Poor Alsace

In 1945, I went back to Alsace with my bicycle and saw our poor relatives, all of whom had suffered under the Nazi occupation. Aunt Marikel and Uncle Sepp were still waiting for the return of their son Richard, who he had left for Russia the day General Leclerc liberated Marlenheim. He never came back.

From the north to the south, I discovered an Alsace I had never seen. I took all the back roads and paths through the hills and vineyards, drawing and painting as much as I could for six weeks. Back in Rennes, I worked on illustrating books. When they were published in Paris, I was given–with Méheut's help–the contract to do the illustrations for Erckmann and Chatrian's L'Ami Fritz. I went back to Alsace to do research and to find out more about the Wissenbourg region. But opportunities for work were slim in Alsace, as they were everywhere in France. I sold pottery sculptures at Galeries Lafayette department stores and was accepted twice at the Salon de la Marine in Paris with an historical subject on the Resistance, and a rocky landscape at St Guénolé. I was able to pay room and board to my mother, who was always glad to have me stay for a while.

Aunt Marikel and Uncle Sepp's House. Credit: Frédéric Back, Marlenheim, 1946
Military Cemetery. Credit: Frédéric Back, Châtenois (Kestenholz), study, 1946
The Munster Valley. Credit: Frédéric Back, Ampfersbach, study, 1946
Grape Harvest. Credit: Frédéric Back, Westhoffen, Study, fall 1946
L'ami Fritz by Erckmann-Chatrian with illustrations by Frédéric Back. 1947
House Said to Belong to Fritz Kobus. Credit: Frédéric Back, Wissembourg, sketch, 1946
Smugglers. Credit: Frédéric Back, painting done for the Ministere de la Marine, Brittany, ca.1946