PoetsPosted by Stijn Peeters Wed, February 06, 2019 11:08:17
Who doesn’t know this work? It is called ‘the Poor Poet’ and was painted by Carl Spitzweg in 1838. It’s his best known work by large, although Spitzweg was just in his fourth year as a self-taught painter when he created it. And had almost half a century ahead of him . Before he decided to become an artist Spitzweg worked as an academically trained chemist.
The poor poet is lying on several mattresses in the corner of an attic. An open umbrella is meant to shield him from the water entering through a leaking roof. Bundles of his own writing lie next to the oven. Alexandra Matzer writes that rather than an august artistic genius, Spitzweg opted to present the figure of a bohemian: antibourgeois, destitute, but inspired.
And I think that she has a point when she writes; ‘Only after analyzing all aspects and a required sense of empathy Spitzweg’s social criticism will show itself. Amusing though the motif might at first glance appear, it is also a socio-critical comment on the precarious situation of artists. As is so often the case with his works, it is precisely this ambivalence that constitutes the appeal of Spitzweg’s depiction. This ambiguity is also expressed in the iconography of the pointed cap worn by the “poor poet”, for during the French Revolution the so-called Jacobin or liberty cap was used as a symbol of republican resistance. Seeing as it was only a mundane sleeping cap widely worn by the people, it could not be banned as a sign of subversive views. Seen from our own time the work has clear elements of Romanticism and then especially the German Biermeier variant ( 1)
In 1844 The Magazine ’Fliegende Blatter’ is founded in Munich and Spitzweg is engaged as one of the artists to draw caricatures. He goes into satirical works by French artists like Daumier and Grandville. The fact that there also existed an interaction becomes clear by the variation on ‘the poor poet’ that Daumier draws for the ‘Le Charivari ‘(May 26,1847).The lithograph is titled; “Brigand de propriétaire... qui ne veut me faire faire des réparations qu'au beau temps !...” [The landlord really is a robber ... It seems he chooses to make roof repairs only during sunny weather ...].
There are a lot of similarities with ‘der arme Poet’ but Daumier didn’t draw ‘un Pauvre Poète’, although a book lies on the ground there is no pen or quill in sight, this poor man has other issues to deal with. The next image incorporates Daumier’s drawing into a bigger story...
Edmund Texier, image from ‘Tableau de Paris’ from 1852. Cross-section of a Parisian house about 1850 showing the economic status of the tenants varying by floors.
In 1850 a lot of residents of Paris protested the plan of Baron Hausmann,(nickname ‘artiste démolisseur’ artist-demolisher) to build identical five -story houses with uniform façades along the boulevards. They feared that the uniformity of the buildings would turn Paris in a dull and monotonous city.
Despite of the protests Hausmann was able to gain support from the authorities and hundreds of these houses were built. The caricature shows the interior of one of these houses; “On the streetlevel the cook lets her so-called nephew get a taste of the soup. Madame Conciërge danses to the music of the piano played by her daughter who studies at the ‘Conservatoire’. Like ‘tout le monde’ she’s intent upon becoming an artist. On the first floor Madam takes a nap and Sir stretches himself while they wait for visitors to arrive. All the luxury in the world and one is bored! On the second floor we see the richness of marital bliss, father, mother, children and their toys. A floor higher we see the landlord who comes claiming the back rent. On the fourth floor we see a workman out of money and artists stamping their feet in order to stay warm( also based on a print by Daumier). And a philosopher daydreaming under his blankets, brooding on ‘un ouvrage palingénésique ’ while an umbrella hangs over his head to protect him from the leaking roof. ( 2)
An ‘Ouvrage palingénésique ’, what a wonderful notion! The source of this difficult word is ‘rebirth’. A work of rebirth. A phenomenon well known to artists . No success again, no sales, critiques, not even a mention of one’s name! Back in the studio you have to reinvent yourself, improve this and that, visualize even stronger, do some soul-searching and find a way to charge your inner artist and reappear reborn with new works that will inevitably convince everyone !’
On a side of the box of Chris Ware’s sensational ‘Building Stories’ you can find a small drawing of one of the main figures who sighs ; “I don’t think you can make yourself into an artist…you just have to be born that way, like being gay, or something…that was my problem, I think...I was always just art-curious” ( 3)
Back to a real poet, Baudelaire. On page 67 of the dissertation Linda Nochlin wrote as her final thesis presented in 1963,( 4) ( which I was lucky to find in the outstanding multi media center of Fontys Hogeschool der Kunsten in Tilburg), I find when Nochlin discusses Courbet’s portrait of Baudelaire; “(...)but with representing Baudelaire concretely at this particular moment of his life ( probably the time when the impoverished poet sought shelter in an improvised bed in Courbet’s studio)” He may be poor but that doesn’t diminish his inner powers. Manet complains in a letter addressed to Baudelaire about the reception of Olympia and writes.” I could wish you were here, insults pour down on me like hail. I should so much like to have your opinion of my paintings, for all this outcry irritates me, and it is evident that someone or other is at fault.” But Baudelaire already knew something of how prophets are treated.The imperial authorities had presecuted his masterpiece . He had been convicted and fined 300 Francs. The judge ruled that six of his verses had to be suppressed for future editions. He answers Manet ; “ I must speak to you of yourself. What you demand is really stupid. They make fun of you, the jokes aggravate you; no one knows how to do you justice, etc, etc. Do you think you are the first man put in this predicament? Are you a greater genius than Chateaubriand or Wagner? Yet they certainly were made fun of. They didn’t die of it. And not to give you too much cause for pride, I will tell you that these men are examples, each in his own field and in a very rich world,whereas you are only the first in an art in the state of decadence.” ( 5)
The homeless poet
Jehan Rictus ( 1867-1933), born Gabriel Randon, was forced to live on the streets at the age of 17 amongst the clochards and other poor people of Paris. Later on in life his experiences became the source material for his poems. A collection of which were printed under the title ‘Les Soliloques du Pauvre’( the poor’s soliloquy). Dreams of the last warm stay, remembering the arms of a woman, the life of the poor in a style that attempts to imitate their language ( through slang, dropped letters and so on) The poems are melancholic , sometimes filled with bitterness an rage but also with a humoristic touch to them. His ‘Soliloques du pauvre’ is translated into English under the same title ( 6) but apart from this fact I’m unable to find more. But I really like reading the texts aloud and try to get into the rhythm, like I did with a poem called Espoir , a fragment;
The language expresses a rough pulsing rhythm . I learn that Rictus became successful as a singer in the Paris cabarets. An album from 2017 by the French rapper Vîrus gives me an idea of the almost hallucinant power and renews the urgency and actuality of these poems. Listen to Vîrus’ version of ‘Les Soliloques du Pauvre’ and feel the tension building up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7ui66Elalw
By forming a large historical circle I would like to end this text with a stanza from François Villon’s ‘Big Testament” from 1461.
