Le Petit Arc de Triomphe
This painting by Louis Valdo-Barbey (b. 1883) is called “Le Petit Arc de Triomphe”. The painting was a gift from the people of the city of Paris, France, to the State of Arkansas. It was one of the gifts from France in thanks for Arkansas’s assistance to France after WWII, as part of the Merci Train or Thank You Train program. Valdo-Barbey was appointed official painter of the French Navy in 1947 and was an Officer of the Legion of Honor.
The gifts were sent as an expression of gratitude for donated agricultural products sent to Europe by Americans to people in need after World War II.
In 1949 the French sent a boxcar train of 49 cars of gifts, one for each state plus one shared between Washington, D.C. and the Territory of Hawaii, in return for more than 700 boxcars of relief goods sent from individual Americans.
The boxcar designated for Arkansas was presented by the French Consul General to Governor Sid McMath on February 13, 1949. The gifts were displayed first at the Rock Island Freight Depot and then at the State Capitol where they were viewed by more than 25,000 people. The gifts were distributed statewide, and the Arkansas Arts Center has 5 of these gift art pieces.
The restored original boxcar for Arkansas, which contained 500-600 gifts, is on display today at American Legion Post #41 in Helena.