Guy Montis

GUY MONTIS, French Artist (1918-1976)

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L’atelier-1971

It is on September 18th 1918 that Guy Montis was born in the town of Plonsk in the suburb of Warsow in Poland.

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Guy Montis

His real name was Joseph Tysz.

Childhood

Jankiel Tysk, le père. His Father, Jankiel, is a cobbler and his mother, Sura, takes care of her five children, Esther (Hélène), Chaim ‘(Maurice), Joseph, Ita (Ginette) et Riwka (Raymonde).

Joseph is six year old when the Tysz family leaves Poland. After a few weeks of transition through Germany, they arrive in France , in april 1924.

In Paris, the family settles in a small appartment in the 11th district of Paris, at 154 rue Oberkampf. At home, the parents speak only polish and Yiddish. The children learn French at school.

Jankel, the father, work at home while waiting to be able to open his own workshop.

In 1928-29 Marcel, then Simon the last two Tysz children were born.

Around the age of 10, Joseph shows a strong interest for painting and drawing. In 1930 he refuses to wear a uniform and wants to be completely commited to drawing, he leaves the professional school where his father has enrolled him.

Joseph then starts taking night classes in drawing and cobbling, boulevard de Belleville. Cavaillon, his instructor, encourge him to pursue his vocation. During the day, he works as a cabinet maker, a tapestry maker, metal engraver, four season salesman, newspapers salesperson.

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Theater’s Years

In 1933 Joseph Tysz starts building theater sets under the direction of Sylvain Itkine and O’Brady , the directors of the group Mars, a theater group inspired by the group Octobre, among which the to be famous singer Francis Lemarque .

Circa 1935, Joseph starts to work for Pelegry ( one of the greatest art directors for Théâter in Paris.There he meets Claude Dauphin , who also work as a set decorator.

In 1936 he funds along with Claude Dauphin, the group “Le Masque”. A little later, they create together the Théâtre de l’Arbre Sec, a floor theater, located in the rue de l’arbre sec. They start along with Henry Guisol and other actors the “Troupe de l’Arbre Sec”.

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Au « Théâtre de l’Arbre Sec ». Au premier rang, à droite, Claude Dauphin, au second rang, à gauche, Joseph Tysz.

It’s at this time that Joseph Tysz considers seriously to become an actor. But he is way too shy and his fear forces him to run around the block several times before he can get on stage. He’ll give up acting. Nevertheless, his whole life will remain marked by his deep friendship with actors, particularly with Claude Dauphin and Henri Guisol.

En 1939, Joseph Tysz expose pour la première fois au Salon des Indépendants. Ses toiles d'alors sont signées sous le nom de Tysz ; se seront les seules à l'être. In 1937, Joseph becomes art director of the “Théâtre des Arts” (that has changed its name since then for Théatre Hébertot) then ran by Gaston Baty. He designes and builds sets during the day at Pelegry and works in the theâter at night. He uses his free time, mainly lunch time, to climb on the roof of Pelegry and paints. He starts exhibiting his painting a the” Téâtre des Arts”.

In 1939, Joseph Tysz exhibits for the first time at the Salon des Indépendants. His paintings are signed under the name Tysz. They are the only one signed under that name.

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War’s Years

Jankiel Tisz entre ses deux fils Jankiel, Guy’s father, cannot obtain the Frenh Citizenship. Since he left schol very early, he can neither write nor read. That constitutes a strong barriere to his citizenship. In 1939 he joins the foreign legion and ends up affected to the DCA in Paris. Thanks to that he final acquires the French citizenship. Joseph also wants to join the forces. But it takes time and it won’t happen before 1940. Pierre Renoir

In june 1940, Paris is occupied. Joseph and his brother in law Maurice Sobol, the husband of his older sister Hélène, are called to the Gymnase Japy to be questionned” as people used to say back then.

