Serving in France during World War II, a U.S. soldier from Fairfield County happened upon a fledgling young artist named Jean Fournier. Captivated by his paintings, the soldier befriended Fournier.
The soldier turned out to be J.D. Skilman, a wealthy patron of the arts who lived in Fairfield. A decade after meeting Fournier, Skilman brought him to the U.S. and arranged exhibits of his paintings at New York's Contemporary Art Gallery in late 1954 -- and at Westport's Leonid Kipnis Gallery in early 1955.
Fournier died last December at age 89, and his family now is trying to locate people who may have bought his paintings in Westport or who now own them, according to his nephew, Nicolas Moysan.
The family is especially interested in photographs of the paintings, Moysan said. The family also would like to hear the recollections of Fairfiled County people who met the artist during his stay in Connecticut.
In a telephone interview from Paris on Tuesday, Moysan said the family is organizing a foundation in his uncle's memory and wants to compile a more complete record of the artist's life and work.
Moysan, a 24-year-old Paris medical student who paints as a hobby, said the artwork exhibited in Westport represents an important time in Fournier's career because he had recently returned from a period of living in India.
Fournier's work was on display at the Kipnis Gallery on Church Lane from Jan. 26 to March 11, 1955. While in Connecticut, the painter lived at his patron Skilman's home in Fairfield, Moysan said.
He said his uncle's style was difficult to define but his method was very deliberate.
"He was very slow when he worked, and I don't mean in a bad way, Moysan said. "He had been inspired by India, Spain, Tunisia and Ouessant (a sparsely populated island off the northwest tip of France where he lived.)
"And his muse, of course, had been his wife Annie, who now lives in Paris," Moysan said.
While the family continues to gather images and information about Fournier, a French-language website -- www.jeanfournier.fr -- already has been established. It lists the Westport exhibit among many others during the painter's lifetime, along with a biography and some samples of his work.
DO YOU OWN A FOURNIER?
People who own Jean Fournier paintings, or have recollections of the artist or his work, may contact his nephew, Nicolas Moysan, in France as follows:
95 Rue F Guivarch