(Ah God! If only I had studied in the days of my mad youth, and learned good habits, now I’d have a house and soft bed, but look. I fled from school like a bad boy...And writing these lines ,I fear my heart will break) ( 7)
(2)https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k2058533/f6.image.r=texier+tableau+de+paris.langFR Own translation of the text on page 65 of the first part of Texier’s book.
(3) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/9571426/Building-Stories-by-Chris-Ware-review.html , Photographer; Julian Andrews. Do yourself a big favour and buy the box, it is still available I bought it for 38 and a bit Euros.
(4). “The development and nature of Realism in the work of Gustave Courbet; a study of the style and its social and artistic background, Linda Nochlin 1976. ( Outstanding dissertations in the fine arts) Originally presented as the author’s thesis, New York University 1963”. (A major find from the sensational media library of Fontys Hogeschool der Kunsten, Tilburg. Education management, please consider that it is absolutely no problem to let books rest for a while, it is not wise to confront scientific libraries with economic shelf-life ideas. Knowledge gets better while resting, just like good wine)
(5) Olympia, Paris in the Age of Manet, Otto Friedrich, Aurum Press Ltd 1992, pagina’s 25-26.
(6) Herbert W. Kitson ‘Les Soliloques du Pauvre’. ( University Press of America, 1982)
(7) http://www.florilege.free.fr/jehan-rictus/les_soliloques_du_pauvre.html ( Theophile Alexandre Steinlen was one of my heroes during my study to become an illustrator. When you say ‘Steinlen’ you automatically say ‘cat’. When you go deeper into his works , like I do now and didn’t do in the 1980’s, I find that he engaged himself with the social issues of his time, at times combined with the decorative use of cats’ bodies).
( 8) I own a real nice Dutch edition of François Villon’s, Het Grote Testament, translation by K.J.A.Janson, Het Spectrum Utrecht-Antwerpen, 1961. The French version I found here; https://geudensherman.wordpress.com/lit-ma-fr/ma-1440-1500/francois-villon/, and by copying the first lines “Hé ! Dieu, se j’eusse estudié” , I came upon ‘A place to live and other selected essays’ by Natalia Ginzburg ( edited by Lynne Sharon Schwartz)and there I found an English translation minus the two last lines which I attempted to translate myself. Not very poetic but it gives an idea of the content.
Le Nain JaunePosted by Stijn Peeters Wed, January 16, 2019 15:10:40
In the second blog on “Le Nain Jaune” I made a short mention of Henry Harland and the Yellow Books. Harland was the literary editor of the series , Max Beerbohm the artistic editor and with him I will start this text.
In October 1896 Beerbohm’s story “The Happy Hypocrite” was published in number eleven of the series of Yellow Books. Lord George has fallen in love with the young actress Jenny, a yellow dwarf named Cupid caused this by shooting an arrow in his breast. Lord George boldly proposes marriage to Jenny, but she says that she will only marry a man with the face of a saint and a saintly character. In order to make her change her mind George calls in the service of a mask-maker a Mr. Aeneas. Wearing the mask Lord George shows himself to Jenny. Beerbohm offers some motives to play down the cheating by attaching the love for art and beauty to the mask, the result of wearing it changes not only the looks but also the character. The two marry and live blissfully in a little cottage. One day a former lover of George shows up and pulls his mask down in a jealous rage and to his own astonishment the mask has done its work and his face has changed permanently ( 1)
Cupid, the Yellow Dwarf by Max Beerbohm and on the right 'The Yellow Kid' by Richard Felton Outcault.
The Yellow Kid ( 1896-1898) created by Richard F. Outcault was one of the first comic newspaper characters. At first the Kid was just one of a group of street kids from the New York slums. He wore a blue nightgown of one of his sisters for lack of other clothing. One day Charles Saalburg, who was in charge of the colour prints, got the bright idea of colourizing the gown yellow. This was still experimental at the time, since yellow ink didn't dry properly. But the effect was; it increased the visibility of the boy with the buckteeth and protruding ears. For Outcault The Yellow Kid represented not an individual, but a type he had noticed during his wanderings through New York’s streets . The kids do mischief, joyfully engage in slapstick and speak a phonetic language. Which had a huge appeal to the largely new immigrant population of New York. Outcault developed the speech balloon as a container for this language and also wrote it on the Yellow Kid’s gown. Another first was The Yellow Kid's tendency to reference recent news events. Political cartoonists had done this as early as the late 18th century, but in comics this was still a novelty.
Despite his popularity The Yellow Kid fell victim to politics in 1889. In the run up to the Spanish- American War newspapers like William Randolp Hearst’s ‘The New York Journal’ were responsible for creating an atmosphere aiming for war. An effect of the mood created against anything Spanish was also an antipathy against the colours of the Spanish Flag, yellow and red. In this atmosphere the yellow gown made the Kid vulnerable and contributed to Outcault’s losing interest in his creation ( 2)
´The Big Type War of the Yellow Kids´ caricature by Leon Barret published in Vim Magazine 1889. (3)
Joseph Pullitzer of ´The New York World´ and William Randolph Hearst of ´The New York Journal´ , (newspapers that featured the Yellow Kid cartoons ) build a block tower and bicker about who’s war it is. Their stories swayed US public opinion to believe that the Cuban people were being severely persecuted by the Spanish, and that the only way for them to gain their independence was through American intervention. Hearst and Pulitzer made their stories credible by self-assertion and providing false names, dates, and locations of skirmishes and atrocities committed by the Spanish. The papers also claimed that their facts could be substantiated by the government. More than 100 years of neo-conservative influencing of public opinion and government policy, what has changed over the years?