Joseph does not trust the autorities. He tels his brother in law and tells him to leave also. But his broather in law, who was injured during the Narvik battle thinks that nothing can happen to him. He does not follow Joseph, who just removes his tie and gets out, through the front gate. Guy Montis et Eliza Renoir

Maurice is sent to a concentration camp , at Beaune-La-Rolande, from there he’s deported to another camp in Germany. He will never come back…

AT the beginning of the German occupation of France, Joseph stays at PIERRE RENOIR’s . place. He’s met the actor, son of the famous impresionist JEAN RENOIR, through the intermediary of his wife, actress Elisa Ruiz, of whom he has painted a protrait. He joines Blondel with the communist youths. They both do activiteies against the Germans ( they put posters on the walls etc.)One night, they are discovered by the german soldiers. Joseph is able to escape, but Blondel is injured, and he cannot run. He his caught by the police and executed.

The Tysz Family, as every jewish family at the time is being asked to present themselves at the police station in order to receive the yellow star and to present their I.D. so that a stamp “JEW” can be stamped on it, Joseph puts paraphine on his I.D.. He can then scrape the stamp away. He offers his father to do so ? But Jankiel, a patriot, refuses.

Later, in a Pigalle cabaret, where many German soldiers… Joseph Tysz makes a provoking joke toward the soldiers. A fight starts. He is thrown out of the place. After the incident, Pierre Renoir tells Joseph that it is time for him to escape to the free zone.

He offers him to go at PIERRE BONNARD’s but the idea of staying with the master intimidates the young artist. The actor offers him then to go to Capitain Lestringuez, one of his friends in the area of Collioure.

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Collioure

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Free zone, first contacts with Provence

Montis dans la region de Collioure In 1941, Joseph leaves the house of the capitain, in order to live with the owners of a hotel-restaurant in Collioure. There he dedicate himself to painting and starts painting different subject from the ones he used to paint in Paris.

Joseph is then hosted at LA NOUVELLE, near Narbonne, at friends Wine makers. There he stays for a year and then leaves to Saint Rémy and Les Baux-de-Provence. This is where he will discover the paysages from PROVENCE that will inspire him for the years to come.

His refusal of the German autority hasn’t grown smaller. On the contrary, in the Baux-de-Provence, he starts some actions again the occupying forces, along with George Wilkinson, the American Donald Purnslow, a certain Carmen and the one who would dbecome Mayor of Les Beaux de Provence after the war, Pierre Vayssière.

A gendarme, involved in the French Resistance warns Joseph, George and Donald that they are on the way to be arrested any minute. They have to run away from le Baux.

In 1942, in Marseille, Joseph gets in touch with a benedictine monk who helps Jews run away to Italy. For them, the artist, under the identity of Wilkinson, makes fake papers. But meanwhile, his sister raymonde and his sister in law Marie are arrested.

Jospeh and Maurice go to Vichy whcih is then the French Capital. They go to the prefecture, with fake I.D.s in roder to ask for the liberation of Marie, Maurice’s wife, who has also been arrested, and Raymonde, as their fiances.

The same year, Joseph exhibits his paintings at the Musée des Augustins in Toulouse.

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Guy Montis, war’s name, artist’s name

When there is no more Free Zone, Joseph decides that if he must be a clandestine, he may as well get colser to his family. Then he returns to Paris. He finds a place to hide, at 18, rue Daunou, near the opera. He name is now GUY MONTIS.

His war name will become his artist name, till the end.

In january 1944, Marie, the artist’s sister in law, is arrested again by the police for using a fake I.D.. She is carrying a letter, that is for Guy, on which the police finds his address. Guy is arrested and thrown in jail at La Santé in Paris, as a political prisoner.

As time went by, his cell turns into a real in jail studio. The other political prisoner become tourmented models, drawn on pieces of paper. Andin August, as the allies troups arrive in Paris, a mutimery happens in the jailhouse. The guards are about to start shooting the prisoners when Guy Montis is able to have them be patient and avoid the killing.

