Readers and fans of the Tintin magazine will remember Corentin Feldoë, a brave, helpful teenager who stopped at nothing. The bold blond kid with long hair is the work of drawer Paul Cuvelier, a great friend of Hergé’s. And did you know the man was born in Lens in 1923 and his place of birth hasn’t forgotten him?
In Lens Town Hall, a large wall fresco features the cover of The Extraordinary Adventures of Corentin, the first comic book aimed at teenagers and invented by Paul Cuvelier, the great comic strip designer. Lens is proud of its artist and rightly so. Produced by Lens artists, the fresco reflects the designer’s immense talent.
A meeting with Hergé
Paul Cuvelier spent his childhood in the municipality. He drew the surrounding landscapes, made up stories which he read to his younger brothers and secretly dreamt of an artist’s life. Doors, walls, cabinets: he’d use any material or piece of paper to satisfy his passions and channel his energy. When he presented his drawings to Hergé for the first time, he was only 19 years old. And yet, the great comic strip master was captivated by what he saw. Here is what he said about the young man from Lens: « I remember Paul’s first visit in 1945. He came asking me for advice. I looked closely at his sketchbooks and I was dazzled! There were sketches of “jeeps”, of American soldiers; there were also some excellent sketches of horses. But most impressive was a sketchbook containing beautiful full-page watercolours, which illustrated the main points of a story he told to his younger brothers and the hero of which was called Corentin”
The adventures of Corentin
Hergé asked the young Paul to join his team and to produce a comic book for the Tintin magazine. Corentin left the family home, his work took off and he joined other major comic book figures. His adventures appeared alongside those of Tintin, Blake and Mortimer, as well as the Four Sons of Aymon. Very quickly, Paul Cuvelier stood out for his virtuoso mastery of anatomy, his drapery, his costumes, his decors, and his dazzlingly complex compositions. But despite his immense talent, the man lived through highs and lows. At one point, he left his pencils for his brushes, thinking he could live off his painting. However, he would never be so widely acknowledged as for his comics, much to his regret.
Painting, his first passion
In his paintings listed notably in a catalogue by the Paul Cuvelier Foundation (www.paulcuvelier.org), we see how much the municipality where he was born and grew up mattered to him. Paul Cuvelier loved the countryside and animals. Many Lens farms long inspired him. Village scenes, landscapes, and horses held his gaze. The horse, “the most naked of animals” as he put it, especially attracted him. As incredible as it may seem, Paul Cuvelier didn’t need to set up his easel in front of a landscape to immortalise it. Once in his head, he could lay it on paper right down to the smallest details. Until his death, the artist devoted himself to his passions, painting and sculpture but the man died prematurely aged 55. He is forever buried in his native village of Lens.