Expo : Les Parisiens de Daumier.
Until March 4th… HURRY!
Galerie du Crédit Municipal de Paris
55, rue des Francs-Bourgeois – 75004 Paris.
Mon-Fri 9am-5pm – Closed Sundays
I first heard about this expo via the blog Paris, Maman et Moi. Being a 19th century French literature fan (I have the entire collection of Balzac – and FYI, some editions of Balzac’s works were illustrated by Daumier) I knew this was right up my alley. So instead of waiting in line for the Brassaï expo (just like in Sheily’s post linked above), I headed over to see these wonderful drawings of what Parisian life was like in the 1800’s.
You could say that Daumier, who’s work is the entirety of the exposition, was what we would consider a lifestyle/humorist blogger today. Each drawing (there were dozens and dozens of them) mocked, exaggerated or poked fun at a certain “type” of Parisian, in different situations of social life back 150-200 years ago.
Daumier (1808-1879) was an artist that changed the public opinion of humorist sketches and socio-political satire. He drew more than 4000 lithographs in his career, in addition to paintings, sculptures, engravings etc. Baudelaire said of him : he is ” one of the most important men, not only as a caricature artist, but also for modern art”. His works offer an immense insight into social and political life two centuries ago. This expo reminded me of how important it is to understand where society has been, in order to steer it towards healthier paths. This is the role of artists and creators.
The intimate and small venue set up the framed drawings by theme, color coding them and lent guides to visitors to understand each theme, although it isn’t too difficult. There are English guides as well as French ones.
There was theme of the Parisian at the theater (a huge part of the social activities that people took part in at the time); there were also the Parisian in the countryside on Sundays, or the Parisian at the World’s Fair expo, fashion, and even the social norms concerning marriage and debauchery amongst men. You can understand quite a bit about a certain time and culture by looking at its humor.
I find it très interesting to compare one époque to another. You can see how some things never change from century to century. I thought I would do a little comparing of some of Daumier’s lithographs to Paris today… Enjoy!
This scene above could be compared to ANY free event in Paris these days. As soon as something interesting is free, it is completely unpleasant because there is an thick crowd all trying to “enjoy” themselves too, the temperature raises and no one is comfortable. Perhaps this is why most things in Paris aren’t free. An entry fee is perhaps a crowd thinner…
This image above refers to the ever expanding crinoline gown supports that women wore under their dresses to make them look ample and bell-like. It was the fashion. And like all fashions, it was pushed to extremes. Remember the accentuated shoulder pad fashion that happened in the 80’s and then again a couple of years ago… Yeah, it’s like that, but a tad more cumbersome I would say.
So cabarets were not just shows where women danced the Can-Can, cabarets were bars and cafés were music was thrown into the mix. Hmmm… kind of like night clubs these days. And apparently the quality of music went often hand in hand with the quality of drink. Does this sound familiar to you at all??? I think the only differences these days is the music is played by some DJ, the price of the beverages is atrocious, and we are supposed to
gyrate dance to the music as opposed to siting there listening to it.
The above image refers to all those working class Parisians who wanted to get out of the city on their one day off : Sunday. Today, it would be an image of the Peripherique on a Friday evening at 5pm… Traffic Jam.
The image above shows a “good bourgeois” taking his wife out for a nice good time, where in fact she’s bored stiff and just sits there while he does what he usually does, ignore her. I don’t know what to compare this to in today’s society. I mean womens’ liberation has done a lot since then, and I don’t think you would see this sort of scene in today’s Paris. You may see the opposite though, a woman dragging her man around from shop to shop, incessantly asking his opinion of what looks best on her, and his response of ennui : “you look fine in that, just take it”.
Above is an image of sorry and bored looking Parisians, waiting in line for two hours to get a little jolly entertainment. Again, just like the crowded venue when it’s free, there is a line in Paris for EVERYTHING. The baker, the cinema, the theater, the bus, (oh wait no, not for the bus, Parisians don’t know how to queue up for the bus), the museum, the post office, the bank, even some luxury stores have lines outside… I wonder how much time the average Parisian spends throughout his/her life waiting in line? Oh wait, maybe I don’t want to know…I’m Parisian now too. That might depress me.
The above image makes me think of the typical posh neighborhood Parisian on an unexpected adventure into the banlieu suburbs and the “frightening”
creatures people they might encounter there.
I quite enjoyed the expo, as it gave me many a little chuckle and reminded me so much of Paris today in so many ways. It shows just how in spite of different styles of clothes and hair, some things never change, and society tends to revolve instead of evolve, always returning to the same issues and social agendas…