A Reflection of the 2016 A to Z Challenge


A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

Thank you for following me this year as I weaved my way through Paris Between the Wars! As some of you know, this was my fifth year participating in the challenge, and I was better prepared this year than in the past.

Last October, while on vacation in New Hampshire, I visited the Innisfree Bookshop in Meredith, along Lake Winnipesaukee. There I discovered a book called Paris Between the Wars. I had my theme!

 

Paris

With my sixth novel published in November, I was free to start plotting out my A to Z blog posts. During December and January, I pored through the book and chose my topics. In February I added research and began writing the posts, keeping each post under 300 words. I finished them in March and set each post to publish at 4:00am, in order to have a uniform publication time, and one that would have the post delivered to each follower’s mailbox (plus Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) early in the morning. This is what kept me sane! I’m already planning next year’s theme.

I added probably two dozen blogs to my follow list, but tried to visit another three to four dozen. Some of the posts just weren’t for me, so if I followed that blog, it was because the content was easy-to-read and either entertaining, educational, or both. A couple of bloggers posted incredibly long posts, and there just wasn’t time to read 800+ words.

The Challenge has grown! So much so that I can’t possibly visit every blog, as much as I’d like to. I’m grateful for my new followers, and very much appreciate all the positive feedback I received on my theme this year. Onward!

Paris Between the Wars – “Z” is for Jean Zay


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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Jean Zay
Jean Zay

Jean Zay (1904 – 1944) was a French politician. Between 1936 and 1939 he served in several governments, including the Popular Front government, as Minister of National Education and Fine Arts. Zay’s actions as minister deeply influenced the way in which France educated its youth and cultivated its arts. Upon taking office, Zay acted upon his belief that the public schools shaped youth into citizens. He increased the period of required schooling from 13 to 14 years and created “bibliobuses” (library buses) that brought books to working class and immigrant neighborhoods

The specter cast by Nazi Germany led Zay to create the Cannes Film Festival. During the period between the wars, Italy was home to the greatest of film festivals, La Mostra de Venise. When Jean Renoir’s “The Grand Illusion” won the festival’s top prize in 1937, Hitler was incensed: not only was the film French, but it was also pacifist. The following year, as a result, Hitler conspired with Mussolini to guarantee that Leni Riefenstahl’s “Olympia” receive top honors. Zay rebelled at the news and set out to create a counter festival the following year in Cannes. As fate would have it, the opening date for the festival was September 1: the same day that Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Two days later, France and Great Britain declared war on Germany.

Zay enlisted in the army and served until the summer of 1940. He was arrested aboard the passenger ship Massila by Vichy officials and was imprisoned. Just weeks before France’s liberation Jean Zay was murdered in his cell by the French fascist militia.

 

 

 

 

 

Paris Between the Wars – “Y” is for Maurice Yvain


A2Z-BADGE 2016-smaller_zpslstazvib

Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Maurice Yvain
Maurice Yvain

Born in Paris in 1891, Maurice Yvain was a French composer noted for his operettas of the 1920s and 1930s. The son of a trumpet-playing musician, young Maurice excelled as a pianist, and co-wrote the song “Mon Homme” (My Man) – you probably know the English version sung by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl.

In the 1920s, he began to compose operettas, 18 in all; his satirical “Ta Bouche” (Your Mouth) of 1922 was a particular success. The sequels which followed were the “Pas sur la Bouche” (Not on the Mouth) and the “Bouche a Bouche” (Mouth to Mouth) and both further established the musical virtuosity of Yvain.

Thanks to his success in the United States, several of his pieces appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway.

Paris Between the Wars – “X” is for Xenophobia


A2Z-BADGE 2016-smaller_zpslstazvib

Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Refugees-Of-History_Horo-1-e1448075679214

Xenophobia: n., fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign

After the end of World War I (1918), immigration to France was encouraged. The country had lost thousands of men to the war, and able-bodied workers were needed. Paris became a safe haven for immigrants. The 1920s was a time of governmental tolerance too: in 1927 naturalization procedures were relaxed and many immigrants became French citizens – 270,000 between 1927 and 1930 alone.

