A Recent Discovery: Alfred Gaspart (1900 – 1993)
About 4 years ago I bought a series of 10 fairly large (15-3/4 x 11”) drawings with watercolor depicting viticulture as practiced in Europe until after World War II. The drawings were unsigned but had the stamped monogram from an artist’s studio. For years I was unable to identify the work but then, a few months ago, through a site on the internet devoted to artist’s signatures and monograms I was finally able to identify the artist, and found the story to be fascinating.
Gaspart studied art at the Germain Pilon and Atelier Fernand Cormon schools. Working in both painting and photography he settled in the Montparnasse section of Paris. Using Paris as a base he traveled extensively throughout the Mediterranean, drawing and painting as he traveled. Gaspart maintained a steady correspondence with his sister Paula, who was seven years his elder and she appears in many of his works.
Gaspart’s close associates included Andre Derain, Marie Laurencin, Andre Salmon, Pierre Albert-Birot and the poet Jean Follain. Gaspart’s work was representational and his paintings and photographs focused on the landscape, portraits, cityscapes and still lives.
From September of 1935 through 1936 he spent time in Beaune, Burgundy, France chronicling the wine making of the region. A book of photographs from this time, “Alfred Gaspart: One Year in the Vineyard, Photographs 1936; Jean-Michel Place, 2006” is accompanied by a series of letters to his sister about the experience: the weather, fears of bad harvests, the care of the vineyards and the production of the wine.
Then came the Spanish Civil War and the outbreak of WWII. He was captured by the Germans and, together with the painter Antoniucci Volti, was held as a prisoner of war. Though neither was Jewish, they were artists and were “dangerous.” Gaspart was first imprisoned in Saint-Die in Lorraine and, after two unsuccessful escape attempts, in Stalag VIIA in Moosburg, Bavaria between 1940 and 1944. In 1944 he was transferred to Benediktbeuren Abbey, a commando camp in Germany, where he was liberated in 1945. While a prisoner he drew over 2000 sketches and portraits of his fellow prisoners and kept a journal, which became the basis of an exhibition in 2005, the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the camps and is published in the book “Alfred Gaspart: Painting in Captivity 1940-1945 Stalag VII A” (ISBN 2850568767)
After the war he returned to Paris with severe depression. Ossip Zadkiine loaned him a studio where he spent the rest of his days painting, until his death on March 12, 1993. The studio is now the Zadkine Museum.
The drawings are very similar to the photographs in the book and may have been preparatory for a mural or a portfolio of some kind. I don’t know if either were ever completed. All of the images can be found on our website: http://www.annexgalleries.com/inventory?q=gaspart
We would appreciate any further information anyone can provide about Gaspart or these drawings.