Born in 1889, in Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, died on August 2, 1978.
Daughter of Baron Paul de Coubertin and Violette Machiels, Marie-Marcelle de Coubertin, was endowed with great artistic sensitivity, and took up painting – although how she came about it remains uncertain. One must remember that her grandfather, painter Charles de Coubertin, died in 1908. She therefore spent quite some time with him and had been familiar from childhood with an artist’s studio.
During World War I, she turned to nursing. Her records emphasize her professional qualities as well as her great dedication and courage. They earned her the French Military Cross, presented to her in 1919. She lost her brother Guy and her mother to that war, and her other brother Bernard died in 1923. These events saddened her youth. Like her slightly younger sister, Yvonne de Coubertin, Marie-Marcelle was to remain single.
After the war, she returned to her art studies. A 1978 exhibition catalogue mentions she took courses at the Académie de La Grande Chaumière. She completed her technical training at the Ecole du Louvre, where she attended a program on the history of painting, from 1926 to 1934. She then presented a dissertation on “The Virgin Mary in Sienese painting”. To complete this work, she spent some time in Sienna; she fell in love with the city, where she painted watercolors, kept by the family.
From 1921 to 1945, she regularly exhibited her paintings in Paris: Salon des indépendants, Salon de la Nationale, Salon d’automne, Salon des Tuileries. This shows her desire to be part of the art world and share its major events. However, it seems she never exhibited in a gallery. Indeed, she did not sell her works.
Paintings by Marie-Marcelle de Coubertin are kept by her family and a consistent collection remained at the château de Coubertin. The works are signed “mm de Coubertin” and none of the ones I saw bore a date. It is therefore difficult to retrace her steps; the scenery depicted – Mediterranean landscapes, beaches in Brittany and Normandy – might help a chronological approach, if one could pinpoint some dates of her trips. We only know that, between the two wars, she often visited a friend in Sanary-sur-Mer (Var), where she painted oils and watercolors of Mediterranean landscapes.
At the beginning of World War II, she joined the Civil Defense services, as a volunteer driver, and was appointed to a position with the Boulogne-sur-Seine police station. She then worked with the Red Cross automobile sanitary sections, driving a sanitary vehicle. She carried out several assistance missions for first aid posts for refugees in 1940.
She always lived in Paris and spent – towards the end of her life – the entire summer at the Château de Coubertin, which she owned with her sister Yvonne, and where she occupied the first floor. Among the works that are still at Coubertin, many depict various aspects of the gardens and buildings, including two of the paintings that will be part of the “Pierre de Coubertin and art” exhibition.
She mainly painted:
- landscapes: beaches, sailboats at sea, gardens
- interior views: with windows looking out on the gardens
- still lives of fruits and flowers
Benezit mentions that she painted des portraits, but there is only one at Coubertin (unsigned, probably unfinished) and the family has none.
As for knowing whether she still painted in her old age – she was 89 when she died -Yvan de Navacelle de Coubertin, who was her godson, believes she gave it up around 1960.
In 1978, shortly before her death, a collection of her paintings was exhibited in the Coubertin estate gallery, built by her sister Yvonne for the Coubertin Foundation. The exhibition catalogue mentions the titles of the works exhibited, numbered, which allowed to identify those that kept their number on the frame. These paintings have since remained in Coubertin,
Both through her themes – seascapes and rural landscapes, still lives – and her technique – rather thick paste, contrasting touches of bright colors – Marie-Marcelle de Coubertin’s painting is firmly rooted in the post-impressionist tradition.
Testimonials by member of her family, including Geoffroy de Navacelle de Coubertin, her cousin twice removed, and Yvan de Navacelle de Coubertin, who was her godson.
collection of official documents, awards and citations, mission orders, etc., kept by Yvan de Navacelle de Coubertin
Benezit, Dictionnaire des peintres, graveurs, sculpteurs
Paris, Lib. Gründ, 1976 edition
Note p, 212 of volume 3
Catalogue of the “La Médaille” exhibition
including drawings by Joseph Bernard and paintings by
Marie-Marcelle de Coubertin –
Coubertin Foundation, Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, 1978
* Pascale Grémont Fondation de Coubertin