Betty Harter’s Silhouette

Silhouette of a woman with backing sheet and envelope

I found this silhouette twenty years’s ago in a trunk. The truck was in my parent’s attic, full of all kinds of unlikely pieces of cloth and costume. The silhouettes was languishing forgotten at the bottom.

At the time, I was helping my parent s to pack and move all their belongings as they left their Somerset village home for a smaller town house, more suited to retirement. 

I asked Mum who it was.

Silhouette off a young woman. Label reads: Paris - Butte Montmartre, Claude Marin
Silhouette of Pretty Harter, bu Claude Marin

“I think it’s my mother, Betty!” came the astonished reply.

“Where on earth did you find it?”

She had no recollection of ever seeing it before, but recognised who it was immediately.

The artist didn’t stick this silhouette down. For me, this is a bonus, as I can see clearly how it was made. He simply placed it, together with a printed backing paper, in an old-fashioned glassine envelope. The artist cut an amazingly thin piece of paper to delineate the front of her blouse. I’m amazed this didn’t break off years ago!

The silhouette has that typical quick-cut, street-art feel so typical of Montmartre. I can te backing card tells me it was cut by Claude Marin in Butte Montmartre, Paris. My mother estimated it was made in the early 1930s. 

Claude Marin

Claude Marin painting in Paris in the 1980s

Claude Marin (1914-2001) was a French impressionist painter who seem s to have spent most of his life in Montmartre. As a young man he supplemented his income by cutting silhouettes in the Place du Tertre, near Sacre Coeur Basilica.

I did spend some time trying to find out more about him, but there’s not much to go on! Nobody has written any articles or websites about him. All that turns up are various sale results when this painting appear in auctions.

You ca see some tif these if you search for Claude Marin, artist and looking at the images.

Betty Harter, whom I knew as “Granny”, passed away when I was 16. I remember her well, but not like this. Claude Marin’s silhouette gives me a new connection to her as a young woman, as well as to a young silhouettist whom I never knew.

I wonder what these two spoke about on the day, as he cut her portrait?  Looking at this silhouette, and knowing (as I do) how it was cut, I feel like I’m travelling back in time. I can picture the scene so clearly!

This is why this silhouette remains one of my favourites. 

Do you have a silhouette story to tell?

If you have a silhouette of a relative or friend which is really important to you, please let me know. I can feature it here!

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