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Post 3. Chalet of Edmond Bille

The chalet “ Les Mélèzes ” was built in 1905 by Edmond Bille(1878-1959). The young Neuchâtel painter had completed his training in Paris when he discovered Chandolin for the first time in 1900. He had received a request from the pastor Frédéric de Rougemont, a friend of the family who went for holidays to Grimentz to paint the “ Sphinx ”, or the Matterhorn as it is seen from the hilltop village.

   Map of Chandolin

 

To paint this huge canvas, Edmond Bille lived for more than two months in the cure, sharing a beautiful friendship with the priest at the time.

Under the spell of Valais, he settled in Sierre in 1904, building his studio and a year later, the superb chalet in Chandolin that became his place of inspiration. At “ Les Mélèzes ” he received artist friends who, like the owner, came to put their easels down for a studious and sporty stay : they were the first to slide down these snow-covered slopes on skis.

In order to paint in good conditions, in 1912, Edmond Bille built a studio just above his chalet, which was later transformed into housing.

Very interested in the daily life of the mountain population of which he made drawings starting from the moment of his arrival in the region, Edmond Bille was the initiator of the editorial success “ Le village dans la Montagne ” (The Village in the Mountain), published in 1908, with texts by the noted Vaudois writer Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz.

In his Sierre atelier, a quote from Théophile Gautier decorated the walls : “ Every artist has an ideal country, often far from his own home land. His talent is at home there, it is an atmosphere that is propitious for his work and he must return to that place as soon as he is free. This is where he can develop his talent, where the tree brings forth its most beautiful flowers. ”

Fully engaged in his subject, the painter also wrote texts about life in Valais both from the cultural and the political perspective. During the First World War, he participated in a publication on Swiss politics called “ L’Arbalète, ” at the same time as he received Romain Rolland and Pierre-Jean Jouve in Sierre.

As of 1920, Edmond Bille began to work more and more on stained glass, decorating several churches, including those of Chandolin (the choir), Chamoson and Fully, but also the Abbey of Saint-Maurice. He was the creator of the very large stained glass window in the Hôtel de Ville of Martigny, which is based on historic and mythological references.

Two of the children of Edmond Bille followed in his professional footsteps : the author S. Corinna Bille and the photographer and wildlife filmmaker René-Pierre Bille.

 

S. Corinna Bille (1912-1979)

She spent her childhood and holidays between this chalet and the striking home of Edmond Bille in Sierre. Her real name was Stéphanie, although she used the name of Corinna as her pen name, in reference to the village where her mother came from, Corin.

This young girl known for her wild imagination, at the age of twenty became a scriptgirl for the movie “ Rapt ” of film director Dimitri Kirsanoff, based on the book of Ramuz ”La Séparation des Races ”. S. Corinna Bille met an actor whom she followed to Paris, but her marriage was unsuccessful and she returned to Valais in 1936, somewhat disillusioned. Affected by pleurisy, she stayed several times in Chandolin, where she enjoyed writing.

Published in the anthology of young poets of Romandie, she met Georges Borgeaud, who introduced her in 1942 to Maurice Chappaz, a poet and author of a number of works including Le Match Valais-Judée and Les Maquereaux des cimes blanches. From their union were born three children. The family moved from house to house before settling in 1957 in Veyras.

Corinna’s first novel, Théoda was published in 1944, followed byLe Sabot de Vénus in 1952, stories imbued with her love for the Valais and the peasant world as it was explained by her mother.

S. Corinna Bille received many awards, including the Schiller Prize in 1974 and the Prix Goncourt for short stories for La Demoiselle sauvage in 1975..

A nature lover, Corinna left a fruitful and prolific oeuvre ( work ), brimming with rich imagination including the following titles :Douleurs paysannes, Le Pays secret, La Montagne déserte, Soleil de la nuit, Le Bal double, Le Salon ovale, and Deux passions».

Loving travel, Corinna Bille went to Lebanon and several times to Africa, specifically to Abidjan (Ivory Coast), where her eldest son worked. She went on an official visit to the USSR in 1974 and returned there twice, the last time in 1979, a few months before her death.

Several of her books have been translated into German, Italian, English and Russian, amongst other languages.

When asked why she wrote, Corinna replied : “ One cannot bear happiness, nor pain. Writing is the cure for the unbearable. My work alone gives me balance, and consistency, that neither social contact nor religion nor adventure, or even motherhood can provide. ”

 

René-Pierre Bille (1915-2006)

Like his sister, René-Pierre Bile spent his holidays in the chalet of Edmond Bille. Passionate about nature and wildlife, when he was very young he developed a deep desire for a life off the beaten path. Four collections of poems illustrate this period : “ Empreintes, ” Terres sauvages, ” “ Dégel, ” and “ Journal d’un bohème. ”

Around 1945, he settled in the village centre of Chandolin, participating with villagers in collective work. He began to write many articles on wildlife and rural life that were published in various newspapers and magazines. Exchanging his pocher’s rifle for a camera, René-Pierre became a roving photographer, learning the difficult profession of a naturalist every day in the field.

Troquant son fusil de braconnier contre un appareil photo, René-Pierre devint chasseur d’images, apprenant tous les jours sur le terrain le métier difficile de naturaliste.

He became friends with Ella Maillart who came to Chandolin, invited by Edmond Bille to rest between trips. Through her, in 1950, he met Samivel who was seeking an assistant for the shooting of his film “ Cimes et Merveilles. ”

In 1954, married and a father, he acquired his first secondhand camera and presented four years later his own film “ Le Monde sauvage de l’Alpe “ which won an award at the Trento Film Festival in 1958. In the framework of the “ Connaissance du Monde “ conferences, until 1985, the filmmaker commented on images that were full of poetry for thousands of spectators, in Switzerland, France, Belgium and even in Canada.

René-Pierre Bille published many works about nature. His photos are published in numerous scientific publications.

As had Edmond Bille, René-Pierre was named an honorary Bourgeois of Chandolin.

The photographer, filmmaker, writer and lecturer who died in 2006 wrote : “ I owe everything to nature. (...) With the photo, I had the deep and beneficial feeling of forever capturing a moment of pure life. (...) Without this daily quest in every season, life itself would probably have lost all meaning and flavour for me. ”

 

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