A curious monkey
Hans Reyersbach was born in Hamburg in 1898 and met Margarete Waldstein (born 1906) at a party for the 16th birthday of Margarethe’s sister. Hans was already living in Brasil when the two met again in 1935 after she had left Germany to escape from the nazis. They decided to get married and travel to Paris for a honeymoon that would last almost 4 years. While in Paris, Hans's animal drawings came to the attention of a French publisher, who commissioned him to write a children's book. The result was ‘Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys’. One of its characters, an adorably impish monkey named Fifi, was such a success that the couple considered writing a book focused entirely on it. With the advance of the German army the Reys , being Jews, decided to flee Paris in 1940. In a lot of texts about this episode I come upon sentences like ´Hans assembled two bicycles´ or a reference to ‘self-made bicycles´, so I also got curious. How did he turn two bicycles into one and how did it look? In the end I found this image from a film made about the couple’s adventures (5)
A tandem! Is it possible they considered resting in turn and keep going forward? Would the one resting have found stability against the other? Would they have continued cycling during the night? Riding the tandem, with only their winter coats and four picture books strapped to the racks, the couple travelled to the south of France. In Bayonne they were issued life-saving visas signed by the Brazilian Vice-Consul. They were able to cross the Spanish border, travelled by train to Lisbon and from there they went to Brazil and straight on to New York. Where in 1941 the first Curious George story was published. (4)
( 6) Curious George rides a bike. And The man with the Yellow hat
In the stories Curious George has a steady companion , the man controlling and educating him is called “The man with the Yellow Hat”. This man catches George in Africa ( “One day George saw a man, he had on a yellow large straw hat. The man saw George too. “What a nice little monkey”, he thought. “I would like to take him home with me”. He put his hat on the ground, and, of course, George was curious. He came down from the tree to look at the large yellow hat”.) and takes George with him to America wherethe little monkey, curious as he is, constantly gets into trouble . The first Curious George story is a big success from the start and a whole series of new stories follow. They keep being reprinted and adapted to new times, animation series, movies and television films are made. (The first television adaption was aired in 1980 and I’m inclined to think Mike Kelley may have seen it and based his Mr Banaman on the character of the Man with the Yellow Hat. I will go into that in a new text.) As an illustration of the ongoing popularity of Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat: two photographs of Halloween costumes ( 7)
Driving off on a bicycle.
The story of the Rey’s escape made me think of a book that had made a big impression on me when I read it in my adolescent years. The book’s title is ‘the Russkoffs’ and it is written by Francois Cavanna. In my recollection the main character decided, in the same June days of 1940, to take his bike and leave Paris, fleeing from the advancing German army. The idea to just get on to your bike, skip school and drive away ,towards the horizon, stays with me, even after 40 years since I read the book. I wanted to refresh my memory so I bought a second hand copy, started reading and found out that my memory and interpretation had created an alternative story.
François , just 16years old, is the son of Italian immigrants. He is fed up with school, and wants to get a job. His father is a bricklayer and like all immigrants of the first generation he wants his son to have a more comfortable life. François starts working in one of the post offices of Paris and is only engaged for a short time when the war starts . The director of the post office calls for an emergency meeting during which he informs the employees; “The Krauts are already in Meaux. You will go home straightaway to fetch your stuff, take only the most necessary. In three hours time there will be a bus which will take you south. These are orders of the government. Those who refuse will face huge penalties.” The director continues;” I’m unable to accompany you , I’ve received orders to stay and confront what’s coming.” “A hero, well almost, he shouldn’t have worn those slippers during working hours. But he’s got tender feet”, Cavanna remarks cynically. Of course the bus doesn’t show up. The director tells his employees; “those of you who have bicycles will have to use these. The rest of you best take the train, if you can still catch it, if not you should try going on foot. The regrouping will be in Bordeaux, at the central postoffice. Try to stay together as best you can”. And so François mounts his bicycle and he’s off, adding one more body to a chaotic exodus. Eventually he notices he’s been overtaken by the German army and returns home after a couple of weeks.
The real subject of ‘the Russkoffs’ starts right on the first page of the book, the chapter is called “Slave Market.” François has been drafted to work as a forced labourer in Germany. He is working on a metal press that makes parts for grenades. The book describes his experience of three years prison camp, hunger, survival and mass dying, the encounter with his love and soulmate the Ukranian Maria and the nearing collapse of Germany. And the slow return back to France, losing Maria along the way, during a short absence of François she is rounded up by the Russian army and he is unable to find her. The book is dedicated to ‘Maria Jossifovna Tatartsjenko, wherever she may be’. The last lines of the book read ; “Once, I don’t know how I will go there. To the Ukraine, to Charkov. I will find her. In the meantime I will study the Russian language. And I started working again, one has to live, dying is no option”. ( 8)
The formative war experience turned Cavanna into a person with a big distrust for power, someone who has learned to look behind the scenes, someone who defuses all rhetoric . After the war he starts drawing comics for the newspaper ‘Le Déporté du travail’, a paper founded by the Association of Forced Labourers. He continues drawing for satirical magazines like Zéro and La Presse Aux Oeufs D’Or ( The Press with the Golden Eggs). Here he gets to know Georges Bernier. Together with him he starts the satirical magazine Hara-Kiri in 1960 and its successor Charlie Hebdo in 1970.
Cover of the Russkoffs. And a special Père-Lachaise edition of Charlie Hebdo, 5/02/2014, devoted to François Cavanna 1923-2014.
2. R. F. OUTCAULT'S THE YELLOW KID A Centennial Celebration of the Kid Who Started the Comics. Introduction by Bill Blackbeard, Kitchen Sink Press.
