not the only one), an Art which sets him apart from everything.

He and the others also firmly believe in Hitler’s promise to liberate a number of war prisoners, sculptors and practitioners, as a counterpart of this French artists trip (a copy of correspondence, kept in Despiau’s archives, mentions this promise. A same copy is to be found in LANDOWKI’s archives). The trip is a triumph, and widely reported in the press of the time. It is said about DERAIN, who appears on none of the photographs of the official visit to Breker’s studio, which is surprising as he had to be present like all the others (except for Maillol who fell ill just before the departure) – that he told « I was hidden behind the horse’s balls » (Claude RAPHAEL-LEYGUES, in « voyage à contre-courant », Albin-Michel, 1978, page 145). The results of the trip are practically non-existent: only a few prisoners are freed, but when Landowski questions the German embassy, he is told that the liberations have been stopped after Général Giraud’s evasion – And it will be the end of it. The list established by the Salon d’Automne (Dunoyer de Segonzac), the Salon des Indépendants (Derain), Les Artistes Français (Bouchard), the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (Landowski), before the departure, testify of the good faith of the artists who made the trip. We can guess that if a large number of French artists, prisoners of war had been liberated, there would have been no attacks against the artists who had participated in the trip.

Despiau will also be present at the Orangerie des Tuileries for the opening of the great Arno Breker exhibition. Many other sculptors also attend, among them Maillol who could not get away with it that time. Arno Breker has been able to obtain the liberation of DINA VIERNY, a Jew, also considered a communist – a heavy combination for that period – so Maillol must obviously thank Breker by being there. Despiau will lend his name, by signing it, to a book illustrated with Arno Breker’s works, published by Flammarion. The book was probably written by JEAN-MARC CAMPAGNE (but he denied it). Despiau cannot be the author: he reads very little (his library is incredibly poor), never writes. When he has to convoque a model for a sitting session, the note is written by his wife.

To make it short, Despiau did everything to be denounced as a « collaborateur » at the Liberation, not by French justice, but by a committee of artists of which the Secretary-general is the painter FOUGERON. Claude Raphaël-Leygues (op. cit., pages 145 – 146) reports that the engraver DARAGNES had said that the young painters, members of this committee « had no merit for not having made it (the trip) as none of them had been invited ». The comment is sharp. That same Committee which pronounces « interdictions to exhibit and to create » (!) will never be followed by anyone, be it the Salon d’Automne and even less by a Tribunal.

The influences are clear: Despiau was never interested in politics, which fact prevented him from receiving State commissions; there was Odette and her German acquaintances; there was Arno Breker. And there were the old times friends who committed the same blunders: a good cocktail for an unconsciousness largely shared by so many other well-known artists.

Let us add that, if in 1914 the soldiers left lighteartedly for the front, it was quite different in 1939. The atmosphere was catastrophic. No one wanted to fight. Everybody would have wanted things to sort out by themselves, hence the success of Daladier coming back to France after having shamefully negotiated with Hitler. With Philippe Pétain the « Victor of Verdun » (and for that reason he has the French people’s confidence), started an age of progressive collaboration, whereby the majority of the country’s population thought it would preserve its daily life in peace, forgetting the values of the shaken Republic (were they really aware of it at the time?).

If we went to emit a judgement, we must remain in the context of these years. Resistance took time to establish itself, even if de GAULLE had foreseen the realities before anybody else (he himself was only recognized at a later date by the Allies). The French communists remained neutral for a certain time, respecting the Germano-Sovietic Treaty. They went into the Resistance only after this Treaty had been broken by the Soviet Union. The extent of Hitler and his allies’ crimes will be discovered only after the Liberation, and only the political and resistance concentration camps prisoners will be spoken of. For the Jews, the Gypsies, the blacks, it will take more time…

As far as a certain category of French artists – or artists living in France like Picasso, are concerned, communists (the black sheep of the occupation army, Picasso becomes member of the party in October 1944) or not, these were quickly stigmatized by the occupant, who qualified their art as « degenerated Art ». A form of Art against which Germany launched press campaigns and depreciatory exhibitions aimed at an ignorant mass public at the antipodes of any artistic research, and particularly receptive to any kind of propaganda.

Despiau was totally out of this context and never exhibited nor sold in Germany at that time. He continued to be shown and sold in the non-belligerent countries. He did not exhibit more than usual in the Salon or his usual gallery. He worked little during the war, and sold little in France. There were other preoccupations and everybody suffered from the cold, the lack of food, the occupation army. Despiau relinquished his car. There was no petrol.

Despiau dies in 1946, shortly after the Liberation. He had a generalized cancer, which last phase was a mortal pneumonia. He did not die of grief, as one can sometimes read. He was very sensitive, what had happened was for him a tragedy and some friends saw him crying in desperation. What was reproached to him, the « interdiction to exhibit and create » even though illegal, pronounced against him by a committee of artists mostly settling their own personal quarrels, had indeed something to do with his rapid death. Nevertheless everybody knew the outcome of his illness, the end to come. But this man, famous, unanimously respected during all his life, felt himself racing down in people’s estimation, to inspiring hate to others. It was impossible for him to face it, and he had no will to fight. He died very thin, desiccated, on October 28, 1946.

