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Projet personnel

Le chemin des dames, the path of souls

A tribute to a couple of remarkable women in the great war 1914-1918: Lili Boulanger and Nelly Martyl.

A nurse runs. 
A cellist plays a music 
that no one can hear.
An unknown armed soldier
wanders in the loneliness
of a plowed land.

Two crossed destinies

Nurse-singer Nelly Martyl boosted the morale of the troops – a curious expression – by singing opera arias behind the battlefields. As to Lili Boulanger, who was she singing for in 1918, on her deathbed, when she whispered the last bars of her Pie Jesu as she no longer had the strength to go to her piano or even to hold a pencil?

Buried in the cemetery of Montmartre, Lili Boulanger has been resting in the silent world of the deceased for a century, alongside her sister Nadia. Back in 1953, just a few dozen meters from Lili’s grave, Nelly, the fairy of Verdun, had joined her, after a life devoted to helping the needy in her eponymous foundation, built in 1929 at 129 rue de Belleville in Paris. The building eventually succumbed to the wounds of time, the developers’ bulldozers having sadly erased its last traces in 2017. 

While Lili Boulanger’s grave is still in bloom, Nelly’s burial site has been abandoned. However, scratching the foam lets her name reappear: Nelly Martyl née Martin, 1884-1953, widow of famed illustrator and painter Georges Scott. These women’s involvement in the Great War inspired my work. I set out on the scarred battlefields, with both a light and heavy heart, to meet these two ladies, these two souls

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