For most people in France, the name Belmondo is associated with Nouvelle Vague actor Jean-Paul Belmodo; that sexy, thick-lipped heart-throb, with a distinguished boxer’s nose, who shot to stardom in 1960s films like Jean-Luc Godard’s A bout de Souffle (Breathless). What most of us don’t know is that the actor’s father, Paul Belmondo (1898-1982), was actually one of France’s most important 20th-century sculptors; and one of the last to use neoclassical, academic techniques.
Many of his works - characterised by harmonious forms, unfussy lines and smooth surfaces - epitomise the 1930s style; particularly the gracious proportions of La Danse, in the Théâtre de Chaillot, commissioned for Paris’s Universal Exposition in 1937. You can also see two of his statues in the Jardin de Tuileries (a well-hung Apollo and an elegant Jeanette).
Thrusting his works into yet more limelight is this spanking new Musée Paul-Belmondo, set inside in the 18th-century, neoclassical Château Buchillot in Boulogne-Billancourt.
The space, entirely revamped by architects Chartier-Corbasson, is a predominant mix of stark white, black and timber materials that lend a different ambiance to each section. Several rooms harbour niches and alcoves in which Belmondo’s sculpture’s sit as if in a workshop; and numerous artificial backdrops, along with raised floors and frames, create multiple sight lines. A clever use of natural and artificial lighting also draws you to the detail on each of the sculptures. And a special ‘replica’ room on the 1st floor even encourages you to feel the works’ textures.
Your visit ends in the chateau gardens, where works created by Belmondo’s contemporaries pepper the lawns in 1930s glory – a treat for lovers of Art Deco and a godsend on a sunny day.