1947 - , the after-Despiau, an unusual artist's will

In the archives of Charles Despiau’s Atelier, there is his last testament and a document which the couple JACQUART, owners of the GALERIE DE L’ESSOR, his last marchands and joint will-executors, had Odette sign. She abandoned all claims to Charles Despiau’s inheritance (the artist’s handwritten will dated back to 1942, and the letter of donation to Odette to April 1946). She was giving back the letter giving her rights on the inheritance (which rights, no one knows). The letter was destroyed against an important amount, in cash. The scandal, such as a possible succession lawsuit, was thus avoided.

Some people write that Despiau, who started his career in poverty, terminated it in poverty. This is untrue, even if the allegation sounds romantic (« cursed painter », « cursed sculptor »). When the « interdiction to create » came out, the exhibitions continued, as well as the sales. As far as the interdiction to create was concerned, he was far too ill to really work and he had largely enough to live on.

Let us return to the main points of Charles Despiau’s will which is kept in the Archives of the Atelier, together with that of Marie, his wife. This will is interesting, because it is most unusual, considering its most important clauses. Despiau entrusted to his last marchands, Mr. and Mrs. Jacquart « the most extended powers with regard to my work », including the task to follow that work and authorize or forbid any future casts of the sculptures. Marie was thus exempt from any responsibility or work, just collecting the gains of sales and publications. And that was sound, as she was not to become an art dealer overnight… At her death, in 1960, nothing changes: she confirms the terms of Despiau’s will, even though it is unnecessary as they are outside her province, nor her responsibility. However, this confirmation shows that she is in complete agreement with her husband as to the arrangements made in his will. Marie appoints the Jacquart to be her own executors: she bequeathed her husband’s sculptures remaining in the studio to the Musée National d’Art Moderne (more than 250). As of 1949, she had made donations to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, to family members and friends and also to the Association des Amis de Despiau et de Wlérick, which will permit the creation of the Musée Despiau-Wlérick in Mont-de-Marsan, hometown of both sculptors.

The Jacquart are old, and no other casts will ever be made, except for those requested by the Museum of Mont-de-Marsan, made from plasters lent by the MNAM, with Mrs Jacquart’s authorization. A cast of the Museum has been noted in a catalogue (Museum of Mont-de-Marsan) as having been authorized by the TESTEMALE (brother and sister, children of the Despiau’s close friends). These were sole legatees of Marie Despiau – but of Marie only, who, one has to remember, has no rights on Despiau’s work. Therefore, the cast is illegal, since they have no right whatsoever on Despiau’s work, this right always and uniquely belonging to the Jacquart.

The rue Brillat Savarin studio goes to Marie's cousin, Marcelle-Blanche Kotlar. She inherits what the French law calls the "objets meublants", i.e. the moveable items in the house, among which the original plaster (definitive version, as there are several plasters) of the GENIE DU REPOS ETERNEL, given by Rodin to Despiau and carefully preserved. Cleaned and restored, this plaster recently donated by Mr. Alain Kotlar, now figures in the collection of plasters of the Musée Rodin in Meudon (original bronze casts are under way at the Atelier Despiau). Marie had sold the house in Hossegor in her lifetime.

With regard to the publications on which Marie, Charles' heir, and according to his will, collected dividends, these go to the Testemale, her legatees. They are Marie's legatees, not Charles, and they have, we repeat, no right on his work, whether sculptures or drawings, as Despiau had disposed of his work otherwise (a case of an exceptional artist's will).

The financial follow up rights on the sales of works collected by the ADAGP go to Despiau's family by blood. After a genealogical research, these go to his cousins, Caussin, the five last descendants by blood of the artist (third degree cousins by Charles' mother, born Caussin) who had no direct descendance.

Thus, a percentage on all the sales of works by Despiau goes to the Caussin, while a percentage on the publications, inherited from Marie, goes to the Testemale.

With Mrs Jacquart's death, in 1985, there would be no heirs to the rights of casting and supervising (moral rights) of Despiau's works, which would have allowed anybody to do or also sell whatever they wanted. As early as 1978, according to her wish, and in writing, she transmitted these moral rights ("I pass on to him the totality of my powers…") to Mr. Alain Kotlar who committed himself to control Despiau’s work after her death and to gather all the elements of a Catalogue Raisonné of the sculpted works of Charles Despiau. In 1997, Alain Kotlar inherits Charles Despiau’s Atelier and archives from his mother Marcelle Blanche Kotlar, artist-painter herself, as well as her husband, Benjamin.

Today, Mr. Alain Kotlar, Expert U.F.E. (Union Française des Experts), for Charles Despiau’s work, cousin in law of Charles Despiau, can pride himself with being his most important private collector. In the course of the years, he has bought back sculptures – plasters and bronzes – as well as drawings.

The existing archives, together with a very thorough documentation work permit today the final drafting of a Catalogue Raisonné of the sculpted work. Its publication is foreseen within two years, as well as eventual exhibitions of sculptures and drawings. Their ineffable charm and undeniable skill will be able to reconquer a public larger than today’s public, limited but jealous of its passion, of art collectors and professionals.

Paris, Atelier Charles Despiau – February 2005