Paris Between the Wars – “Q” is for Raymond Queneau


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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.

Raymond Queneau (source: Wikipedia)
Raymond Queneau (source: Wikipedia)

A French novelist and poet known for his wit, Queneau was born in 1903, served in the light infantry regiments of the French Army in Algeria and Morocco (1925-26), was drafted in 1939 after Germany’s invasion of Poland, and was demobilized in 1940.

In 1924, Queneau briefly joined the Surrealists, but never shared their left-wing politics. He questioned Surrealist support of the USSR in 1926, and in 1930, he separated himself from the group. In 1938, he began working for the Gallimard Publishing House as a reader (and would eventually rise to be its general secretary).

“There have been only rare moments in history where individual histories were able to run their course without wars of revolutions.”  ~ Raymond Queneau

 

Paris Between the Wars – “O” is for Chana Orloff


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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.

Chana Orloff (source: Wikipedia)
Chana Orloff (source: Wikipedia)

Born in what is now the Ukraine in 1888, Chana Orloff went to Paris in 1910 to study fashion, but chose art instead, and took sculpture classes in Montparnasse. Her preferred medium was wood, but she also worked with stone, marble, and bronze.

The Pipe Smoker, by Chana Orloff
The Pipe Smoker, by Chana Orloff

When the Nazis invaded Paris, Orloff, now a widow, fled to Switzerland with her son. After the war, Orloff returned to her house in Paris, to find it had been ransacked and all her sculptures destroyed.

Paris Between the Wars – “N” is for Anna de Noialles


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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.

Portrait of Anna, Comtesse de Noialles, by Philip de Lazslo
Portrait of Anna, Comtesse de Noailles, by Philip de Lazslo

Born in Paris as Princess Anna Elisabeth Bibesco-Bassaraba de Brancovan (1876) to a Romanian father and Greek mother (both high-ranked members of their respective societies), she married Mathieu Fernand Frédéric Pascal de Noailles in 1897 and the couple became the toast of Parisian high society.

She wrote three novels, an autobiography, and several collections of poetry, and was the first woman to be received in the Royal Belgian Academy of French Language and Literature. The collection Poème de l’amour (1924) is a long series of short poems. This is from “LXIX,” translated:

If words put you too ill at ease,

Say nothing. Dream. But be not cold.

Let me speak, me, who kiss you, hold

You in  my arms; like woodland breeze

That murmurs low, let me enfold

You in great whispers, hushed, like these…

Anna de Noailles died at age 56, in Paris.

 

Paris Between the Wars – “M” is for Robert Mallet-Stevens


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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.

Robert Mallet-Stevens in 1924
Robert Mallet-Stevens in 1924

One of France’s best interwar architects, Mallet-Stevens was born in Paris in 1886 and died there in 1945. He is widely known for his large villas, and the place to see his work is on the aptly-named Rue Mallet-Stevens in Paris. Here is the entrance to one of his buildings:

Rue-Mallet-Stevens-Martel-studio-entrance-Untapped-Paris

Home designed and built for sculptors Jan and Joel Martel, 1926-1927
Home designed and built for sculptors Jan and Joel Martel, 1926-1927

Mallet-Stevens would be better remembered, perhaps, if not for the fact that he ordered all his work and archives to be burned upon his death.

 

Paris Between the Wars – “L” is for Jeanne Lanvin


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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.

Portrait of Jeanne Lanvin, by Dufau, 1925
Portrait of Jeanne Lanvin, by Dufau, 1925

The woman whose name is synonymous with French haute couteur was born in Paris in 1867, the eldest of eleven children. She trained as a milliner (hatmaker) and dressmaker before establishing herself as a milliner at the age of 22.

Lanvin made dresses for her young daughter and caught the eye of some of Paris’ wealthiest individuals, who requested that Lanvin make similar dresses for their children. Soon, she was making dresses for their mothers, who became clients of her new boutique. By the 1920s, Lanvin had opened a dye factory, and shops devoted to lingerie, menswear, and furs. Her most significant creation, however, and that for which she is so widely known, was the introduction of her signature fragrance, Arpège.

Arpege

Here you see the design of mother and daughter, so appropriate as Jeanne Lanvin perfected the concept of ‘mother-daughter dressing’ in her work.

“The name Lanvin for me,” wrote Christian Dior, “was bound up with the memory of girls in robes de style whom I danced my first foxtrots, Charlestons, and shimmies with.”

