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Rheims, Maurice 1910-2003

RHEIMS, Maurice 1910-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born January 4, 1910, in Versailles, France; died March 6, 2003, in Paris, France. Auctioneer and author. Rheims was a well-known fine-art auctioneer in France who also wrote books about art, as well as fiction. Educated at the Louvre and the Sorbonne, he began dealing in fine art as a teenager and had steady business as an auctioneer in Paris from 1935 to 1972, a career interrupted only by World War II. Because he was Jewish, he was imprisoned by the Nazis and scheduled to be executed. Intervention from an influential friend of his father's allowed Rheims to escape this fate, however, and he joined the French Resistance. Later, he fled to Algiers, where he fought with a regiment of Free French paratroopers; his war service earned him a Croix de Guerre and Médaille de la Résistance. After the war, he returned to his auctioning career, becoming particularly expert at the art of the period from 1880 to 1910. Later in his life, he was a vice president of the administrative council of the National Library, beginning in 1983, and president of the prix Vasari, beginning in 1986, as well as serving as president of the Cultural Development Fund for the Foundation of France. Rheims published over twenty nonfiction works during his career, including several books on art such as L'objet 1900 (1964) and La vie d'artist (1970), the latter of which received the 1970 prix Broquette-Gonin from the Academie Française. He also completed eight works of fiction, one of which, Le saint-office (1983), won a grand prize for black humor. Rheims was also praised for his Dictionnaire des mots sauvages (1969), a collection of arcane and bizarre words. For his accomplishments, Rheims was made a member of the Academie Française in 1976 and was named a commander of the French Legion of Honor in 1979.

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Independent (London, England), March 10, 2003, p. 16.

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