Max Decugis, Francois Flameng, and WWI

Innocence and hats and quiet revolutions. That was before the war. Max Decugis won a record 8 French Championships ending in 1914. Francois Flameng painted Max’s crisply parted black hair and elegant white pants on a tennis court teeming with prewar pastoral: “the men leaving the gardens tidy, The thousands of marriages, / Lasting a little while longer: / Never such innocence again” (Philip Larkin, “1914”). Though he never won another French championship, Max was one of the lucky ones. His marriage to Marie Flameng, his mixed doubles partner of 1905, lasted till 1969. Marie was the daughter of Francois Fleming.

For 5 straight years, 1915-1919, The French championships ceased like other abandoned motions of ease and grace. Sentimentality turned ghostlike to haunt all artists forever more. Flameng’s son killed in action in 1915, so he replaced the subjects and histories of Academy painting with a sketchbook and trips to the war’s front lines. He would finish these wartime sketches in the studio while men marched forward towards a heroic meaninglessness few painters or tennis players could understand.
François Flameng, “A Machine Gun Company of Chasseurs Alpins in the Barren Winter Landscape of the Vosges”
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The original uploader of Francois Flameng’s wartime painting above was Sus scrofa at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain,

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