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Mathurin Méheut, 1914-1918

Patrick and Elisabeth Jude

On 2 August 1914, a deadly day for the European continent, Breton painter Mathurin Méheut (1882-1958) was enjoying a lovely stay in Japan, through a scholarship from the Albert Kahn foundation. He cannot imagine being a deserter, and heads back to France to join his regiment, at Saint-Lô. He is assigned to the map service, and spent four years as close as possible to the massacre, on some of the most deadly battle fields of that war, from Artois to Argonne, from the Somme region to Flanders. On 8 December 1914, he received a true Christmas present, a box of watercolours: it helped him sketch the unspeakable, the bodies, the towns in ruins such as Arras, the trenches and the trials at using gas masks, the barracks under the snow and the downed planes. But he also reproduces the flowers which ignore the bombs, the dragonflies and the flies, the animals fleeing the abandoned farms … Méheut’s work has been compared to that of Otto Dix, though it is less unbearable but it is close to the descriptions by Ernst Jünger and Maurice Genevoix, other witnesses of the great tragedy we commemorate this year of its one hundredth anniversary.

Mathurin Méheut, 1914-1918, by Patrick and Elisabeth Jude, Ouest France, 144 p., €25.

Mathurin Méheut, 1914-1918 - Patrick and Elisabeth Jude

Review published in the newsletter #346 - from 15 May 2014 to 21 May 2014

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