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From 1903, Jules Verlingue, at the head of the Faïencerie de la Madeleine, in Boulogne-sur-Mer, produced stoneware.
In December 1913, a fire destroyed part of the Faïencerie de la Madeleine. The factory being poorly insured, its owner was forced to sell to Boulogne banker Henri Delcourt. Jules Verlingue will remain director of his former establishment. The funds from the sale will be used by him, in association with Louis Delcourt, doctor of law and brother of Henri, to acquire, in 1914, the earthenware factory of his friend Guy de La Hubaudière, in Quimper.
When the Faïencerie HB restarted in 1917, everything was refurbished and equipped.
In 1923, under the impetus of Jeanne Malivel and René-Yves Creston, the “Ar Seiz Breur” (Seven Brothers) movement was born. This group of Breton creators aims to revive Celtic art. suffocated by classic taste, modernizing it and adapting it to everyday life. This period is extremely rich, encouraged of course by the antistical Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements.
The HB Jules Verlingue and Bolloré factory is not lagging behind, thanks to the collaboration of the sculptor René Quillivic, many of whose works today adorn the squares of Breton villages, in memory of the dead of the Great War and the heavy tribute paid by Brittany to this conflict. Breton artists, many of whom live in Paris, find a new motivation, pushed, for some, by a regionalist feeling. Quimper faience is living a great era, probably one of the richest in its history. Artists of solid reputation will come in large numbers to participate in this revival.
The ODETTA brand was registered in 1922. Locmaria is on the banks of the Odet, the river sung by Max Jacob, born a stone's throw from its quays:
The originality of the Odetta production resides, in addition to the creation of new forms, in the technique of decoration employed. Traditionally, the decoration of Quimper faience is carried out by applying ceramic colors, with the touch, on raw enamel or on biscuit. For sandstone. we are faced with a cloisonné process, dear to Longwy. The outline of the decor is traced with manganese, refractory oxide. The reserves thus traced, with a freehand brush or according to the dotted line left by the stencil, are filled with enamels applied by drop, with a brush made of ox ear hair. Enamels to adhere well to the support, contain a decoction of fucus, seaweed with which the coast abounds. This is thanks to the use of enamels. in substitution for colors, that the chromatic palette finds all its power. So for sandstone. the same is true for Quimper earthenware known worldwide for the liveliness of its tones.
The launch of stoneware manufacturing by the Grande Maison will have a rather unexpected consequence. As we have seen, Jules Henriot, the competitor, secured the collaboration of well-known artists through the Breton Regionalist Union. Many of the latter, seduced by the range of possibilities offered by sandstone, as well as by the richness of the material, will abandon Henriot for the Grande Maison. Jules Verlingue becomes alone, in Quimper. able to make artistic pieces in glazed stoneware.
To achieve its objective, the Grande Maison registered the "HB Quimper Odetta" trademark in 1922. The history of sandstone is on the move. The Odetta mark will thus be affixed to all the sandstone pieces, with the exception of the statuettes, where it is replaced by the name of the artist. In principle, the mark is inscribed in black on the bottom of the vase, after the mention "HB Quimper". In principle only, because exceptions are frequent. On the one hand, the name of the artist creating the piece often replaces the brand; on the other hand, some vases, and not the least important ones, have neither the name nor the Odetta mark.
In 1922, Art Deco had almost reached its peak. At HB, we know that Charles Catteau took, since 1907, the artistic direction of Kéramis, in La Louvière. The Mougin brothers have been active for a long time in Nancy. Mayodon exhibited regularly at the Salon des artistes décorateurs from 1920. The possibilities offered by sandstone pottery correspond well to Art Deco trends.
The history of Odetta sandstones is poorly known. It is possible that some pieces were presented at the Intemational Exhibition of Decorative Arts in 1925, without further details. On the other hand, on the HB stand of the Colonial Exhibition of 1931, many sandstone vases, very representative of the entire production, are arranged among other objects, statuettes and dishes, in sandstone and earthenware.