While the “Roaring Twenties” saw prosperity and the tremendous influx of artists to Paris (as depicted in these blog posts), the 1930s was a period that brought about the end of tolerance and freedom of immigration, especially for Jews. The Depression changed this tolerant atmosphere.  Rising unemployment and the influx of Jewish and Eastern European refugees revived old prejudices.  Antisemitism resumed a prominent place in political discourse.  And, with the invasion of Paris by German forces, many of the Jewish artists who contributed so greatly to Parisian life fled to Switzerland, Israel, or America.

Paris Between the Wars – “W” is for Georges Wybo


A2Z-BADGE 2016-smaller_zpslstazvib

Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Georges Wybo
Georges Wybo

Eugène Adolphe Henri Georges Wybo (1880 – 1943) was a French architect, best known for the Printemps department store chain.

Le Printemps
Le Printemps

Wybo’s first major commission as an architect was for the casino in Deauville, the closest seaside resort to Paris. He drew his inspiration from the Grand Trianon of Versailles. The work combined ostentatious luxury with functionality, and led to further commissions.

Deauville Casino
Deauville Casino

Casino_de_deauville

 

 

Wybo designed the Hotel George V near the Arc de Triomphe in 1928. The hotel has a huge marbled foyer, a large anteroom and a huge interior corridor, so it could accommodate a crowd of visitors. In 1929 Wybo designed the Hôtel du Golf in Deauville.

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Hotel George V, Paris

 

 

 

 

Hotel du Golf Deauville
Hotel du Golf, Deauville

 

 

Paris Between the Wars – “V” is for Madeleine Vionnet


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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Madeleine Vionnet
Madeleine Vionnet

A French fashion designer who trained in London, Madeleine Vionnet established her first fashion house in Paris in 1912. She was one of the leading fashion designers in Paris from 1919 to 1939. Called the “Queen of the bias cut” and “the architect among dressmakers”, Vionnet is best known for her elegant Grecian-style dresses.

Vionnet evening gown, 1931
Vionnet evening gown, 1931
Vionnet gowns
Vionnet gowns

Vionnet’s bias-cut clothes dominated haute couture in the 1930s, setting trends with her sensual gowns worn by such internationally known actresses as Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn, and Greta Garbo. Vionnet’s vision of the female form revolutionized modern clothing, and the success of her unique cuts assured her reputation. She fought for copyright laws in fashion. She instituted what, at the time, were considered revolutionary labor practices: paid holidays and maternity leave, day-care, a dining hall, and a resident doctor and dentist for her workers. The onset of World War II forced Vionnet to close her fashion house in 1939, and she retired in 1940. Over the course of her career, Madeleine Vionnet created some 12,000 garments.

 

Paris Between the Wars – “U” is for Maurice Utrillo


A2Z-BADGE 2016-smaller_zpslstazvib

Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Maurice Utrillo
Maurice Utrillo

Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955) was a French painter who specialized in cityscapes. He was the son of artist Suzanne Valadon and an unknown father (although Spanish painter Miguel Utrillo y Molins claimed paternity in 1891 and offered the young boy his name).

Shy and withdrawn, Utrillo painted very few portraits. He usually portrayed—often using picture postcards as sources—the deteriorating houses and streets of Montmartre, its old windmills, and its cafés and places of amusement. He was also inspired by trips to Brittany and Corsica.

At 21, Maurice was plagued by mental illness, and his mother encouraged him to paint. Self-taught, he painted what he saw in and around his home in Montmartre. By 1920, he was internationally acclaimed.

La Rue Norvins, Montmartre, by Maurice Utrillo circa 1910
La Rue Norvins, Montmartre, by Maurice Utrillo circa 1910