Paris Cimetière Père-Lachaise

Gouache and Drawing Ink 335 x 425mm

On the very last day of July 1970, a young French woman stood waiting for a late evening boat-train at St Lazare in Paris. This would connect her with the midnight sailing from Dieppe where she would take passage to a new life in England. Dressed in faded blue Levi’s and a French Navy surplus pea-coat, the rest of her belongings had been left in the Customs Hall to be sent on by Registered Baggage. Supper that evening at home had been eaten in stony silence; no one from her household would come the short distance to the station on that momentous evening to see her off.

How would she get on in England? She had left school at 14 with no more than an Elementary School Certificate followed by an apprenticeship she was forced to abandon. Moreover, she knew little of English culture and still less of its language. Yet, packed neatly away in a battered old steamer trunk was evidence of a talent which had been regarded as no more than a Sunday afternoon amusement. Since she was a little girl Claudine had always excelled at painting and drawing.

This richly illustrated website tells the story of how her painterly Old Master style was abandoned in favour of illustration and graphic design; how this was then, against all the odds, turned into a professional career. And how in a role reversal the French Modernist painter, Fernand Léger, would later become her muse leading to a synthesis of paint and pen. From this would evolve a fresh and remarkable graphic language including a less conventional approach to composition. In an affectionate celebration of British custom and practise, portraits, genre pieces of ordinary working men and women, still-lifes and landscapes are produced in equal measure. The story ends with a series of pictures remembering her home town, Paris.

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