3. Totally beside the point but very funny; on the original Vim Magazine I cannot find anything but for those who like well muscled appealing men in minuscule bathing trunks this is a very nice search term.
6. Original drawing for one of seven Curious George stories with a dedication by H. A. Rey to ‘Nancy,who was too old for this book when it was first published, but who is now the right age, with love, from her ancient friend’. https://natedsanders.com/curious_george_first_edition__signed_by_h_a__rey_w-lot42430.aspx
7. Nowadays the stories of Curious George are being read in a critical way. There are a host of blogs questioning educational aspects of the behaviour of the Man with the Yellow Hat, aspects of western colonialism, and capitalist appropriation to name a few.
8. De Russkoffs, Francois Cavanna, 1980 Uitgeverij Lotus Antwerpen, translated by myself, in absence of an English translation
Le Nain JaunePosted by Stijn Peeters Mon, January 07, 2019 13:46:53
As I pointed out in the first text about Le Nain Jaune it is plausible that the name of the magazine is derived from Madame D’Aulnoy’s fairy figure. In this text I will attempt to create order in the many variants of yellow dwarfs that have developed over time. First in connection with political and literary magazines, secondly the yellow dwarf as a fairy figure in books and as a theatre figure, and thirdly the use of his name as a pseudonym.
The original first magazine had a short lifespan and existed from 1814 until 1815, manged a short restart in Brussels under the name of ‘Le Naine Jaune Refugié’ which publication ceased in 1816. In the same year Le Nain Tricolore, or Journal Politique, des Arts, des Sciences et de la Littérature was founded . It was a magazine with Bonapartist sympathies. It didn’t take long for the whole group of editors to be convicted and sent into exile to the abbey of Mont- Saint-Michel where they stayed for three years.
‘The three literary dwarfs, or the bastard children of the yellow dwarf fight over its corpse’
The story of this caricature is told in the preface to the edition of January 1816: “Le Nain Blanc didn’t survive its prospectus, Le Nain Verte is even lesser known than the Green Giant and Le Nain Rose could be named after the colour of its envelope and the dwarf poppy. They are still circulating without resistance, without readers almost . By presenting their existence to the public I do not aim to clarify their title or colour. As the only son and heir of Le Nain Jaune , grown up in its true French school, I must declare why I wear new colours, because in principle I’m the same”. The text of the preface goes on explaining the symbolism of the colours and ends with; “everything for the Fatherland and the Truth, is my motto and I remain loyal to that”. (1)
In 1818 an English version is published under the name; ‘The Yellow Dwarf, a Weekly Miscellany’, a newspaper edited by John Hunt, No 19, Catherine Street, Strand. (2) I find more information on Hunt in a publication called ‘The Law Advertiser’ under the header ‘Insolvent debtors’. Hunt is mentioned as bookseller and publisher of ‘the Examiner, London Weekly Newspaper’. He seems to have been active from a large number of London addresses and even to have lived in Rouen, France for a while. I’m wondering if he continued his publishing on the other side of the Channel.( 3)
The first issue of The Yellow Dwarf reports about a lawsuit against a fellow publisher, a Mr. Hone. He is accused of publishing ‘three squibs in the form of parodies of part of the service of The Church of England”. The piece makes reservations about the argumentation of the prosecutor and puts forward arguments to show that they are not in good order. There’s a further piece about a speech on the freedom of the press by Mr. Jollivet, deputee of the Assemblée Nationale in which he is quoted; “The liberty of the Press is less necessary in a Representative Government than in other.-” “The Press” he added, “is represented as the only instrument by which truth can be made known; but the passions of men are too impetuous, to permit the Press that Liberty which some demand. The real National Representation is in the King.”
On the 16th of May 1863 a new Nain Jaune appeared in France, this time in the form of a newspaper, edited by Aurélien Scholl, this Le Nain Jaune would continue until 1876. An illustration in the head of the paper of the second of August 1865 shows a dwarf armed with a crossbow, rising from a grave amidst a group of onlookers. ( 4) Despite continuing the use of satire, the focus of the newspaper was less on politics and more on literature when compared to the first Nain Jaune. The list of names of its contributors is imposing, amongst them Théodore de Banville, Henry Rochefort ( also known by the portret painted by Manet), Emile Zola and Victor Hugo. Jules-Antoine Castagnary, a close friend of Courbet, ( see blogtexts 1 en 2) was chief-editor of Le Nain Jaune for a while.
Recently I was able to buy a copy of “Album des Bêtes à l'usage des gens d'esprit,” published by Aurélien Scholl. The book consists of three sections with engravings based on drawings by Grandville and Kaulbach. As publishing house is mentioned; Paris, Aux Bureaux du Nain Jaune, 1864.
The painting monkey on the title page smokes a pipe decorated with the head of Napoleon!
The journey of the fairytale.
Because of its great popularity Madame d’Aulnoy’s fairytale was translated for an English audience in the 18th century. The translations were adapted to different audiences, the rooms of noble and upperclass ladies and to nurseries. A very extensive article about the many modulations and adaptations to the story is written by Évanghélia Stead. (5) Le Nain Jaune turns into The Yellow Dwarf and Toutebelle becomes princess All-Fair . Sometimes the dwarf wins but in other stories the outcome is a happy one, the princess gets her happy ending, imaginably to spare the delicate children's soul.
Editions in the series Walter Crane’s toybooks and one of Crane’s woodcut illustrations
It didn’t take long for the story to inspire theatre writers. Their productions were called pantomimes. Of which ‘The Yellow Dwarf or Harlequin Cupid and the King of the Goldmines’ by Henry J. Byron is the best known. The first performance was in Covent Garden,London in 1869.
In this play the figure of the Yellow Dwarf is characterized as; “not the pink of politeness, but the in-carnation of villainy”.
