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Abstract artist may have works tucked away in Guadalajara

An abstract artist who spent more than 20 years in Guadalajara left several works throughout the city. Now his daughter is working to track them down.

Paul Fontaine, who lived in Guadalajara from 1970 to 1992, painted energetic geometric patterns in bright, vibrant colors. He would have turned 100 in 2013 had he not died in 1996 after returning to the United States.

In honor of his life’s work, his daughter Claudia Fontaine Chidester has published a book “Work Standing Up: The Life and Art of Paul Fontaine” telling his story and highlighting his art. Baylor University had a retrospective show featuring his work. Chidester said she’s also interested in visiting Guadalajara and doing a book signing if there’s enough interest and she can find more examples of her father’s work.

“He really took on the textures of Mexico, the colors of Mexico, the architecture, everything about Mexico was infused in his work,” Chidester said.

She’s confident there are people here with private collections that include Fontaine’s paintings and she can help those people find out how valuable the works might be. “I know there’s more (Fontaine paintings) down there,” she said.

Fontaine was born in 1913 to French-Canadian Americans. His proclivity for art turned up at an early age. At 8, an elderly woman asked him to draw a picture of her, Chidester writes in the book. Instead Fontaine drew an upside-down car, which made the woman so happy she enrolled him in the School of the Worcester Art Museum, Chidester recounts.

Fontaine was a classically trained artist who studied at Yale University, though he would later say one should “unlearn” what is taught in art school. Still, that training is evident in his paintings, his longtime friend Jesus Cervantes said.

“It’s an abstract art, but it says a lot,” said Cervantes, who owns an interior design company, Enlace Interiores, in Guadalajara.

Cervantes and his wife had moved into a home in Colonia Seattle and as they were settling in, they found Fontaine had come in through an open door and was standing in the living room telling them how much he appreciated the work they’d done on the once run-down house.

Fontaine was a bold person like that, Cervantes said. In time, Fontaine and his wife Virginia became like family to Cervantes, celebrating holidays and special occasions with them. Fontaine also made connections in Guadalajara and sold paintings through the Galeria Alejandro Pena.

“He was a person who really enjoyed life,” Cervantes said. “I don’t remember seeing Paul worry about anything.”

Fontaine’s art isn’t widely known in the United States, perhaps because he spent so much of his life overseas. He was drafted into the Army during World War II and shipped to Italy with the Second Corps of Engineers, where Chidester writes he built and burned bridges, made maps and “screwed around with the signage in order to confuse the enemy.” He also continued painting.

After the war, he got bored waiting for a ride home, Chidester said in an interview, so he took a job in Paris and invited his wife to join him. In 1953, the Fontaines moved to Darmstadt, Germany, where the artist took over as art director of the European edition of Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the U.S. Armed Forces. Eventually, in 1969, he set his sights on Guadalajara and he, his wife and three daughters settled into a tent in a trailer park here, where they lived for three years, though they did eventually trade the tent canvas for tin lined with muslin curtains.

In Mexico, the color in Fontaine’s paintings grew bolder and he developed a philosophy to sell lots of them at reasonable prices. He grew quite popular in Guadalajara, Chidester said.

His wife died in 1992 in a difficult moment for the artist.

“They were very united as a couple,” Cervantes said.

He spent his final years in Texas to be near his daughters and died at the age of 82. While not a natural teacher, he did spend time toward the end sharing his knowledge with Chidester’s daughter. One of the paintings in his final years—an abstract image of a girl in bright, broad hues of orange, red, yellow, green and purple—was inspired by a sketch by his granddaughter.

Those interested in purchasing the book about the artist can get more information at and anyone with a Fontaine is encouraged to contact Chidester at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



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