Guy de Montlaur

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Military career

Guy de Montlaur
Self-portrait by Guy de Montlaur
Autoportrait sans indulgenge (1969)
Born Guy de Villardi, comte de Montlaur
(1918-09-09)9 September 1918
Died 10 August 1977(1977-08-10) (aged 58)
Garches, Paris
Nationality French
Education Académie Julian
Known for Painter
Movement Cubism/Expressionism
Allegiance  France
Service/branch French Army
Free French Naval Commandos
Years of service 1938-1945
Rank Lieutenant
  • 3e Régiment de Hussards
  • 15è Groupe de Reconnaissance de Corps d’Armée
  • 1er Bataillon de Fusiliers Marins Commandos
Awards Legion d'Honneur

Guy de Villardi de Montlaur (born 9th September 1918, Biarritz— died10th August 1977, Garches) was a French painter[1] from the Languedoc family of Montlaur[2].

He was a resistance fighter in WW2, he landed in Normandy on 6th June 1944 with the Kieffer Commandos, he participated in the Battle of Normandy and landed again in Holland on 1st November 1944[3].

Montlaur's paintings were influenced by the great classical works such as those by Paolo Uccello, Ingres, Delacroix and later Kandinsky. One can define four styles characterising the evolution of Montlaur's work: cubisme immediately post-war, geometric abstraction from 1949, abstract expressionism from 1955 and finally lyrical abstraction around 1960 once he had achieved the summit of his art and technique. His work was often mystical, sometimes religious, and was marked by the terrible memories of his wartime experiences.

His origins and training[edit]

Guy de Montlaur was born on the 9th September 1918 in Biarritz[4], from one of the oldest families in the Languedoc, mentioned as early as the 11th century. The Chateau de Montlaur (11th Century) is situated 20km north east of Montpellier. Guy de Montlaur also had italian heritage from his Villardi ancestors who were allies of the Visconti and Baroncelli. They settled in Provence at the end of the 13th Century. He had Brazilian ancestors on his mother's side who came from Sao Paolo and Bahia[2].

He started to paint at a young age. Between 1936 and 1938 while studying literature and philosophy at the Sorbonne he was a regular at Emmanuel Fougerat's studio and then at the Academie Julian. He worked with Jean Souverbie and accompagnied him to the World's Fair of 1937 at the Palais de Chaillot.

In 1937, he met a young American woman also studying art, Adelaide Oates, he married her six years later. In 1938, just after the Munich Agreement he left for his military service.

The soldier[edit]

Guy de Montlaur was at the front at the onset of the war on 3rd September 1939. He was with the 3rd Regiment of the Hussards based at Sarreguemines, regrouped in the 15th Groupe de Reconnaissance de Corps d'Armée and took part from the start of the war in numerous raids in Saarland, Germany (Kleinblittersdorff, Walsheim, Herbitzheim and German Bliesbruck. His unit became part of the Corps Francs from the 17th October, he was under the command of Castries, future commander at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. In June 1940, Montlaur was fighting the invasion in a losing battle and ended in Limoges two days after the armistice was conceded by Pétain to Hitler. In 1942, after crossing Franco's Spain, he arrived in Lisbon, where for three months he worked for MI6.

He joined the Free French in London in October 1942. He was assimilated at his request into the 1st Battalion des Fusiliers Marins of the Forces Navales Françaises Libres. On the 6th June 1944 he landed in Normandy at Ouistreham with the 177 french of Commando Kieffer integrated into the 4th Commando of the 1st Special Service Brigade of Brigadier General Lord Lovat[5].

Guy Vourc'h was the troop commander at the D-Day landings and made the following comment in his eulogy for Guy de Montlaur on the 13th August 1977 at the cemetery of Ranville (Calvados):

“I saw him when he arrived early 1943. I offered him the chance to join the Commandos which were the modern equivalent of the cavalry, an arm used for reconnaissance and lightly armed bold raids. From that time onward, we were always together. First as group leaders, then as section leaders, training together with Commandant Kieffer, Lofi, Hattu, Chausse, Bégot, and Wallerand, we built up together an instrument of attack, which had the honour of being chosen as first to land, here, on our native soil of France. When all the officers of my company were wounded, it was Guy de Montlaur who took over in command. Later, at Flushing and Walcheren, wounded as he was near me, he refused to be evacuated. His courage was close to insolence; he was not just fighting but humiliating the enemy: by the age of 25 he had received seven citations for valour in battle and the French Légion d’Honneur.[3]

On the 1st November 1944, he took part in the allied landings of Flushing[6] on the isle of Walcheren in Holland (Operation Infatuate[7]) where he was wounded when his barge was hit by a German shell. The operation was led against an enemy ten times greater in numbers than the Allies, and was a total success. It opened the Scheldt river to the allied troops and allowed them access to the port of Antwerp and northern Germany, opening the road to Berlin and leading to the end of the war[3].[8]

Guy de Montlaur is mentioned by Cornelius Ryan in his book The Longest Day[9] and his role was acted by Georges Rivière in the film (The Longest Day), directed in 1962 by Darryl Zanuck. The film won 2 Oscars in 1963.

