Biography of Francine Del Pierre

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Francine Del Pierre at the studio of the rue Bonaparte ©DR.

Francine Del Pierre was born in Paris on December 2, 1917. She was raised in an upper-class family which was interested in art, curious and cultivated, and she became a journalist until:

…in December 1946, having touched clay for the first time, I decided in a few hours to change my life completely and to become a ceramicist. I had a job, I was a sub-editor, and nothing, absolutely nothing, had prepared me for that metamorphosis.

Getting started, Francine Del Pierre went with two friends, the painter Albert Diato and Gilbert Portanier, to Vallauris, the village of potters which had become a center of attraction after Picasso settled there at the studio Madoura.

I was rapidly at work, since finding a craftsman who accepted to teach me how to use the wheel was no problem at all. But I am small, particularly small, and the wheels of the village potters had been made for taller persons. After a few weeks, I was exhausted.*

Francine sought another method to work with clay.

From one thought to another, little by little, came the idea of modeling…*

But there was no one at Vallauris to teach her that technique, so it was on her own, by dint of work and experimentation, that Francine put in place her method based on the use of clay coils. In spring 1951, she left Vallauris with Diato to settle in rue Brancion, where she carried on her researches. At the same time she reflected on her commitment.

As the painter sees his work, I really saw pottery as a way to express myself. I wanted pottery to be as much independent from its ornamental role, which is also that of painting, as from its utilitarian role. The idea of an emotional content specific to the object just started to assert itself…*

Reading the Livre du potier (Book a of Potter) by the ceramist Bernard Leach confirmed Francine Del Pierre in her vocation. She gradually started to exhibit her works, and in 1952 she settled for a few months in London to prepare an exhibition at the famous Primavera Gallery. She met Bernard Leach during that stay. She kept in contact with him all her life, as well as with the Japanese Shoji Hamada, all her life. They exhibited pieces together on many occasions.

tarting in 1954, Francine Del Pierre worked in her first real studio at 74 rue Albert in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. From 1955 onwards, she also taught there, because, although her works were shown at the MAI gallery in Paris or at different events like the Milan triennial, she did not have enough income to live on.

And that is how Fance Franck became her pupil in 1957…

But the studio of the rue Albert was small and run down, and, in 1959, when the opportunity of a studio located on rue Bonaparte arose, Francine and Fance managed to buy it with the help of some friends.

Francine Del Pierre ©DR - © Jean Vertut-Shoji Hamada et Bernard Leach © A.Holmquist.

The studio of the rue Bonaparte then became a place of meetings and creation where many pupils, friends, clients and patrons used to come. Despite being known only by a happy few in France, her work had gained international recognition, was shown in numerous institutionalized exhibitions and was also part of some of great museums’ public collections. Francine Del Pierre died on January 17, 1968, at the age of 54. Bernard Leach wrote this to pay homage to her:

France has lost its most remarkable potter and the world one of its best… A vase, or any work of art, reflects a living spirit… What more to say about Francine? Of that small indomitable woman who put all her soul into her work and who, during long years of solitude, facing even hunger, remained faithful to what she had to say.

* Extracts from “Pourquoi et comment je modèle” (Why and how I model), catalogue of the exhibition of Hamburg, 1967.

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