Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Paris in black and white

Jean-Louis Boussingault was born in Paris in 1883, and died there in 1943. Despite the Occupation, a retrospective exhibition of his work was organized at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs the following year, with a catalogue by Jacques de Laprade. Also in 1944, a tribute was published to this great Parisian artist: Boussingault par ses amis, André Dunoyer de Segonzac, Luc-Albert Moreau, Valdo Barbey, et André Villeboeuf. The five friends often worked and exhibited together.

Jean-Louis Boussingault, La Tour
Lithograph, 1931

Boussingault had known Dunoyer de Segonzac and Luc-Albert Moreau since student days, in the atelier of Jean-Paul Laurens at the Académie Julian, and at the Académie de la Palette, where all three studied under Charles Guérin, Georges Desvallières, and Pierre Laprade. The trio shared a studio in 1907, in a Saint Tropez villa rented from Paul Signac.

Jean-Louis Boussingault, Talus
Lithograph, 1931

In 1925, Dunoyer de Segonzac, Moreau, and Villeboeuf purchased the villa Le Maquis, also at Saint Tropez, from the painter Charles Camoin. But despite the Mediterranean sun, and the association with Signac, Camoin and the Fauves, all these artists were wary of bright colours, preferring to work in black-and-white or in muted tones. The art of all these artists can be loosely defined as post-Cubist, post-Surrealist realism.

Jean-Louis Boussingault, De ma fenêtre
Lithograph, 1931

Jean-Louis Boussingault exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Indépendants from 1907, and at the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Tuileries from 1909. He is best remembered now for his wonderfully evocative lithographs of Jazz Age Paris, published as D’Après Paris in 1931, in a total edition of 180 copies, hand-printed by Edmond Desjobert on Arches paper. Is it despite or because of the lack of colour that these images are so evocative and atmospheric?

Jean-Louis Boussingault, La gare
Lithograph, 1931

Boussingault’s career was surveyed by Pierre Mornand in Vingt-Deux Artistes du Livre in 1948; the same volume also contains essays on Dunoyer de Segonzac and Moreau. Mornand classes Boussingault “among the most powerful interpreters of the ‘aspects’ of Paris and of Parisian life.”

Luc-Albert Moreau, Seated prostitute
Lithograph, 1924

The same praise could be repeated word-for-word of Luc-Albert Moreau. Like Boussingault, Luc-Albert Moreau has slipped out the public consciousness since his death in 1948. He was born in Paris in 1882.

Luc-Albert Moreau, Black prostitute
Lithograph, 1924

Luc-Albert Moreau exhibited with the Moreau exhibited as a painter with the Cubists in 1912, and according to André Salmon in the long entry on Moreau in Bénézit’s Dictionary of Artists, “the shadow of Cézanne was always present in his studio.

Luc-Albert Moreau, Prostitute looking out of a window
Lithograph, 1924

Luc-Albert Moreau's lithographs of Parisian bars, restaurants, nightclubs, music halls, brothels and circuses reveal a comprehensive knowledge of the lively Paris underworld, including the gay and lesbian scene.

Luc-Albert Moreau, Gay couple dancing
Lithograph, 1928

I have one of 20 hand-signed suites of Moreau’s lithographs for Tableau de l’amour vénal by Francis Carco, printed by Marchizet on Japon impérial teinté; this book, a frank study of prostitution in Paris, was part of a series of “tableaux contemporains” on various subjects, published by the Nouvelle Revue Française between 1921 and 1929. Boussingault illustrated the Tableau des courses and Tableau de la vénerie, and Dunoyer de Segonzac contributed the Tableau de la boxe.

Luc-Albert Moreau, Drag queen
Lithograph, 1928

I also have on of 145 unsigned suites of Moreau’s lithographs of gay and lesbian life for Images cachées, also by Francis Carco. These were printed by Marchizet on Hollande van Gelder. These lithographs bring the world of Colette vividly to life, and it is no surprise that both Moreau and Carco were close friends of Colette.

Luc-Albert Moreau, Lesbian couple
Lithograph, 1928

After WWI, Moreau lived with the violinist Hélène Jourdan-Morhange, the widow of the painter Jacques Jourdan, killed in the war. In the early twenties the couple moved to Mesnils to be near their close friend, the composer Ravel.

André Dunoyer de Segonzac, Eden Roc
Lithograph, 1965

André Albert Marie Dunoyer de Segonzac (1884-1974) is today the most celebrated of this group of friends, regarded as one of the finest French etchers of the twentieth century. Unfortunately I only have one rather untypical colour lithograph by Dunoyer, made for a tribute to Raoul Dufy, from one of 1000 suites printed by Mourlot on B.F.K. Rives.

Louis Valdo-Barbey, Paris
Etching, 1949

Louis Valdo-Barbey (1883-1965) I have already covered in an earlier post, so I will limit myself to just one of his etchings for De Londres à Venise, from one of 79 suites printed by André Steff on B.F.K. Rives.

André Villeboeuf, The path
Etching, c.1950 (from Novembre)

The last of my five artists is André Villeboeuf (1893-1956). Villeboeuf and Dunoyer de Segonzac collaborated with Édouard Vuillard on the book Cuisine; each artist contributed six original prints.

André Villeboeuf, Creation
Etching with aquatint, 1944

Villeboeuf issued a number of portfolios of prints in severely limited editions, such as Novembre, containing 9 etchings in an edition of just 24 copies, and also illustrated a handful of books with original etchings, including his Surrealist masterpiece Contes fantastiques, published in an edition of 240 copies. These extraordinary aquatints, bitten numerous times to achieve subtle variations of shade, take us on a phantasmagorical journey that owes much to the etchings of Goya, to whose art Villeboeuf was deeply attached.

André Villeboeuf, The Devil riding a comet
Etching with aquatint, 1944

André Villeboeuf died in Paradas, Spain, in 1956. In the same year he published the book Sérénades sans guitare, capturing his lifelong love of Goya and of Spain; the book was later published in English as Goya and Guitars.


Jane said...

Because our peripheral vision is black and white until the brain converts it to color, these scenes allow us to focus on what the artists bring to familiar scenes (at least in pictures). Moreau'ssubjects are guaranteed to get our attention. I wonder if he called them a "gay couple" in 1928, or is that a translation of something naughtier? Segonzac and Boussingault did some very bright oil paintings during their time in the south. In her letters, Colette always wrote warmly of her friendship with Segonzac, in particular, among her artist friends at St. Tropez.

Neil said...

I don't think I knew that about peripheral vision. How interesting. Titles - none of the Moreau lithographs has a true title, but I soon got fed up with calling every single print "Untitled"! So descriptive titles like "Gay couple dancing" are just me providing an identifying tag. For Boussingault, the titles are those of the accompanying poems and prose-poems by Léon-Paul Fargue. "Gay" at this period would have been rather old-fashioned English slang for a female prostitute, I don't think the term meant homosexual to any but a small coterie until the 1970s.

Jane said...

Visual Perception was one of my favorite courses at college. It caught my imagination when the professor explained this as the reason why black and white film looks so realistic to us. The rods at the outer edges of our eyes have poor color receptors, unlike the cones at the center. The theory is that the brain compensates by blending images to help us keep our balance. That's why I'm taken by the notion of "bird's eye view." Other creatures see the world in ways we can only imagine.