This is the first Artists You’ve Never Heard Of blog, the male equivalent of my Neglected Women Artists strand. The artist I have chosen is the post-Impressionist painter-etcher Tony Minartz – and if you have already heard of him, award yourself a gold star.
His full name was Antoine Guillaume Minartz. He was born in Cannes in 1870 (or possibly 1873). He was essentially self-taught, though he did benefit from advice and guidance from the Impressionist printmaker Paul Renouard. Minartz first comes to the attention of art history in 1896, when he exhibited with the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. He showed with this and other Paris Salons up until 1914. What happened to him in the First World War, I don’t know. But after the war he seems to have ceased sending work to the Salons. From my limited knowledge of his work, the Parisian subjects mostly date from pre-WWI, while the post-WWI subjects tend to be of fashionable life on the Côte d’Azur. He died in Cannes in 1944.
Paul Renouard, Figurante du théatre de Drury Lane, à Londres (May Belfort?)
Original drypoint, 1905
No one would have been less suited than Tony Minartz to be a War Artist. His whole attention was focussed on life and vivacity. Death and despair – even hunger and want – are nowhere to be seen. His eye was attracted by bright lights, beautiful women in outrageous gowns and hats, and all the thrumming life of a city enjoying its wealth. This may make him a shallow artist, but it also makes him one of the most acute observers of the Belle Époque.
I have four etchings by Tony Minartz, all published by La Revue de l’Art ancien et moderne. Each of them tells a little story. The first, from 1902, is entitled Le Bal. At first glance you see a swirl of dancers, their movement captured with subtle skill. Then you notice their rapt involvement with each other. And then the penny drops: every one of the dancers is a woman. There is no clue in the title, but this is a scene from Belle Époque Paris’s flourishing lesbian subculture.
Tony Minartz, Le Bal
Original etching, 1902
The second is entitled L’Avant-foyer de l’Opéra. A fashionable lady in furs and a couture dress leaves the theatre, to be greeted by a bowing man in evening dress. Their relationship is left open to question, but one thing we know: they are not husband and wife.
Tony Minartz, L’Avant-foyer de l’Opéra
Original etching, 1903
My third Minartz etching is entitled Au Restaurant. A beautiful woman in an expensive hat, languidly holding a fan, waits while the man who accompanies her orders for them both from an attentive waiter. In the background, a violinist plays, and the female half of another dining couple bends low to display her cleavage. Once again, this is high society living, but it has nothing to do with French bourgeois morality.
Tony Minartz, Au Restaurant
Original etching, 1904
The fourth and last of my etchings by Tony Minartz dates from five years later, in 1909. It is entitled La rue de la Paix. Two richly-dressed women smirk into a shop window. Behind them, a servant or porter brings up the rear, barely able to carry the purchases they have already made.
Tony Minartz, La rue de la Paix
Original etching, 1909
From these four etchings – all I have from an output described by Benézit as ‘extrêment abondant’ – I hope it can be seen that Minartz, while chronicling the life of the rich and fashionable, did so with an acute observing eye, and a certain wry detachment. I make no claims for originality or world-shaking importance in his work. His style as an etcher owes everything to Paul Renouard and Edgar Chahine; his paintings, such as ‘Leaving the Moulin Rouge’, in the Hermitage, show the influence of Toulouse-Lautrec. But in his chronicles of the nightlife of the Belle Époque and the Années Folles, Tony Minartz both observed and added to the sum of human gaiety.
Edgar Chahine, La Promenade
Original etching, 1900