Paul Devaux - From the wood of which men are madePaul Devaux - From the wood of which men are made
©Paul Devaux - From the wood of which men are made|Xavier Thomas
A man's story told by his grandson

Paul Devaux

Paul Devaux is an immense artist who is not sufficiently celebrated. He first started drawing and then woodworking. He created his advertising agency and produced several works to promote the city…

From Paul to Alain

He’s a discreet and always well-dressed gentleman. Immaculate white hair, impeccable beard, sparkling eye, bow tie of circumstance. He is a busy man, his forehead sometimes shadowy, inhabited by an imperious task. This man is Alain Devaux, grandson of Paul Devaux, an immense and insufficiently celebrated artist. The mission he has assigned himself since retiring as an upholsterer-decorator at the Comédie Française: to assemble and inventory his grandfather’s works and wood.

The beauty of a work

Nothing better sums up the spirit of this country than his engravings of the houses, castles and churches of the Bourbonnais countryside.
Nothing better transcribes the elegance (particularly feminine), nor the pomp of the Vichy seasons than his silhouettes immortalized in the parks or in front of the opera.
Nothing better symbolizes the permanent miracle of the thermal waters than his depiction of the gushing springs.

Paul Devaux

From the wood of which men are made

Born May 28, 1894, in a town that would not take the name Bellerive until 9 years later. Orphaned from his mother at the age of 6, he was raised by his father, who held the position of race guard at the Vichy racetrack. At a very young age he showed predispositions for drawing and entered as a typographer draftsman at the Mont-Louis printing house in Clermont-Ferrand. It was then that the First World War broke out. Mobilized in 14, Paul Devaux was wounded at Verdun and hospitalized in Dijon where he killed time with a penknife in the woods.

In 1922, he will have his work cut out for him by founding the Primo advertising agency, which will collaborate with the local economic fabric (Au Bon Marché, the Sornin Gallery, Treyve frères, Moinet…) and particularly with the Vichy Tourist Board, which will regularly call on him to promote the city. The following year, we find him at the newspaper le Petit Bourbonnais that he contributes to launch by his talent as an illustrator. This talent, he will put it, throughout his artistic career, at the service of many writers: Charles Maurras, Valery Larbaud, Maurice Constantin-Weyer, André Chamson and André Gervais with whom he will form a deep friendship.

His work

Engraver, draftsman, illustrator, poster artist, publisher, publicist, xylographer, lithographer, watercolorist, printer, executive secretary, gardener, perfumer, Paul Devaux is a character both simple and complex*, just like his art. Complex, becauseengraving wood is sculpting the white, hollowing out, bypassing the reserves to let only the pattern emerge. Engraving wood is independently carving each color, since an engraving requires layering as many woods as it has colors. But in the end, it is in the simplicity that the talent of Paul Devaux shines. He manages to render all the richness of the landscapes he represents with a formidable economy of means.

The trees

Finally, trees are omnipresent in his work: poplars of the Allier, oaks of Tronçais, plane trees or chestnut trees of the parks are more than a signature of Paul Devaux’s style, they are the soul of his representations, the memory of his engravings. As the saying goes: the forest does not forget that the axe handle is made of wood.