Franck Juhel reflects on the art of penmanship

Many know Montblanc for their designer watches and luxurious fountain pens, but perhaps lesser known is their commitment to art. Franck Juhel, president of Montblanc for the Middle East, India and Africa, explains Montblanc’s evolving relation with art.

“Montblanc Cultural Foundation has supported worldwide projects in art, theatre and music,” Juhel says. His pride is justified. Since it was founded in 1992, the Montblanc Art Collection has supported over 170 artists by commissioning them to produce new works, with over 210 artworks created as result. The Montblanc Cultural Foundation’s second initiative, the Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award, has honoured close to 300 patrons in 17 countries over the past 26 years, with donations nearing five million euros since 2002.

Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Awards, Beirut 2018

A Tribute to Imagination
Montblanc is not just a supporter of the arts, but in many ways a work of art in itself. The recently introduced Montblanc Meisterstück Petit Prince pen collection is a prime example of this artistry. The collection, based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s famed novel Le Petit Prince, features original drawings from Saint-Exupéry’s text: a deep blue of sky, a yellow star, a quote from the text and a fox face pattern on the cap – a tribute to the sage fox in the book. No details have been left to chance: Montblanc even created unique, deep orange ink cartridges for the pen, inspired by the fox character’s fur coat. Just like a piece of art, the pen is also full of meaning: “Le Petit Prince was chosen because it promotes the same values we try to uphold at Montblanc: friendship, love, creativity,” explains Juhel. “The collection, called a ‘Tribute to Imagination,’ is the celebration of childlike imagination and creativity that lies at the heart of the story.”

Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Awards, Beirut 2018

The Sound of a Good Pen
The process of making a Montblanc pen is also something of a fairy tale. The pens are made in the Montblanc manufacturing facility in Hamburg, Germany. “Each nib is individually tested for quality by women who write with the pens using invisible ink,” Juhel says. Here’s the mystical part: you may think that the women use their sense of touch to test the quality, but that’s inaccurate. “The women actually test the nib by listening to the sound it makes,” says Juhel. “It’s a traditional way of testing the pen that has been passed down through generations. It’s an antiquated expertise we are trying to preserve. And we use women because they have more patience!”

Montblanc’s celebration of the fountain pen seems anachronistic: it stands against the onslaught of technology that defines our modern world. But in upholding their traditions, Montblanc remind us of the creative simplicity and innocence that lie at the heart of every artistic endeavour, much like Le Petit Prince evokes nostalgia for the creative innocence of childhood. The pen is inextricably linked to art after all.