Samivel swore by his village of adoption, Les Contamines. A village that he discovered, narrated, drew and defended against excessive development. If his name often evokes watercolours of small characters faced with the overwhelming beauty of the mountain, few know that behind this pseudonym lies a self-taught and unclassifiable artist.
Born in Paris, Paul was taken to Les Contamines at an early age. His mother feared that the terrible respiratory disease that had killed his father would also affect her son if he did not enjoy the fresh air of the Haute-Savoie. The young boy thus discovered the true natural beauty of Les Contamines.
A passionate adolescent he enjoyed mountaineering and climbed his first 3000 metre summit at the age of 12 and the Mont-Blanc at 16. Paul is marked by the mountain as others may be by the sea.
An alert artist, he sketched everything: mountaineers and their setbacks, the smell of socks in the shelters, the epic arrival of a climb or the stealthy traces of a chamois in fresh snow. He was rapidly perceived as an author of humorous mountaineering scenes. His postcards, posters and books are still available today at the local newsagents opposite the Town Hall.
He led his life for himself and offered his talent and creativity to others. He was a specialist of relevance, a wonderful narrator and a perfectionist designer. He was the author of strong evocations that today remain enrolled in the minds of all when it comes to representation of the mountains. Samivel used his pen, his watercolors and his sense of humor to question the place that man occupied in the economy of nature. The illustrator knew that the real wealth of the Val Montjoie is its calm, its nature, its chamois and its choucas. He liked to recall that it is presumptuous and vain to interfere with such nature.
In 1973, the Dauphiné Libéré published an article on the project to connect Les Contamines to the Beaufortain region via the Col du Joly, a dozen kilometres of asphalt across the mountain pastures. Despite strong objections the building was programmed to start in 1976. Wounded and angry to see this nature reserve destroyed by man he decided to sell his chalet and never again step foot in Les Contamines! Ironically the road was never built!
The artist did, nevertheless, make a final trip here. His ashes were scattered at the top of the Domes de Miage in 1992. The council has since decided to pay him tribute and in 2013 the Samivel Garden is due to open behind the village church.