Some forms of Odetta stoneware are similar to those used by many ceramists of the time, and even by coppersmiths. Others, on the other hand, are original. Two prevailing sources of inspiration. The first is of exotic essence: African and Oceanian pottery serves as models, hence these powerful, pot-bellied shapes, with narrow necks, sometimes equipped with handles. The second source is that of artists who want nothing duty to the past: adopted by cubism, revealed in 1907, or by the avant-garde theories of the Bauhaus. They draw surprisingly modern geometric shapes.
Each vase has, in principle - because exceptions are not uncommon - two numbers. The first, usually composed of three digits, designates the shape. The second of four digits, locate the decor. These numbers are painted on the bottom of the vase at the same time as the mark. A tiny "g" is almost always engraved in the clay on this same background, a precaution taken in the workshops to avoid confusion between the biscuits, the same shapes being often used for stoneware and earthenware. Unlike sandstone statuettes.
There is no uniqueness of inspiration in the decor of HB stoneware. It's a good thing, and it perfectly reflects the spirit of Art Deco, more protean than some imagine, drawing inspiration from several sources, but always in search of rigour. And the rigor is perfectly suited to the material of sandstone. Alongside the geometric figures, the decor is sometimes thematic. It can evoke Brittany, its fauna, its flora and its people, but it does not lock itself into regionalism and opens up to the world. Artists willingly emancipate women, with boyish hairstyles, their high heeled shoes inviting to dance the charleston rather than the gavotte. The work of enamels does not resemble the techniques of painting earthenware. The enamels are spread in successive drops, up to the limits of a surface drawn with the help of a black net of manganese oxide, giving the whole a compartmentalised appearance. More rarely. the design is traced in hollow in the dough, before the first firing.
The harmony of the Odetta, beyond the decoration, is due to the richness of the range of enamels. Shiny or matt, depending on the desired effect, they are so original that an informed connoisseur can distinguish at first sight an HB stoneware among other vases from the same period. A shades of ocher and a blue having the depth of that of Sèvres are particularly remarkable. Used in more or less thick layers, the enamel allows moiré effects, which experienced painters will know how to render to perfection.
The realization of the sets requires both experience, dexterity and aesthetic sense. The artists give their instructions to the painters but do not carry out the work themselves. Given the qualities required, only a few people will be entrusted with the execution of the important parts. Each affixing a distinctive sign to the bottom of the vase, it appears that three sculptor painters are, over the years, the talented authors of most of the great pieces. The majority of the small vases and a good half of the important pieces have remained anonymous and, for lack of archives, most will remain so. We can only regret the excess of modesty of their creators, and the little regard that was then made of their talent. There remain those whose signature on the bottom of the vases and in the catalogs of the Grande Maison sheds some light on the story. Their names are Chanteau, Fouillen, Brisson, Garin, Beauclair, Renaud or Roll.
Alphonse Chanteau, born in Nantes in 1874, is a friend of Jules Verlingue. Older than his colleagues, his creations make him an original advanced artist. The exuberance of the decorations, mixing flora and fauna in mythical scenes, has its roots in Art Nouveau. Using a wide palette of colors, his compositions. perfectly balanced tell legends, such as those of the druids or the abyssal depths or a walk in a garden.
Chanteau traces his design by impressing it in the paste, but he does not hesitate to mix several enamels on the same surface with rare happiness. Each of his vases also testifies to the virtuosity of the painters of the factory.
Before creating his own factory in 1929, Paul Fouillen, born in Lorient in 1899, produced very special stoneware for HB. The decoration is not drawn but sculpted in the paste of the vase. Enamels, chosen for their sober colors emphasize severe, even mystical images of Brittany, traced on large vases with massive shapes. Some smaller pieces, using a classic layout, are more joyful and not devoid of humor. Alongside this original production, Paul Fouillen is probably - again the evidence is lacking - the author of many Odettas, where very colorful geometric figures, more or less inspired by Celtic illuminations, stand out, in an important reserve, a Breton character generally represented in bust, or more rarely a folk scene.