The Artist[edit]

After the war, Montlaur and his wife Adelaide left for the United States, he studied at the Art Students League of New York and painted feverishly. After two years in the US, he returned to France where he would stay til the end of his days.

The Cubist Period[edit]

Montlaur's paintings faithfully followed the cubists rules of the group "Golden Section" (Gleizes, Metzinger, Gris, Léger, and Duchamp). He was inspired by the principles laid out by Gino Severini (a friend of his) in his book Du Cubisme au Classicisme[10], where colours are determined in an almost mathematical formula.

Montlaur was prolific during this period, he demonstrated rigour, as well as accuracy and precision of his eye and hand. Montlaur returned to France in 1948 and moved to Nice until 1953. He spent his time between Nice and Paris where he found his friends, members of the dynamic group Réalités Nouvelles (Atlan, Poliakoff, Schneider, Chapoval, and Soulages. Montlaur's first solo exhibition was in March 1949 at the Galerie Lucienne-Léonce Rosenberg. The Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris bought one of his works at this exhibition[3].

Geometric Abstraction[edit]

In 1949, the Galerie René Drouin edited the translation of the Vassily Kandinsky's Du Spirituel dans l'art et dans la peinture en particulier[11]. Kandinsky's paintings and ideas become models for Montlaur. In October 1949, at the 16th Salon des Surindépendants, Montlaur exhibits his first abstract painting La Baie des Anges (1949).


  • 1937 : Salon des Artistes Français, Paris.
  • 1949 : Galerie Lucienne-Léonce Rosenberg, Paris.
  • 1949-1950 : Salon des Surindépendants, Paris.
  • 1951 and 1954 : Galerie Colette Allendy, Paris.
  • 1951 : 3rd Exhibition Art Club, Hotel Negresco, Nice.
  • 1950-1958 : Salon des Réalités Nouvelles, Paris.
  • 1959 : Comité France-Amérique, Paris.
  • 1971 : Galerie Rolf Lutz, Paris.
  • 1993 : Montgomery Gallery, San Francisco.
  • 1994 : French Embassy, Washington, D.C.
  • 2012 : Memorial Pegasus and Ranville City Hall Library, Normandy, France.
  • 2012 : Chateau de La Thibaudière Orangery, Anjou, France, on National Heritage Day.
  • 2013-2014 : Chateau de Montlaur, Hérault, France.
  • 2014 : Memorial Pegasus, Ranville, Normandy.
  • 2015 : Memorial Pegasus, Ranville, Normandy, France. Permanent exhibition of "Pegasus before landing" donated to the museum.
  • 2015 : Perm State Art Gallery, Perm, Federation of Russia.
  • 2016 : Exhibition Hall of the Union of Artists of Russia, Chelyabinsk, Federation of Russia.
  • 2016 : Poklewski-Koziell House, Sverdlovsk Regional Museum Yekaterinburg, Federation of Russia.
  • 2016 : Union of Exhibition Halls of Moscow, Gallery "Na Kashirke", Moscow, Federation of Russia.
  • 2016 : The French Institute, Russia "[1]", Moscow, Federation of Russia.
  • 2016 : "Soldier and Painter", Gallery "Exposed", Moscow, Federation of Russia. Exhibition organised by "Boogie Gallery", Moscow.
  • 2017 : World Art Dubai 2017, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai. Exhibition organised by "Boogie Gallery".


  1. ^ Benezit Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs. Oxford University Press. 2010. ISBN 978-0199773794. 
  2. ^ a b Marquis de Montlaur, Histoire d'un nom. 1985. p. 138. 
  3. ^ a b c d de Montlaur, George (2016). Guy de Montlaur (1918-1977). Soldat et peintre. St Petersburg, Russia: Serge Khodov. p. 21. ISBN 978-5-98456-050-4. 
  4. ^ Simmonet, Stéphane (2012). Le commandant Kieffer : le Français du jour J. Paris: Tallandier. p. 416. ISBN 9791021000315. 
  5. ^ Masson, M (1969). La participation de la marine française aux débarquements de Normandie, de Corse et de Provence. 
  6. ^ "Le 1er BFM Commando à Flessingue". Retrieved 17 May 2017. 
  7. ^ "Combined Operations, Operation Infatuate, Walcheren 1-8 November 1944". Retrieved 17 May 2017. 
  8. ^ The War Office, Current Reports from Overseas No. 80. Section 1.-The Assault on Flushing. The War Office. 1945. 
  9. ^ Ryan, Cornelius (1959). The Longest Day. Simon and Schuster. 
  10. ^ Severini, Gino (1921). Du cubisme au classicisme. Esthétique du compas et du nombre. Paris: J. Povolozky. p. 127. 
  11. ^ Kandinsky, Vassily (1949). Du spirituel dans l'art et dans la peinture en particulier. Paris: Galerie Drouin. 

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