Ridgefield notables: Charles Cobelle, painting joy and happiness
Thousands of people enjoy the art of Charles Cobelle every day without going to a gallery or museum — his colorful murals of French scenes enliven the walls in buildings across the country, and even in ships that sail the seas.
And the scenes are bright. “He didn’t want a rainy day — he only wanted happy days,” said one art gallery owner. “You’ll never see a rainy, dark day in any of his pieces.”
Born Charles Edelman in Germany in 1902, Cobelle was trained as an architect. He changed his name to “Cobelle” after moving to Paris where he began studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and spending many hours working privately with Marc Chagall and Raoul Dufy.
Even after moving to the U.S. in the late 1920s, his work was filled with Parisian street scenes, impressions of the Riviera, French race tracks, and casinos — almost always, with people having fun.
One writer described Cobelle’s work this way: “The subjects in Cobelle’s paintings were not of actual locations or events, but they nevertheless convey the excitement of the places that they depict. This imagery, combined with a vibrant palette of expressive colors, creates a world full of verve and wit that effortlessly transcends reality.”
In this country, Cobelle became a prolific and popular artist and muralist. His murals could be found throughout the country at such places as the Henry Ford Museum, the offices of Neiman Marcus, Gimbels, and Bloomingdale’s, hotels like The Desert Inn in Las Vegas and Mark Hopkins in San Francisco, and the ships of Holland American Lines. He also did murals for the 1939 World’s Fair.
In Ridgefield, his murals can be found at Bernard’s Inn on West Lane and at Boehringer Ingelheim’s headquarters.
Cobelle lived in Ridgefield for 32 years, first on Barlow Mountain Road and then Seth Low Mountain Road. In 1965, he lost most of his early work as well as records and correspondence when a fire destroyed his Barlow Mountain Road studio.
Cobelle died in 1994 at the age of 92 and is buried in St. Mary Cemetery.
His love of color and bright city scenes live today in the paintings of his daughter, Christina “Tina” Cobelle-Sturges, who grew up in Ridgefield and whose oils and watercolors, well-known on the regional art scene, were influenced by her father.
“As Cobelle’s child, I would see him creating and painting everything that would bring joy and happiness to the world around him,” she once said.
— Jack Sanders