We owe to Georges Brisson. born in Nantes in 1902. at least two important massive sandstone vases, adorned with geometric patterns made in a remarkable shades of ocher. These contrast with other more amiable productions, where Breton women and sailors animate tenderly humorous scenes: these vases are generally signed Odetta.
Louis Garin, born in Rennes in 1888, is not very sensitive to abstract art. With a limited number of colors, whose enamels are assigned large surfaces with contours dug into the paste of the vases - a bit like Chanteau -, he evokes with extreme rigor Brittany, the sea and overseas, on shapes as simple as they are original.
Little is known of René Beauclair, a native of Montauban. It is not certain that he came to Quimper. In 1910, his name appears at the Salon des Indépendants. At the same time, he was the author of collections of Art Nouveau decorations and numerous plates of drawings for jewelry, in a style very close to that of Hector Guimard. For the Grande Maison, he designed many models of vases which made him the most important designer of the Odetta period. One can imagine that he is a contemporary of Chanteau and that, after having flirted with Art Nouveau, he evolved towards Art Deco, hence the subtle designs, some made of elegant curves, others combining, without stiffness, straight lines. One cannot help thinking sometimes of the motifs of the decorations of certain coppersmiths, in particular Jean Dunand and Claudius Linossier. Beauclair used a few existing vase shapes, but he especially designed new shapes, in perfect harmony with his extraordinary decorations. Original in shape and decor, he also was in the choice of the specific pastel tones of his production. Some vases created by Beauclair bear the Odetta mark, these models were purchased by the HB factory.
Georges Renaud, born in Paris in 1901, and Rol, pseudonym of René Olichon, born in 1912 - again from Nantes -, have in common a pronounced taste for audacious, exceptionally modern shapes. The vase is no more only the support of the decor, it participates in it and justifies it. It is no longer quite a figure of revolution around a vertical axis. Form and decoration together constituting an object which. like a statue, can be viewed differently from the front or from the side. On Renaud's vases, geometric figures and stylized flowers seem to exchange their representations to announce a new aesthetic, applied to forms with wide bases, often supporting aerodynamic profiles, surprising because applied to immobile objects. Rol's decorations succeed, with only a few enamels. essentially blues and ochres, a masterful synthesis of abstraction and cubism.
The list of sandstone authors cannot be limited to the artists already mentioned. Nicolas Pesce is present at the Colonial Exhibition of 1931. Soudane and Scherdel may have worked more than it seems through meager archives. On this subject, the different editions of the HB catalog - never dated and eternally reproducing the same plates of vases - are perhaps not explicit.
The volume of production of the Odetta vases is unknown. Their rarity observed today suggests that they were few in number. There are several reasons for this state of affairs. The manufacture of stoneware vases consists of a series of paid operations. It is therefore necessary to market a relatively expensive product to an avant-garde audience. therefore limited in number. if not in financial means. Odetta vases are expensive.
From 1925, strikes multiplied in Quimper. The atmosphere of international crisis from 1929 does not help matters. In 1931, Jules Verlingue had to lay off some of his employees. In 1932, he came into conflict with his partners, who had become the majority, and left the management of the company. Art still suffers from economic and financial disorders, in Quimper as elsewhere. Soon, it fades into the background of concerns, faced with the growing threat of armed conflict.
In the years following World War II, the HB factory is trying to relaunch the sale of Odetta, but the tastes of the public have changed and it is necessary to resolve to stop the manufacture. The great adventure is over.
Art Deco lived out its purgatory until 1968. The major sales of 1972 - the Doucet sale in particular - marked the return to grace of the art of the 1920s, simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic. It is logical that the Quimper production had to wait for its recognition for a few more years. The exhibition of the tercentenary of pottery, in 1990, allows to discover vases whose existence we had forgotten, but which had not aged a bit. Since this event, specialists finally recognize that they are in the presence of a major expression of Art Deco ceramics, originating from a region with artistic riches now appreciated, even envied. The market obviously followed this resurrection. The sandstone vases of the Grande Maison HB are now rare and sought after. They have not ceased to excite passions...