A chorus from one of the songs:
Bad,bad,bad as he can be,
Here in me one you see;
In what’s wrong, and never right
I delight, boys, I delight
The Yellow Dwarf as bad as you could wish for,
Yes, I’m a fellow of the deepest dye,
he very deepest dye,
Though I’m yellow
There are a lot of varying theatre-productions on the Yellow Dwarf theme, to name just a few; ‘The Yellow Dwarf or Harlequin and the son of the sunflower” by G.D.Pitt, and ‘Harlequin (and the) Yellow Dwarf or the enchanted Orangetree and the King of the Goldmines’, by T.L. Greenwood .
The Yellow Dwarf’s part in a pantomime written by James Robinson Planché was played by Frederick Robson . This painting from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, shows him in his role as Gam-Bogie. A creative reference to Gamboge, a bright yellow color coming from a natural resin and the word Boogeyman. This image of badness may only be compared to that of Roark Jr, the Yellow bastard from Frank Miller’s Sin City. A sadist untouchable by wealth and connections. But now I’ve strayed far from chlidren’s fairytales.
In April 1894 the first Yellow Book was published , a series published by The Boldley Head. With Aubrey Beardsley as art editor and Henry Harland as literary editor, the new magazine would publish works unlikely to be accepted by mainstream publishers. Harland contributed a lot of short stories and was fond of using pseudonyms, for each of which he adjusted his writing style. He wrote three satirical essays under the pen name “The Yellow Dwarf ( 6)
Le Nain Jaune is the title of a book Pascal Jardin wrote in loving memory of his father Jean Jardin , the yellow dwarf being his nickname. A book filled with anecdotes about a happy childhood and a father as a practical joker. By publishing his book “Des Gens Tres Bien” a painful family tragedy becomes visible, as grandson Alexandre reveals the collaboration history of his grandfather. During the World War Two occupation of France Jean Jardin acted as Head of the President’s Office for Pierre Laval. Laval was notorious for his role leading the government of Vichy and his collaboration with the German authorities. In 1945 he was convicted for treason and executed by firing squad. In his book Alexandre Jardin explores the efforts of his family to portray his grandfather as a typical civil servant, loyal to his superiors, simply carrying out orders. And tries to come to terms with the past. (7)
2. (Nrs 1 -21 of ‘The Yellow Dwarf’ can be read through Google Books) https://books.google.nl/books?id=LHoeAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA8&dq=the+yellow+dwarf++j.hunt,no.19+Catherine+street+Strand&hl=nl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiNpPLStbbfAhWB2aQKHTRPADgQ6AEIKzAA#v=onepage&q=the%20yellow%20dwarf%20%20j.hunt%2Cno.19%20Catherine%20street%20Strand&f=false
4. Unfortunately I can only find low-res images of this frontpage, if someone finds a picture with a higher resolution I would be much obliged.
5. Évanghélia Stead, ‘Les perversions du merveilleux dans la petite revue; ou, Comment le Nain Jaune se mua en Yellow Dwarf’, in ‘Anamorphoses decadents: lárt de la défiguration, 1880-1914, etudes offertes a Jean de Palacio’. Presse de L’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 2002
6. On Henry Harlands activities and writers’ carreer in New York, Parijs and London see Barbara Schmidt’s article, http://1890s.ca/PDFs/harland_bio.pdf
Le Nain JaunePosted by Stijn Peeters Mon, December 17, 2018 13:32:15
One of the reasons I started this blog and the research for it was my fascination with the interaction between high and popular art. And how this can be studied by looking at the personal practices of individual artists. When artistically dealing with the workings of politics and personal engagement. The first time I encountered the yellow dwarf was while leafing through a Time-Life book , ‘The world of Delacroix’, written by Tom Prideaux. On page 35 of the Dutch translation a black and white reproduction is shown of a drawing of three monkeys, the accompanying caption reads; while still studying at the École de Beaux Arts (1816-1817) Delacroix began publishing caricatures in a Parisian newspaper Le Nain Jaune, unbiased social satire. In Delacroix’ etching ‘three literary midgets’ quarrel on the gravestone holding the remains of Le Nain Jaune, caused by a contemporary process threatening the closure of the newspaper. ( 1)
A coloured version of the image I found on the internet shows that the fur of the dwarfs or monkeys has different colours(2). I like to think that they represent the ‘tricolore’, red-white-blue. Although the blue has a viridian, dark green hue. (2) The donkey in the middle tries to protect white and yellow booklets against the attempts of the other monkeys to take them away. He is in a desperate situation because of the giant goose feather and the foolswand he clutches at the same time. The subtitle of the print reads; les trois Nains Littéraires, ou les bâtards du Nain Jaune, Se disputant ses Dépouilles. In a rough translation this is ‘The three literary dwarfs, or the bastard children of the yellow dwarf fight over its corpse’.
In the recent catalogue published on the occasion of the Delacroix exhibition in the Louvre ( 3) I find another image and here the monkey in the middle has a grayish blue fur. Which goes to show that it is advisable to check multiple sources. Ségolène Le Men names the three dwarfs as representatives of three competing smaller satyrical ‘journals’. From 1807 to 1820 Delacroix lived in the Rue du Coq Saint Honoré, also the address for the Martinet Libraire this etching could have been printed ‘on the premises’. ( 3)
Delacroix and his relation to caricature is a very complex matter. There has been written a lot about a group of prints signed EXXXXX .
One of Delacroix’ earliest friends and first biographer Achille Piron recalls that Delacroix supposedly cooperated on two caricatures for ‘Le Nain Jaune’ and in 1930 in an article for ‘la Gazette des Beaux Arts’ Jean Laran confirmed that the 6 letters represent his first name Eugene. (4) Nowadays doubt reigns. The British Museum, owner of a substantial group of Delacroix prints, mentions ‘formerly attributed to Delacroix’ behind producer name
In a next blogtext I will go into Delacroix and the more than 20 lithographs he made for Le Miroir.
Le Nain Jaune must have been a real collector’s item. Every five days a gathering of a 24 page issue in a book-sized format was published , accompanied by nine large, hand coloured fold out caricatures each month.
