Portrait of Tarzan
Ink on paper bearing the artist’s monogram stamp lower right
TARZAN (alias Frédéric Dieudonné)
Born March 22, 1918 to an artist-painter father and pianist mother. Orphaned by his father and mother’s demise when he was seven months old, and his grandmother at six years old. Housed at the French orphanage, Pupille de la Nation, due to his father fighting in WWI, he shared his fate with other pupils and was placed in a farm then with a shepherd in Beauce and other towns. With help from a Navy officer, he became a sailor on the cargo ship La Miséricorde at the age of 14. He sailed across various seas and oceans. He was tall at 1.82 m (5’9’’) 85 kg. (187 lbs), bright eyes, and had a wrestler stature; Gen Paul was nicknamed Tarzan for obvious reasons.
After many adventures during the Occupation, he was unemployed after WWII. One day in late 1945 at the Transat offices in Le Havre he was asked to board the Oregon for the Le Havre-New York crossing; he remained there until 1948. During the first voyage he met Gen Paul and quickly became friends. The painter described his grimacing face as: “It's funny, but I’ve taken a liking to you, I am queasy, yet I would like to show you off”. Dieudonné knew the language of sailors, Gen Paul taught him slang and the vernacular of Montmartre. Their friendship lasted long. He left to navigate in Asia, then back to Marseille and Paris in 1951. The next year he perfected his gift of clairvoyance making him one of the stars of Paris. On the advice of a Tibetan monk he ceased wearing a hairpiece and showed his shaved head. Negligent with his health, he fell ill in 1954 with tuberculosis TB, but recovered. In the second sanatorium for treatment in Bligny he met Alphonse Boudard whom he evoked in one of his books “Le Repas ... (The Meal).
In 1957, Gen Paul presented his friend Arletty who made Dieudonné her personal astrologer and introduced him to the movie business. The same year he moved out "on his own" to Rue du Champ de Mars where he entertained all of Paris. He became the Mage Dieudonné.
In 1965, Gen Paul phoned Roger Leroy, biographer and friend of Dieudonné, who had been waiting eight hours to do his portrait. The mage said he must ring at his door at eight o'clock sharp otherwise they might be berated. “Is it you Fréder? That's good, you're on time, I like that.” They entered the painter's studio and reclined across the sofa. While in the process of drawing on Canson paper, "Sit down, I finish this and then I'm yours."
The portrait was finished, then they parted. The story ends there, the mages biography ends with Gen Paul on a spring evening. Note that the painter made several versions of this portrait, mostly with Chinese ink wash.
Gen Paul, La Biographie
By André Roussard
Paru Éditions André Roussard in 2006.
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