Camille Hilaire

(1916 - 2004)

Biography

Camille Hilaire was a French painter from Metz. He attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris during World War II and was also tutored by Andre Lhote. Hilaire began painting from a young age. Already at fifteen, he discovered the work of Albrecht Durer in the Metz city library and began making copies of it. Some drawings he had hung up in a bookshop drew the attention of Nicolas Untersteller, the director of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It was thus that he enrolled at Beaux-Arts. Thanks to a scholarship, Hilaire travelled around Spain and Italy in 1933 and 1934 and drew inspiration from the art he encountered. Both his painting and tapestry express the beauty and diversity of the places through which he travelled. He was drafted into the army and participated in the campaign of France, was taken prisoner, escaped and returned to Paris in early 1941. Condemned to secrecy, he enrolled under a false name at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris during the Occupation. In 1942-1943, while remaining at Beaux-Arts, he also came under the tutelage of the Cubist artist Andre Lhote, with whom he became friends, and soon after his assistant. Hilaire’s painting reveals influences from Cubism but without the rigidity typical of the early years of the movement. He was then appointed professor of Beaux-Arts in Nancy, where he taught from 1947 to 1958, and then Paris until 1968. He was awarded the Prix de Venise in 1948 and the Prix de la Casa de Velazquez in 1950. He held his first exhibition in Paris in 1951 at the Gallerie Valloton. He then exhibited at the international art fairs in Geneva, Cannes and Deauville. Camille Hilaire is subtle in his composition. He held power with colour and achieved a wonderful, consistent sense of calm, amplitude and greatness by translating patterns and elements. His nudes were remarkable, with perfect curves, coiled with charm and set in a context in which their sensual fullness imposed itself with provocative grace. As for his landscapes, Camille Hilaire could determine the structure without apparent constraints, overlaying a fresh, green that is so characteristic of them. Thus, nature and elements they become the pretext upon which the artist “pushed” the colour to get the effect felt. As for his tapestries, his job as a graphic designer and his willingness to explore are mingled in splendid works that draw attention by virtue of their technical execution of pure harmony and that have just as surprising an outcome as the artist’s lithographs. One of the interior walls of the canteen of the college Georges-de-La-Tour, at place du Roi-George in Metz, is decorated with a bucolic fresco painted by Camille Hilaire, which is impressive in its size and beauty. It was saved during modernization of the building. Over time, a dozen monographs have been devoted to him as well as documentaries and films. He left behind a large body of works that has strongly influenced the French painters of the mid-twentieth century.