AM Art Films

Jeannine Guillou

The painter Jeannine Guillou was born in 1909 in Concarneau, Finistère. Jeannine, a cousin of the artist Jean Deyrolle, was born into a bourgeoise family. She started painting when she was 15 years old.

 In 1929, aged 20, she enrolled at the École des Arts Décoratifs in Nice and married one of her teachers, the Polish painter Olek Teslar. In 1931 they had a son, Antoine Tudal, or Antek for short. Jeannine became a Polish national.

From 1930 to 1937, they travelled extensively between Poland, the Carpathians, Nice, Morocco and Concarneau. In 1935, she exhibited her paintings in Fez alongside her cousin, the painter Jean Deyrolle, to great acclaim. Her talent was described as "virile and nervous".

In 1937, while travelling in Morocco with her husband and son, Jeannine Guillou met Nicolas de Staël in Marrakesh. The two became inseparable. After spending some time in Italy, the couple returned to Paris in 1939. The following year, they settled in Nice, a free zone at the time. Here they made friends with Alberto and Suzi Magnelli, Marie Raymond and Fred Klein (the parents of Yves Klein), Sonia Delaunay, Jean Arp, Le Corbusier and the great bookseller Jacques Matarasso. In 1942, their daughter Anne de Staël was born.

From the moment they met, Jeannine and Nicolas had a symbiotic artistic relationship. It was the sale of Jeannine's paintings, however, that kept the struggling family afloat. "She left all the colours for Nicolas so that he could paint. That was more important to her,” says Anne de Staël. “She went to the man she loved most in the world", and, as Pygmalion would have done, “she helped him, magnificently, to become the artist he was meant to be”.

 In 1943 they left Nice for Paris, hoping that life would be easier there. The gallery owner Jeanne Bucher put them up in Vieira da Silva's studio, then in the mansion of the great French architect Pierre Chareau, 54 rue Nollet. Here they met Braque, Picasso, Domela and the poet Pierre Reverdy. Braque and Magnelli both liked Jeannine’s work, and Nicolas himself told a couple of collectors, "Take one of Jeannine's paintings, they’ll be more accomplished.”

Jeannine died on 27 February 1946 at the age of 36, after undergoing the therapeutic termination of a pregnancy.
She was laid to rest in the cemetery of Montrouge, Hauts de Seine. When Nicolas died in 1955, he was buried beside her.

In 2011, the Picasso Museum in Antibes, curated by Jean-Louis Andral and Daniel Abadie, held an exhibition in her honour: La vie dure. La rencontre Nicolas de Staël - Jeannine Guillou. (The hard life. Nicolas de Staël meets Jeannine Guillou.)

 - Catalogue of the exhibition La vie dure. La rencontre Nicolas de Staël - Jeannine Guillou, Picasso Museum, Antibes, published by Silvana Éditoriale. 
- Interview with Anne de Staël, Portraits de Jeannine, by Catherine Aventurier, 2024.


AM Art Films