The first time I saw Philippe Lalys was in 2001 when the QCI meeting was held in Quimper, Brittany, France. He was the star guest at the HB-Henriot reception, and was introducing his gorgeous platter reminiscent of one that Porquier would have made, but bordered with his fabulous purple blue thistles.
I don't know what impressed me more, this outstanding work of art or this handsome and quiet young man! I suppose I had almost a crush...but in any case, it was fun standing back and watching how the group admired his work, and how shy he was about receiving their adulation. You could tell he was pleased, but a bit overwhelmed, too.
Who was this SO talented man?
I have since learned that he received his training as a decorator of porcelain, but in 1976, after a visit to HB-Henriot while on a vacation, he asked for a job there. He was hired to paint in the atelier fantaisie where the artists did re editions of the old styles and décors which were finely detailed and quite elaborate. Amazing, as at the time he was only eighteen.
In 1983, he did the reprise of the violin originally painted by Guiheneuc and won the 1st prize af the Salon Bigorca in Paris. (Here the photo shows the original, click here for more information).
He took time off for his military service, then continued there, working up to be director of this division, then eventually foreman of the HB atelier.
After the manufacture was bought by Paul Janssens, Philippe became directeur artistique until he left in 1991 to open his own atelier as an artiste libre. He still works with HB-Henriot from time to time, working on collaborative and commissioned pieces.
(To read more details about him and his background, read the article by Judy Datesman in the Quimper Club Journal in Vol.7, No.2, December 2005 which assisted me with this blog.)
In researching details of his life, I find that he has been active in the political life of Quimper having participated in the last mayoral election in Quimper on a candidate's list. Perhaps luckily for the faïence community, his candidate did not win. However important community life may be, an artist like Philippe is not found every day! He is also an expert petanque player, as is his wife Sylvie.
He is a dog lover, and has not only a dog of his own, but also enjoys doing commissions of other people's pets on faïence.
I have been especially lucky as I now have three beautiful pieces by Philippe. One is the charming and romantic platter showing a young Bretonne with a male admirer as she demurely casts bread to the swan, which is seen reflected in the water.
In the distance are the spires of St. Corentin Cathedral, and in the mid ground there is a mill, which until I bought this platter, I had not known had existed. It had been a color mill, and it was there, I was told, that the minerals were ground which became the colors painted on the early Quimper faïence pieces.
Another is a re edition of a Porquier beauty featuring a Chinese pheasant and a second colorful bird surrounded with lush foliage and an intricately painted border.
The colors are stunning and it still gives me goose bumps when I look at it.
It is amazing that Philippe can do this precise reproduction with tiny details so delicately painted, and then do the dreamy almost impressionist scene of the other.
The third platter was one that Philippe chose to do. I had asked him to do what he felt inspired to do and this, he said, was something he had been wanting to do.
It is a huge round platter, featuring a scene of Breton people resting after a pardon. They are seen by the sacred spring at Tronoën, where is located the oldest calvary in Bretagne which Bill and I visited in 1984. Some people are sitting, some drinking from the spring and there are children and others of all ages. In the background is seen the chapel, and beyond that the sea.
The border is an amazing pattern of gothic carvings like stonework in a cathedral.
This platter reminds me of one of my favorite books on Breton life. If you have read The Horse of Pride you will see how it seems to be telling the events of a day in this book.
Happily for me, I have been lucky enough to meet this special artist thanks to Judy Datesman who represents his work on line.
He was kind enough to receive Nina and Judy and me in his home and show us his studio and his current works. It was a delightful visit, and I was as impressed as when I saw him at that first reception.
Click here to visit his website.
What a gentle man and an extraordinary artist of this wonderful media of faience he is!
(The thistle platter in Diane R.'s collection.)