BOMBOIS Camille
French painter born at Venarey-les-Laumes, Côte-d'Or, in 1883. His father was a boatsman. In several paintings one finds again the influence of his life on the water. He has always retained his love for rivers and stretches of calm, moving water, and landscapes framed by the arches of a bridge. After brief periods of schooling, the boy was sent, at the age of twelve, to Migennes, in the Yonne, as a farmhand. He begins to draw at sixteen. Strong and pugnacious, he loved to challenge his companions in the village square, and was soon regional champion in wrestling. Of athletic force he becomes regional wrestling champion, and afterwards joins a traveling circus as boxer. He liked to pit himself against the athletes of travelling circuses. One day he left with them. The wrestlers, the female equestrians, and the country shows furnished him with new themes. Eager to see Paris, he set off on foot one day for the capital. He becomes a roadman, then a laborer on the subway construction. But finding that he does not have sufficient time to paint, he prefers to work at night in a printing house. As a result of his conduct during war of 1914-1918 he is awarded the Military Medal.
 Through all these vicissitudes he never stopped dreaming about painting and drawing, and, in order to be able to devote the necessary time to it, he found himself night work in a printing plant. For seven years he worked like this, snatching only a few hours' sleep, and in his free time he succeeded in elaborating a technique, an art, an æuvre. Another four and a half years he spent in the trenches. Towards the end of 1922, having decided to show, at last, the results of so much labour, he put his best canvas on a chair in the street, and a few small ones on the ground around it. They are noticed by Noël Bureau, who writes an article about him in Rythme et Synthèse; Mathot and Uhde buy all his paintings. Bombois was at last able to devote himself entirely to painting. Soon he established himself in his own house in a Paris suburb, in a studio which he filled with the landscapes of his own life. Camille Bombois's case is undoubtedly the most characteristic of the so-called naïve painters, the one that shows most clearly the path of a self-taught painter, guided from the beginning by an artistic instinct which will not be denied, which depends on no formal cultural background and is stronger than all the circumstances life puts in the way. From his youth painting has been one of the manifestations of a prodigious strength which asserts itself in every sphere. When Bombois paints people he gives them extra weight and greater girth. His distortions are not dictated by plastic reasons but by his contact with the shattering realities over which he has triumphed. By his physical force Bombois has won the right to be a painter, and he has succeeded in introducing this force into his painting, using it entirely for that end. That is why, in contrast to most naïve works, his figures have weight and volume, his landscapes shape and depth. He has rediscovered the skill and distant vistas of the primitives.
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