Leaving France and my family

In May 1948, René Guillon, a friend and designer who knew about my travel plans, told me that a trawler out of St-Malo would be leaving for Canada from Saint-Louis-du-Rhône in two weeks. In great haste, I sold a few paintings, gave some of the money to my mother and, with no visa, left by train with my bicycle and a suitcase full of drawings. Fortunately, one of my Sarrebrück aunts was visiting and was able to console my mother about my leaving.

Going through Bordeaux and Montpellier, I discovered a France I did not know: I saw Carcassonne emerging out of nowhere across a field of wheat. In Montpellier, I reconnected with my father, who had been hired by the Opera there a few months earlier and was enjoying his stay. He came with me on the train as far as Arles. Amidst the olive trees and the ruins of an ancient bridge, there suddenly appeared an old shepherd accompanied by his donkeys and dogs and a huge herd of sheep led by rams with twisted horns. I was stunned by so much beauty. If only I could find something equally fine on the other side of the world...

Proof of acquisition of an artwork by Frédéric Back exhibited at the Salon de la Marine. July 13, 1948
Jean Back (right) with a friend. Montpellier, ca.1948
Shepherd with His Sheep. Credit: Montreal, sketch from memory, March 22, 2007