Wounded in the Great War he becomes deaf and a misanthropist

The year after his successful first exhibition – 1914 – Dick Beer makes his grand tour in search of the dazzling southern light. He discovers Venice, Florence and Sicily. He travels to North Africa and stays along in Spain. He paints with frenzy and his pictures are no more impressionist, one may call them neo-impressionist in the line of Signac. They are remarkably mastered, always light as the air, very agreeable but also very personal. In August 1914, Beer has returned to Paris. Like a hundred other foreign artists residing in the French capital, he enrols in the Légion étrangère after having signed a manifest at Café Le Dôme against Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany. Although he remains enlisted until the end of 1916, he is seriously wounded in the head by an exploding grenade in September 1915 at Souain.

Recovering at the Château de Rochefort and elsewhere, he immediately takes up painting, which probably is the best therapy. In a monumental oil canvas dated late 1915, La cathédrale d’Albi, clearly post-impressionist in the treatment of the perspective and the way to apply the paste (different techniques melting into one), the spectator is surprised by the apparent calmness of the scenery. It’s almost too calm, it’s a cool beauty, the houses are solidly present but haunted by the huge religious building in yellow brick forming a massive background. The cathedral is seen in the same time from a short distance and a long distance, it’s very peculiar, and there is not one human figure present ! The humanist Dick Beer, attracted by debates and brilliant conversation at cafés such as Dôme and Rotonde, good food and fortuitous encounters, a born storyteller, becomes progressively from this convalescence period a misanthropist. He is the victim of nervous crisis which he can’t control. He never recovers totally from the head wound, and one of the physical stigmas is a growing deafness, tragic for a musical man who sings Italian opera with gusto. The artist would return many times to Albi attracted by this strange and severe Ste Cécile cathedral, fortified in the Middle Age. His uncle Hugo lived also here retired for many years with his Alsatian wife.