Paris Between the Wars – “K” is for Rina Ketty


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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.

Rina Ketty
Rina Ketty

Rina Ketty, who was born Cesarina Picchetto in Italy, is best known for recording the song J’attendrai” (“I will wait”). In the 1930s, she went to Paris to live with aunts and was enchanted by the artist communities in Montmartre. Rina fell in love with the cabarets and began singing there in 1934. In 1936, she recorded her first songs on the Pathé record label, but really didn’t achieve any success until 1938, just before the outbreak of World War II.

“J’attendrai” was a translation of an Italian song that had been popular for an Italian singer the previous year. It became emblematic for the war, much like “Lili Marlene” or “We’ll Meet Again.”

With the Nazi occupation, Rina kept a low profile and performed only in Switzerland until after the war. Her success was greatly diminished, however, and she and her husband moved to Cannes to open a restaurant. Rina Ketty died in 1996 in Cannes.

 

 

Paris Between the Wars – “J” is for Louis Jouvet


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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.

Louis Jouvet
Louis Jouvet

A renowned French actor and director, Jouvet was born on the northwestern coast of France in 1887. His training in the theater as a young man helped him to overcome speech impediments and a sometimes paralyzing stage fright.

Jouvet’s classical training fueled his success as a film star, and audience would flock to his movies, whether they were good or not. He collaborated with playwright Jean Giraudoux in 1928, and together they produced the first staging of The Madwoman of Chaillot in 1945. He died of a heart attack while in his dressing room in 1951.

In the 2007 Pixar film Ratatouille, the character of Anton Ego was modeled after Louis Jouvet.

 

Paris Between the Wars – “I” is for Jacques Ibert


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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.

Jacques Ibert
Jacques Ibert

Jacques Ibert (1890-1962) was a French composer.  He wrote (sometimes in collaboration with other composers) seven operas, five ballets, incidental music for plays and films, choral work, and chamber music. In addition to composing, Ibert was active as a conductor and in musical administration.

During World War II, he spent some time in exile in Switzerland while the Nazis occupied France.

Here is a lovely piece composed by Ibert

 

Paris Between the Wars – “H” is for Florence Henri


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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.

Florence Henri
Florence Henri

Born in New York in 1893 to a French father and a Polish mother, Florence’s mother died when the little girl was 2, and her father died when she was only 15. She went to live with acquaintances, first in Rome, then in Berlin, and in 1924, at age 31, she moved to Paris. Trained as a painter, by 1928 she had abandoned painting in favor of becoming a free-lance photographer. Many of her photographs incorporate mirrors.

Up to the start of World War II, Henri established herself as a skilled photographer with her own photographic studio in Paris. When the city was occupied by the Nazis, her photographic work declined. The photographic materials needed were difficult to obtain, and Henri’s photographic style was forbidden under the Nazi occupation. She turned back to painting. With only a few later exceptions, the peak of her unique photographic experiments and professional photographic work was in the period from 1927 to 1930.

FlorenceHenri_03_CompositionFlorenceHenri_11_FemmeAuxCartes

“What I want above all,” Henri said near the end of her long life, “is to compose the photograph as I do with painting. Volumes, lines, shadows and light have to obey my will and say what I want them to say. This happens under the strict control of composition, since I do not pretend to explain the world nor to explain my thoughts.”

László Moholy-Nagy, a contemporary, said: “With Florence Henri’s photos, photographic practice enters a new phase – the scope of which would have been unimaginable before today. Above and beyond the precise and exact documentary composition of these highly-defined photos, research into the effects of light is tackled not only through abstract photograms, but also in photos of real-life subjects.”

Paris Between the Wars – “G” is for Paul Guillaume


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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.

Paul Guillaume
Paul Guillaume

A French art dealer who lived from 1891 to 1934, Paul Guillaume was at the forefront of exhibiting African art, as well as promoting new artists such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. By the time he died at age 42, he had amassed an extensive collection of works by some of the leading modernists.

 

Paul Guillaume by Amadeo Modigliani
Paul Guillaume by Amadeo Modigliani

A master at re-invention (he was born into a modest family but by the age of 25 was a celebrity in the art world), writer John Richardson details the art scandal surrounding Guillaume’s death, his widow’s possible involvement, her subsequent remarriage, blackmail, forgery, entrapment, and all kinds of juicy stuff in this Vanity Fair article from 2012.