Le Nain Jaune became especially famous for inventing two new royalist “orders” as a means of riculing the supporters of the prerevolutionary regime. One of these orders was that of the girouette (weathervane). A statesman was pictured with a particular amount of weathervanes representing the numbers of times he changed his opinions and allegiance to regimes. As can be seen in this print of a sixheaded Talleyrand. The second invention is ‘The order of the Eteignoir’ ( “candlesnuffer)‘ , playing on the double meaning of the French word lumière to indicate both “light” and “enlightenment.” The candlesnuffer became a symbol of reactionary attempts to turn back the clock and stifle liberty.
Members of the Order of the Eteignoir wear candlesnuffers as hats, Le Nain Jaune , 15 februari 1815.
In Juli 1815 ‘Le Nain Jaune’ was suppressed by royal decree, the editors found refuge in Brussels ( at the time ruled by the Dutch) where they established ‘Le Naine Jaune Refugié’ and succeeded to smuggle this exile version into France. International pressure on the Dutch government resulted in closure of the paper after half a year.
I suppose that the name of the paper was a reference to ‘Le Nain Jaune’, a fairytale written by Madame d’Aulnoy in 1698. In contrast with the ending of a lot of fairytales in this story the bad guy wins and not the charming, but greedy princess Toutebelle and her parents. A promise is a promise even little princesses cannot get away with breaking it. So the yellow dwarf in this sense is an avenger of broken promises.
The Yellow Dwarf in an Epinalprint and Le Nain Jaune the namesake of the paper.
(1) De Wereld van Delacroix, Tom Prideaux , Time-Life Bibliotheek der Kunsten, 1971. A lot can be argued against this text fragment. Le Nain Jaune was founded in December 1814 and was suppressed in July 1815. The date 1816-1817 as mentioned by Prideaux as the date that saw Delacroix earliest attempts at caricature is after the closure of the paper. Unbiased social satire is a strange sentence connected as it is with a satirical political magazine. And it might be an interesting discussion if the remains of a magazine rest in a gravestone or in a grave.
(3) Delacroix, Musée du Louvre, Éditions Hazan, 2018. ‘Delacroix et L’Estampe, by Ségolène Le Men, page 375.
(4) Jean Laran, ‘Péchés de Jeunesse d’Eugene Delacroix’, La Gazette des beaux Arts, janvier 1930.
(5) Censorship of Political Caricature in nineteenth century France, Robert Justin Goldstein, Kent State University Press 1989, page 101 and further
ManetPosted by Stijn Peeters Tue, December 11, 2018 09:24:12
Last week I saw a series of photographs on the website of the Guardian. Photographs by Philippe Blet and Kamil Zihnioglu documenting graffiti connected with the ‘Gilettes Jaunes’ protests(1)
Striking were historical references like; “Macron = Louis 16”, a combination of Emmanuel Macron the King that was publicly guillotined in 1789. Political texts like; ‘Taxera les Riches’ ( Tax the Rich) and ‘La crise climatique est une guerre contre les pauvres’( The climate crisis is a battle against the poor), and even a biblical quote ‘And when they say ‘peace and security’, then the world will be lost’ But the most fascinating photograph for me was this one.
The half-circle behind the pedestal shows workers with baskets, a wheelbarrow and spades. Grouped around the pedestal are four men, a painter with a palette in hand, a bricklayer and an architect, the profession of the man on the left is unclear to me. The graffiti “insurrection Populaire”makes it difficult to decipher the name of the man on top. But aided by the first four readable letters ‘Alph’ I found out that the monument was dedicated to Jean-Charles-Adolphe Alphand (1817-1891). Chief engineer under the famous Baron Hausmann, Alphand created walks, parks and gardens remodelled the Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne. So not the socialist leader the graffiti had let me believe, but a foreman directing his co-operators and workers.
I discovered that the monument was a work by Jules Dalou, the man with the brick in his hand leaning on the half-circle is a sculptor and not a bricklayer as I assumed. The names of the others are known also. Architect Bouvard, painter Roll, and engineer Huet. Interesting names for sure, but going into their careers distracts from my storyline. While searching for information about Alphand I came upon the following pdf
It is striking that this link does not seem to work anymore after a day and a message informs me about the occurance of an Error 404. Possibly a form of ‘linkrot’ a strangely naturalistic concept in relation to Alphand’s career. Look at the illustration, doesn’t is show similarities to Manet’s ‘View of the Universal Exposition of Paris, 1867’?
By leafing through my own collection of books and browsing the internet I’m unable to find this image. T.J Clarke’s ‘The Painting of Modern Life’ even shows the painting on the cover. In ‘Art and Politics of the Second Empire, The Universal Expositions of 1855 and 1867’ Patricia Mainardi offers a thorough analyses of the painting which takes up seven pages.
I don’t want to go into it in deep although it’s worthwhile reading. Just some sentences that caught my attention;“Because it is the only painting of the Universal Exposition, and because Manet’s intention was clearly to create a major work summing up both the event and his own aesthetic principles, issues both public and private, both aesthetic and political,can be illuminated through an analysis of this one painting.” ( ...)” This was Manet’s first –and last- view of Paris, and if he painted it on the motif it would be his first plein-air picture”. (...) “Manet, whom Zola had recently defended against the accusation that his painting was as primitive as Epinal prints, has here adopted a similar spatial disjunction and taken it even further. He has dropped out the middleground completely and jammed together the two areas of maximum interest, the immediate foreground and the distant panorama”.
Mainardi quotes an Epinal print as a possible source( Pinot et Saciare, General View of Paris and the Universal Exposition of 1867, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris), Berthe Morisot’s painting ‘View of Paris from the Heights of the Trocadero, 1872, (Santa Barbara Museum of Art) and the masthead engraving from the official exhibition catalogue( L.Dumont, LÉxposition Universelle de 1867 illustrée). But the image I came upon while researching the graffiti on the monument is nowhere to be found.
What do you think? Could this be a possible source for Manet’s painting?
2. Photograph: Kamil Zihnioglu/AP
ManetPosted by Stijn Peeters Mon, December 03, 2018 09:08:36
During the first seven years of my artistic practice I painted landscapes or illusions of it. This last approach became gradually more important. From the middle of the nineties on I started to focus more on the figure and storytelling. I experimented with the possibilities of paint to create atmospheric illusions. One of the methods I used is visible in this painting, the gessolayer is two-toned ,on it I poured a liquid yellowish brown paint.