In June already, when he heard about D-Day and the ally invasion in Normandy, Guy Montis had asked his lawyer to manage to delay his trial, and tyhe night before the trial he had smoked a mixture of tobacco and aspirin which gave him a very high fever. Therefore he could go to court and therefore was never sentenced.

Suzanne On August 23, Guy leaves the jail. He’s not in the street yet when goes rue Daunou to see Suzanne, the niece of Marie Lacroix, his lodger. He often had the opportunity to have diner with him before he was arrested. Then he goes immediately in the street of Paris along with the FFI in order to attack German convoys.

On August 25, the Leclerc division enters Paris. A 3 pm they reach the Opera.

On the roof of the German Kommandantur, a sniper aims at the allies troups. Guy Montis is present with Suzanne Marchand, the niece of his lodger. He sees the sniper and points at him trying to warn the soldiers. The German sniper shoots at him. Guy collapses. The bullet has touched the carotide artery. It looks like Guy is not going to survive. Fortunately, a first help man (who is to become the reknown Dr. Meunier) is close by. He makes a garot as they wait for more help. The sniper is shot down. The irony is that Guy and the sniper will be transported within the same ambulance.

An hour later, the German forces in Paris surrender.

In a critical state, Guy Montis is first taken to l’Hotel-Dieu. The place is full. Guy must be transfered to the Hopital St Antoine.

Guy is paralysed from both sides. It lasts for several days. Finaly, its the left size that remains paralysed. Suzanne comes to see him everyday and she takes care of him. When he gets out of the hospital, Guy moves to the rue de la Rochefoucault. He uses a wheelchair.

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After war

On New Years Eve 1945, in order to start the new year, Guy decides that he will walk again. With great efforts, he raises, walks down the stairs, to the street and gets to the Pigalle metro station. From then on, he will walk. In March 1945, he marries Suzanne Marchand. They move in a house, at the 6 passage Lepic. Guy starts painting again and he exhibits for the first time since his accident at the Galerie Jeanne Castel.

During the summer of 1945, Guy et Suzanne move to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. . They remain at the Hotel Ville-Verte, in the very same room where the famous French composer Gounod wrote the opera “Mireille”. But the room is not designed for new born babies and the Montis will use a drawer, set between to chairs as a cradle for their new born baby Alain, born a few days earlier in Chateaurenard.

Monsieur Sylvio In Saint-Rémy, Guy Montis spends a lot of time at the Café des Arts of Monsieur Sylvio. The place will soon become the rendez-vous for all the famous artists based in the south of France. The back room even becomes one of the most famous galeries in Provence.

In 1946, Montis receives the BLUMENTHAL AWARD FOR THE ARTS.

This time, the family decides to spend the summer in les BAUX DE PROVENCE . Then the next year, they live in a sheephouse. At the same time, there is an exhibition of Guys Paintings at the prestigious GALERIE DE L’ELYSEE.

In 1948, Guy Montis sells the house rue Lepic for a handful of gold coins and…worthless unsigned traveler checks.

The Montis family move to Provence and remain for a little while at the Paradou,, a little town in the French Alpilles.

At the PARADOU, at MAUSSANE, at SAINT-REMY, at the BAUX-de-PROVENCE, he befriends a number of other artists : RENE SEYSSAUD, AUGUSTE CHABAUD, PIERRE AMBROGIANI, ANTOINE SERRA

They start the group “PROVENCE ”. The group will be extremely popular in LES BAUX in 1948 in the newly remodeled HOTEL DE MANVILLE.

The same year, Guy Montis receives the “ENCOURAGEMENT ARTISTIQUE” AWARD from THE FRENCH MINISTRY OF EDUCATION.

On October 18 of the following year, Suzanne gives birth to a second son, Claude.

In 1950, Guy paints the protraits of the whole Family of the French millionaire PAUL RICARD. The king of PASTIS hires Guy as permanent staff artist for his company.

