Waterhouse and Dodd is pleased to feature the late Georges Folmer as our Artist of the Month for March 2021. It has been our privilege to represent the artist’s estate since 2006, and to work alongside the artist’s daughter Catherine Santoni-Folmer promoting his works and exhibiting them around the world.
After the Great War and a period spent as a costume designer, Folmer’s career as a painter progressed with a remarkable sense of certainty as he experimented with complex ideas and pushed his art into new and challenging areas. In the 1920s his works bore the influence of Synthetic Cubism, as he pulled apart figures and natural forms and reassembled them into pleasing spatial arrangements. Over the next decade these works gradually became more purely abstract, losing their associations with the natural world as they became more dependent upon pure geometry. From the 1940s onwards, his works were underpinned by his research into pure mathematics and ancient and contemporary theories of geometry, but they retained a delicacy and a lightness of touch, and often a playfulness as abstract forms touch and collide or stay tantalisingly apart within an artificially suggested perspective. Folmer remained a devoted Constructivist to the end of his life, championing its principals through his work with the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles – he was described by Michel Seuphor in ‘L’Oeil’ as “one of the moral pillars of the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles” - and with the Groupe Espace and the Groupe Mesure that he founded in 1961.
Folmer’s experiments with new materials were often simply the result of shortages. Thus during the 1940s, with a lack of oil paints but the ready availability of printing inks from a neighbour, he set about inventing new ways of painting, creating an array of hand-made rollers tools for applying the inks to paper. At about the same time, when seeking to express his ideas in 3-dimensions, he went scavenging for pieces of wood, mainly splintered railway sleepers, that littered the wasteland that is now the Péripherique. These he would shape and paint and then assemble into abstract forms, creating some of the earliest ‘assemblages’ of the 20th century. Later, in the 1960s, Folmer sought to bring movement to his art through his experiments in kinetic art, creating a series of ‘roto-peintures’ with painted elements that could be turned or twisted to change the composition.
Interior of Georges Folmer's studio, circa 1960.
There were a number of museum shows of his works during his own lifetime, and when he died his daughter was entrusted with the task of continuing that work. As a result since 1977 there have been a dozen museum exhibitions devoted to his art, with as many museums and public collections buying examples for their permanent collections. Five years ago a 300+ page catalogue raisonné of his work was published, with both French and English editions, and the art historian Lydia Harambourg is now writing a shorter illustrated monograph on Folmer for publication within the next year.
The catalogue for our latest exhibition of Folmer’s works - Il n’y a pas de hasard en Art / There is no random chance in art - can be downloaded HERE.
Works by Georges Folmer shown at Waterhouse & Dodd London, 16 Savile Row, March 2021.