There must have been a suggestion of this female figure visible in the wet paint which I manipulated to become even more visible. The woman reminded me of a Pieter de Hoogh painting , earlier I copied a lot of his paintings in ink drawings. After enhancing the female form I began to think about a suitable partner for her. It had to be some sort of man, but then in an artificial way. Based on the pose developed in the sketch I tacked some clothes on the studio wall and painted them as real as possible . As a head I drew a silhouette on paper and painted this as well.
At the time I regularly read issues of The Burlington Magazine. In the November 1994 issue I found an article by Peter Rudd; ‘Reconstructing Manet’s Velasquez in his Studio’ . Rudd weaves an elaborate web of Manets’ working method and influences. Refering to Germain Bazin he writes ; ‘For Bazin, Manet’s engagement with the art of distant masters exemplified the museum’s rise as a site of artistic instruction. The variety of the museum collection, he argued, promoted stylistic freedom, substituting choice for the tradition of apprenticeship to a single master’.
‘Velasquez in his studio’ is known today only by fragments of the original canvas. According to Rudd it must have been a reference to both Velasquez’ ‘Las Meninas’ and Courbet’s ‘Atelier’ with Manet as the painter taking the place of Velasquez. Further in the article he compares this way of working with Manet’s ‘La Pêche’, a painting which cites a landscape by Caracci and again Courbet (this time ‘the Desmoiselles du Village’) . In ‘La Pêche’ Manet paints himself as Peter Paul Rubens, walking arm in arm with his future wife Suzanne Leenhof. Both of them wearing 17th century costumes
The still life painting of the tacked clothes didn’t produce the effect that I had hoped for. The picture needed more, extra layering. Motivated by reading Rudd’s article I decided to paint one of Courbet’s sisters from the ‘Desmoiselles’ over the maid of de Hoogh, but I left half of her visible.At the same time I painted in the dog, ‘a frightful little bastard , according to reviewer s of the 1852 Salon who incorporated the innocent animal in their critiques.
Rudd, in his essay adds another interesting, formal, observation; ‘Like those of Rubens and Courbet, Manet’s landscape includes a curious dog sniffing at the middle distance as if pointing out its very lack of recession, its telescoping of remote objects up against the foreground plane. Manet’s reprise of Courbet’s quizzical dog announces his flatness as a wilful ineptitude which, like his verdant pigment, asserts a rejection of the museum’s enshrined standards’.
Stijn Peeters, Nr 695, 200 x 130 cm, 1996. Present whereabouts unknown, sold in 2001 to Collection van den Ende, Essen
StonebreakersPosted by Stijn Peeters Wed, November 28, 2018 15:05:31
“It’s rare to meet the most complete expression of poverty,so an idea for a picture came to me on the spot. I made an appointment with them at my studio for the next day” Courbet wrote in a letter to Francis Wey about the moment he saw the two men.
In ‘Gustave Courbet, His Life and Art’ (1972) Jack Lindsay writes ; “he posed the two models separately. The old man , Gagey, had spent his whole life on the roads around Ornans and was a well known character. The painting was much admired by local folk, who, according to Proudhon, proposed to buy and hang it over the altar in the parish church, as it pointed so strong a moral, that was no doubt a tale told him by Courbet. And in a later fragment; “His remarks during the work on the canvas to Wey and Champfleury show that he particularly felt his emotion because of the way in which the working-together of the old man and the youth expressed the cycle of unending misery that the system around him perpetuated. He was not painting two workers doing a specially backbreaking job and getting a poor reward for it, but the whole endless repetition of hopeless toil among large sections of his people, the whole endless cycle of exploitation. The strength and fullness with which he felt the nature of the image was determined by the movement to socialism which was going on inside him”. This fragment clearly shows that Lindsay writes from a Marxist art -theoretical perspective.
According to Michelle Facos; stonebreakers were peasants forced off the land into backbreaking and poorly compensated wage labor, the benefits of which went directly to the middle and upper classes. Because of this, Courbet’s stonebreakers did not represent an ideal image of the rural peasantry to contemporary viewers. Significantly Courbet did not idealize these stonebreakers, they wear dirty, tattered and mended clothing. These strong and oppressed workers who spent their day hacking apart stones, seemed threatening to contemporary, middle class viewers in 1850, the year stonebreakers debuted at the Salon. While the majority of 1848 revolutionaries were urban craftsmen and workers Courbet’s stonebreakers instilled fear because they wielded implements that were potential weapons and produced the paving stones used for barricades and projectiles by revolutionary insurgents
Courbet encouraged a feeling of mistrust by shielding the men’s faces from the viewer. Because their expressions and physiognomies could not be read, viewers could not determine whether these men were dangerous or submissive. Courbet painted an image that provoked anxiety in a destabilized and modernizing world”.
TJ Clark describes this feeling of unease; “(...)if people and bourgeois were true allies, then the People must be represented- and the bourgeois was going to find himself in their midst, one against four, or one against hundred, a colonial planter surrounded by slaves.”
The final version of ‘the Stone Breakers’ didn’t survive the second World War and was destroyed when a transport of paintings from the Dresden Gemäldegalerie to Königstein Castle was bombarded by American war planes. Purely by associating I had to think about Kurt Vonegut’s book ‘Slaughterhouse five, or a children’s crusade’. In it Vonnegut describes his own experience as a prisoner of war, and the senseless destruction of Dresden, in the only possible way he saw fit. His main character Billy Pilgrim seems to travel through time and space, human years do not seem to matter and chronology is in a total mix up. Billy seems to float from sphere to sphere, his total acceptance and the way Vonnegut describes everything in a clinical way makes reading the book an intense experience.
Still from the movie ‘Slaughterhouse 5 or a Children’s Crusade’, 1972, director George Roy Hill. ( Music score by Glenn Gould!)