Guy Montis then looks for a new place to live in, in Provence. AS he serach near Paradou, he falls in love with a house. RICARD says, “you like it ? Then it’s yours.” Guy calls the place “THE HOUSE OF PEACE”. The Montis family will live in this house during the following ten years.

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Provence years

In 1952, Guy Montis starts drawing for the newspaper LA MARSEILLAISE. He illustrates the highlights of the liberation of Marseille.

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Le Mas de la paix

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la marseillaise

During this period, Guy will exhibit regularly in PROVENCE, and altogether, between 1945 and 1953, the FRENCH GOVERNMENT acquires nine paintings by Guy Montis.

Guy Montis watched the show by MARCEL MARCEAU at the Théâtre de l’Ambigu. Then he asked the world famous mime to give him a few hours of his time in order to make a portrait of him. Guy Montis said “I painted him inside the theater. In front of me, this man was just like he was on stage : a character from the moon : his feet on the ground but his head in heaven. Marcel couldn’t stop …speaking, just as if he had to catch up. I could only work with him half an hour at a time. It took me a month to achieve his portrait.”

“Maussane was for him like a lace of ultimate peace, a landscape overflowed with a unique light that he would never find anywhere else. He created an open air studio in 1953 and a “Circle of the friends of the Arts in the Vallée des Baux”, along with chain workers, farmers, employees, all interested - if not passionate – about painting. None of them had learn to paint before.(…)”

Felix Laffé, French Autor, wrote about Guy Montis “ The Provence Landscape painted by Montis are overwhelmed with this unique light. The numerous portrait he made of the people in this area, living on this land and from this land are as remarkable. Art, for him, is a truth that impose itself, not just a school matter : this is exactly why he will never be anything but an artist, only an artist, but a real artist. His conception of realism allows him to present remarkable, lively portraits, that are more than artwork, they are real psychological documents, where the entire personality of the model appears as a whole in its deepest truth.”

Not only does Guy Montis exhibit everywhere in Provence, but he also brings back to Paris, the offspring of his work. In 1955 in Paris, there is a new exhibition at the prestigious GALERIE DURAND-RUEL. The theme is “ A LITTLE VILLAGE NAMED MAUSSANE”. This exhibition is foreworded by the famous art critic GEORGE BESSON. The famous French Poet PAUL FORT writes : “ In poetry, Verlaine used to say, if you want to be effective, you have to remove the useless. I would add to that that it is the same in all the other forms of art. In the art of Guy Montis, no uselessness. The necessary, the power, the psychological expression, firm, absolute.”

In 1957, an other exhibition takes place in Paris : “FACES OF PARIS”. For this exhibition, the artist, who is now introduced as a “real artist from Provence” has painted the protrait of all the major French show-buisness stars of the moment : Actor-singers Philippe Clay, , Line Renaud , Robert Lamoureux, Master Opera choreographer Serge Lifar, the mime Marcel Marceau, famous actor Michel Simon… all exhibited on the walls of the DURAND RUEL gallery. Jean Rostand, whose portrait is also exhibited says that “the penetrating art of Guy Montis knows how to reach the truth of depths while respecting the surface”

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The Cabaret Theatre

Guy Montis, who still loves theater, also creates in his own backyard in Provence… an outdoor cabaret : the CABARET THEATRE OF MAUSSANE-LES-ALPILLES.

The cabaret is very successful and many stars perform there, including jazz star SIDNEY BECHET . Many inhabitants of Maussane and its neighborhood still remember this incredible era.

Unfortunately, this endeavor is a real money pit. Most of the audience members are able to watch the shows without paying. Guy becomes sick, he has caught the Malta fevers. He cannot renew the experience for a second season and, completely broke once again, he has to sell the “house of peace”.

Sad and bitter, Guy leaves the Provence in 1958 to move back to Paris.

