Saturday, March 26, 2011

Food, the Markets, and Three Frenchmen in the 1890s

Here is something that constantly strengthens and refreshes my curiosity about the history of art. Three artists, all contemporaries (and sometimes friends) decades, all working in France, all remembered as part of the emerging modernist era.

All three artists are concerned with a sense of place and they utilize the local cuisine as a way of penetrating the surface.

"With my apples I will astonish Paris!" (Paul Cezanne)

Paul Cezanne (b. Cessana, northern Italy, 1839-1906) The Basket of Apples, 1890-94

Cezanne said: "I want to make of Impressionism something solid and durable, like the art of the museums." This is his response to oppressive Salon and L'Academie Francais. He declared his work to be "Rigorously true to the testimony of sight".

Composers Claude Debussy and Jules Massenet also struggled against the "intellectualism" of 19th century France.

mile Zola (b. Aix-en-Provence, 1840-1902), The Belly of Paris (novel: Le Ventre de Paris, 1893)

It is set in and around Les Halles (1183-1971), the enormous, busy central marketplace in 19th century Paris. Les Halles, rebuilt in cast iron and glass during the Second Empire was a landmark of modernity in the city, the wholesale and retail center of a thriving food industry. Le Ventre de Paris (translated into English under many variant titles, but literally meaning The Belly of Paris) is Zola's first novel centered entirely on the working classes (Wikipedia).

Camille Pissaro (b. St Thomas, West Indies, 1830-1903)
The Pork Butcher, 1883

Below: Camille Pissaro, Le Marche aux Halles, Paris n.d. (The Market at Halles, Paris). Estimated at $30-40K)

Many artists over the decades have painted or photographed les Halles, including Giuseppe Canella [Les Halles et la rue de la Tonnellerie. (1788-1847) and photographer, Henri Lemoine. See Charlotte DENOËL, Les Halles de Paris à travers l'histoire.

Below: Victor Baltrad, Le Pavillion des Halles 1865

Below: Le Metro, Les Halles, Paris, circa 1907. Unknown artist. File: Leshalles,jpg

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