BirthFrouard, Meurthe-et-Moselle, France (1891)
DeathLa Poste de Velaine, Meurthe et Moselle, France (1980)
French fine artist and puppeteer. In 1934, when he was leading the life of both painter and ceramicist (in Lunéville, his style tending towards Art Deco), Geo Condé was approached by Pierre Brandicourt, animator of the Groupe des Étudiants Catholiques de Nancy (Association of Catholic Students of Nancy), suggesting he founded a theatre of marionettes or string puppets. He quickly became its principal designer/maker, sculpting, fabricating and costuming the puppets, building the staging and the scenery. There was close collaboration between the students, Condé and members of his family. A version of Charles Gounod’s Faust (1934) was soon followed by a variety of circus and music-hall numbers, and these sketches were transformed into a surrealist drama entitled Poor Macaron, which won the silver medal of the International Exposition in Paris in 1937.
Wartime austerities led Geo Condé to turn to glove puppets which needed fewer materials and manipulators. He had the idea of embroidering the faces with strands of multicoloured wools juxtaposed to resemble strokes of a paintbrush. The technique (adopted by Jacques Félix, one of his students) enhanced the appearance of the puppets so that the characters gained the picturesque quality, often close to caricature, in the spirit of Honoré Daumier or of German Expressionism. The colours and the graphic style of the cloth décors bore witness to its parentage, that of painter and puppeteer, a style practised until 1966 essentially in the east of France. The plays which he wrote himself were full of the fantastic, adapted from the fables of La Fontaine, the legend of Saint Nicholas, Charles Perrault’s fairy tales, Ali Baba, forming a repertoire intended both for adults and children.