“Many holes were dug at once. Nobody knew yet what there was to find. Most holes came to nothing- to pavement, or to boulders so huge they would not move. There was no machinery. Not even horses or mules or oxen could cross the moonscape. And Billy and the Maori and others helping them with their particular hole came at last to a membrane of timbers laced over rocks which had wedged together to form an accidental dome. They made a hole in the membrane. There was darkness and space under there. A German soldier with a flashlight went down into the darkness, was gone a long time. When he finally came back, he told a superior on the rim of the hole that there were dozens of bodies down there. They were sitting on benches. They were unmarked.
So it goes.
The superior said that the opening in the membrane should be enlarged, and that a ladder should be put in the hole, so the bodies could be carried out. Thus began the first corpse mine of Dresden.”
Because of his role in the Paris Commune Courbet was imprisoned and later held personally accountable for the destruction of the Colonne Vendôme. He was sentenced to pay a sum of ten thousand francs a year to pay for its reconstruction.
In this caricature by Schérer Courbet is pictured as a convict, the text reads; “The man who was called to demolish the Column might just as well start working as a stonebreaker”
The conviction and trouble to bring in the 10.000 Francs a year was so oppressive that Courbet decided to flee to Switserland in 1873, where he died on the 31st of december 1877.
According to historian Pierre Chessex Courbet’s family wanted to bury him in Ornans; “but on Monday Dr Blondon of Besancon, the fiancee of Courbet’s sister Juliette, bought a concession in the morgue of the cemetry of La Tour- de -Peilz.” From 1878 until 1919 Courbet’s body rested in a double coffin of oak and lead in the morgue. Today one can find, hidden between a couple of shrubs, a plaquette marking the location of Courbet’s temporary grave. Body and tombstone were moved to Ornans in 1919. What I find striking when I look at the two photographs is the fact that while the grave in La Tour-de Peilz was covered in ivy, the Ornans grave is covered with gravel!
‘Gustave Courbet, His Life and Art’ (1972) Jack Lindsay, Jupiter-London 1977, ‘An introduction to 19th century art’, Michelle Facos , Tailor & Francis Ltd, 2011,
‘The Absolute Bourgeois, Artists and Politics in France 1848-185’, T.J.Clark, Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1973. Slaughterhouse 5, or the Children’s crusade; A Duty-Dance with Death, Kurt Vonnegut, Vintage UK , 2000
StonebreakersPosted by Stijn Peeters Mon, November 19, 2018 10:08:15
It seems quite likely that my mother-in -law, Mien Thissen-Mulder, found this book while browsing in the second-hand shop where her sister Doortje volunteered. It is called ‘De schilderkunst der XIXe eeuw’, (painting of the 19th century) written by Léonce Bénédite, curator of the Musée de Luxembourg, its date 1910. And, as was her habit, she must have asked her daughter, my wife, “do you think Stijn has any use for this?’ I haven’t seen it for a long time but now that I started this blog I’m glad I kept it because it offers many interesting starting points.
The Paris Bibliotheque Nationale is the keeper of ‘Courbet, Gustave (1819-1877) Critique et interprétation’ a biography and critical essay written by Léonce Bénédite. I intend to translate it from the French and read it because I’m curious about the content. I will come back to that later on. If you want to read it already you can find it here:
Curiouser and curiouser I get ( thank you Lewis Carroll ! ) by reading this fragment from an article by Oliver Larkin, titled; ‘Courbet and his contemporaries, 1848-1867’ (Science & Society,Vol. 3, No. 1 (Winter, 1939), pp. 42-63)
“Because Courbet was so long a prophet without honor in his own country, a large proportion of his work is owned by museums and collectors outside France. Many phases of his career, notably his activities during the Commune, are still imperfectly understood. Before 1900 scarcely a single French art journal of repute cared to publish material on the painter. Belatedly in 1919, when New York’s Metropolitan Museum was honouring the centenary of his birth, France bought the Atelier for seven hundred thousand francs. Two years later, Léonce Bénédite was invited to represent the State at the unveiling of a tablet placed on Courbet’s birthplace at Ornans. The curator of the Luxembourg declined to attend the ceremony on the ground that he had “received counter-instructions”.
This is a page from my book.
The caption under the reproduction of ‘The Studio’ still gives Collection Desfossés as its owner, and the caption under ‘the Stonebreakers simply mentions Museum, Dresden. The enlarged image shows that an error occured, it is the wrong painting. This, mirrored, version is today in the Collection Oskar Reinhart, Winterthur.
But it looks like a very different painting when I study the reproduction on the site of the Oskar Reinhart Collection. It seems to have darkened almost beyond recognition. Time and the use of bitumen in the paint have done their work. Courbet painted it in 1849, the book for publishing house Flammarion was produced in 1905, the work was possibly photographed at the time that the painting was 55 years old. And now the painting’s age is 169 years, so the discoloration took place over a period of 110 years. The effects of bitumen are common knowledge and many of Courbet’s works fade into darkness, an extra stimulant is his preference to work on dark tinted canvases.
This is the painting from the Dresden Museum collection. Together with 154 other paintings it was loaded in februari 1945 into a van and on transport from the Zwinger Museum in Dresden to Königstein Castle (The King’s Rock). In times of conflict this was a well known practice. The castle offered sufficient protection. But the road did not, the danger came from above. The transport was bombed by Allied planes.
December of last year I was offered a working period in a guest studio of the Vincent van GoghHuis in Zundert. I was able to go deep into van Gogh’s work and his engagement , and made a lot of painted monotype prints on the small etching press I brought along. After you have printed the image, the printing plate still shows a shadow of it on which you can react again with ink. Degas was very accomplished in this technique. I was fascinated to try out one of the possibilities I hadn’t experimented with and that was the ‘black manner’. With ink you cover the whole surface of the printing plate and start working back from dark to light by using brushes, cloth, sticks and fingers to delve up the image. It is a slow and time-consuming manner of working resulting in just one ‘good’ print. To start with I chose a reproduction of ‘the Stonebreakers’, the lost Dresden version.
The first fully inked print. And without adding any more ink to the plate I made three more prints on pink tinted paper, gradually losing more and more of the image.
Stijn Peeters 2018.