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Come Back to Paris, Place des Vosges

He will return to Provence a few times for short stays, but this departure from Maussane marks the end a ten year long Provencal dream. During these ten years, an entire area that new nothing but agriculture had had a taste for Art, a taste that has ever grown since then.

In Maussane, Guy Montis had brought the stars of the world of the arts and the world of the stage to a place where most of them today own a house. Guy also had the first pool ever built there and was the first one to bring one of the first TV set that he introduced to the farmers of the area. He even changed the name of the place, calling it “Maussane les Alpilles”, which is the official name of the village as of today.

No wonder, then, that this precursor created the first gallery on the PLACE DES VOSGES in PARIS. The “GALERIE DU ROY” was built in the MARAIS in 1961 which is now one of the most popular place in Paris for art galleries. Between 1962 and 1965 Guy organizes numerous exhibitions.

The Montis family settles definitely in a studio rue Alfred Stevens, next to PIGALLE , MONTMARTRE and THE MOULIN ROUGE.

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Travels

A year later, in 1963, Guy wants to go south again. He moves to Spain, and stays in a little hostel in TOLEDO ,where he paints a series of landscapes.

The same year he organizes the exhibition “Independence and tradition of the Art”, sponsored by his Paul Ricard. The Exhibition is so popular that it is shown all over Spain. In Valence ; Barcelona, Majorca, Madrid etc.

At the request of his friend, now famous French actor CLAUDE DAUPHIN, in order to illustrate a novel that the famous French writer Jospeh Kessel prepares, Guy moves to Israel from October 1967 to september 1968, and works in JERUSALEM. Joseph Kessel will never write his book, but Guy Montis is now in love with the landscape of Israel. He stays in NOTRE-DAME de France an old Christian abbaye of which the rooms have been transformed into a hostel. There he paints numerous paintings and bring them back to France. They are immediately extremely successful. Suzanne joins him in july 1968. Guy is in love with the place and returns to France only to prepare a new trip to Jerusalem. He returns in April 1969 and stays until October. He paints many more painting of Jerusalem during this period.

His work is exhibited in France, in the USA and in England. “The Seine in Paris” is exhibited at the NATIONAL MUSEUM of REYKJAVIK in Iceland. “The Dead Three” is presented in NEW-DELI “Still Life” is given by THE FRECNH GOVERNEMENT to the CITY OF BUCAREST.

Tired of the desert, Suzanne ask Guy to move to a greener area. In May of 1970, the couple moves to Ireland, where they live in a rented caravan.

During the summers of 1974 and 1975, the desir to paint in Provence is back. The Montis go back to the south of France. This time, guy paints the lavender fields at the bottom of the MOUNT VENTOUX.

The work of the artist is described as “ a mix of power and tenderness which speaks to all of our senses with the language of poetry in the realm of reality.”

In 1976, ill, very weak, he obtains the PRIX LUGDUNUM at the XXth SALON D’HIVER IN LYON. He also receives the SILVER MEDAL of the SOCIETY OF FRENCH ARTISTS and his celebreted at the XXV festival of drawing and water painting.

Unfortunately, Guy Montis does not have time to take advantage of these awards as he passes away during the summer of 1976, before he had a chance to fully achieve his dreams.

From Provence to Ireland, from the Parisian Salons to the stones of Jerusalem, from the desert to the prairies, the art of Guy Montis, whose paintings have seldom been shown since he passed away in 1976, has brought joy and hapiness to those who were able to see them.

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As Guy Montis himself used to say :

“ What is most important to me, as an artist, is to work everyday and try to incorporate myself truly into my subject as would an actor penetrating into the skin of a character. Even more important is the total forgetting of what we have just painted and how we painted it, since for an artist it is not so much about possessing a craft than being possessed by it. The craft enters you or not, according to your awareness. The artist ought to be also aware of the important aspects of his time and life. My goal is the translation of feelings onto the canvas or the paper.

All I can wish for, is that many enjoy reading them.”

GUY MONTIS BY…

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