From the category archives:

French

Hans Bellmer was a Surrealist German artist and photographer. Born in 1902 and initially working in the fields of advertising and graphic design before transitioning to fine art, Bellmer’s first major project was also one of his best-known – Die Puppe, or a group of life-sized and sexualized pubescent female dolls. The goal of this first project was to oppose Nazi fascism by not creating anything that would support the Third Reich, which he attempted to achieve by criticizing and commenting on the cult of the perfect body which existed in the German state at the time.

He took inspiration for his doll project from a variety of places, including reading the published letters of Austrian poet and playwright Oskar Kokoschka and attending a performance of Jacques Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman in which a man falls in love with an automaton. He began to physically construct his first doll in 1933, which stood approximately 56 inches tall. In 1934 Bellmer anonymously published a book, The Doll (Die Puppe), which contained 10 black-and-white photographs of the doll arranged in a series of tableaux. Also in 1934, photographs of his doll appeared in the Surrealist journal Minotaure with the title “Poupée: Variations sur le montage d’une mineure articulée”. The doll was shown in some cases with sexualized props including a black veil, lacy undergarments, or flowers, or in some photos simply as a pile of doll parts. Of the doll, Bellmer wrote, “It was worth all my obsessive efforts when, amid the smell of glue and wet plaster, the essence of all that is impressive would take shape and become a real object to be possessed.” (Bellmer, 1934)

Bellmer was eventually declared a degenerate artist and was forced to flee Germany for France, where he was welcomed into the Surrealist circles there. He gave up doll-making but spent the rest of his life continuing to push sexual and erotic boundaries with a variety of explicit drawings, etchings, photographs, paintings, and prints of pubescent girls. F.A. Bernett currently has in its inventory an important work from this period of Bellmer’s creative life.

À Sade comprises a portfolio of ten incredibly explicit and surrealistic erotic etchings inspired by and in homage to the Marquis de Sade, the famous French libertine best known for his pornographic writings which emphasize violence, suffering, and blasphemy. The etchings are remarkable examples of Bellmer’s obsessive and meticulous treatment of the body especially the female form – limbs, genitalia, eyes, breasts, and buttocks are distorted or conflated, combining desire and horror in a way typical of both Bellmer’s work and de Sade’s.

Bellmer, Hans. À Sade. Unpaginated portfolio including title page, colophon, and ten explicit and detailed etchings inspired by the erotic writings of the Marquis de Sade, most plates approx. 7 7/8″ x 5 7/8″, each printed on 15″ x 11 1/16″ sheet, housed in separate blank folder with guard sheet, all signed in pencil by the artist. Contents loose as issued, in wrpps. portfolio, laid into cloth folder and slipcase. N.p. 1961. No. 30 of an edition of 50. (47737)

 Although published anonymously, our research shows that it was published in Paris by Alain Mazo. Incredibly scarce; as of April 2018, WorldCat locates only one copy in a German library and none in North America.

{ 0 comments }

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the massive strikes and demonstrations held in Paris and across France in May 1968. To this day, “May 68” is considered to be a cultural, social, and moral turning point in the history of France, and the events of that time had a resounding impact which was felt for decades afterwards.

Students in France were critical of the country’s outdated university system and dissatisfied with the lack of employment opportunities for recent graduates. Sporadic demonstrations for education reform began earlier in 1968, but on May 3rd a massive protest at the Sorbonne in Paris had to be broken up by the police, resulting in hundreds of arrests and dozens of injuries.

Following the protest, the Sorbonne was closed and classes cancelled, and students took to the streets surrounding the university (in Paris’s Latin Quarter) to continue their demonstrations. On May 6th, the Union National des Étudiants de France (UNEF) organized a march of more than 20,000 students, teachers, and their supporters. Protesters created barricades against the police charging with their batons, paving stones were hurled, and tear gas administered. According to estimates, over 500 protesters were arrested and 350 protesters and police injured.

On the night of May 10th, students set up barricades in the Latin Quarter and rioted, ending with close to 400 people in the hospital, more than half of which were police officers. Students called for radical changes to take place, and union leaders started planning strikes in support. In an attempt to defuse the crisis, Prime Minister Pompidou announced that the Sorbonne would reopen on May 13th.

Instead, on the 13th, students occupied the Sorbonne, turning it into a commune. Students and workers protested together in the streets, organized by the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) and the Fource Ouvriére (CGT-FO), with estimates counting over a million marchers that day. Over the next several days things escalated dramatically. Strikes spread to other universities in France as well as labor unions, and by the end of the month a massive widespread strike had extended to factories and industries across France, shutting down newspaper distribution, air transport, and two major railroads. Millions of workers were on strike, up to 22% of the population of France at the time, and the country seemed to be on the brink of revolution.

On the night of May 24th, the worst fighting occurred. Students temporarily seized the Paris Stock Exchange, raised a communist flag, and tried to set it on fire. One policeman died during the riots. Over the next few days, Prime Minister Pompidou attempted to negotiate with union leaders but failed to end the strike. The most radical students called for revolution with a meeting of the UNEF on May 27th which gathered 30,000 to 50,000 people at Stade Sebastien Charlety. They wanted the government overthrown, but their radical demands lost the support of the union leaders.

On May 30th, President de Gaulle announced that he was dissolving the National Assembly and would be holding elections. His appeal for a return to law and order gained the support of the middle class, and the labor strikes were abandoned. Student protests continued until June 12, when protests were banned. Two days later, the students were evicted from the Sorbonne. Elections were held over two rounds at the end of June, and the Gaullists won a commanding majority. Concessions were made to the protesters, including higher wages and improved working conditions for laborers, and an education reform bill was passed to help modernize the French university system.

F.A. Bernett currently has in its inventory two items dating from this period of upheaval and important change in Paris.

(Paris ’68)Collection of Leaflets Related to the 1968 Unrest in Paris. Group of approximately 200 original leaflets regarding the events of May 1968 in Paris, all originating from the “Press Office” located at the Sorbonne, dated from May and June 1968, most issued by the Comite d’Action Ouvriers Etudiants, primarily typed documents in French, some printed, including notices to their comrades and fellow students, memos, declarations, calls to action, notes on press conferences, and others, a few with cartoons or other drawings, some with ink or marker notations, overall excellent. Various sizes, mostly 4to. Sheets loose as issued, housed in an archival box. Paris 1968. (48892)

Action. Nos. 1 through 47 (7 May 1968- 3 June 1969) (all published). A complete run of 49 issues (including 2 unnumbered issues between nos. 38 and 39) of this panoramic documentation of the 1968 uprisings (issues ranging from 2 to 8 pp.), which covered events in the tumultuous year both in France and internationally with emphasis on happenings in Paris, including a wide range of articles, essays, reviews, etc., accompanied by a plethora of illustrations, including drawings, cartoons, caricatures, photographs, posters, etc. Nos. 4-20 and 23-41 large folio; nos. 1-3, 21-22, and 42-47 folio. Wrpps., all covers illustrated. Paris 1968-1969. (47080)

{ 0 comments }

The Crimean War broke out on October 16, 1853 and lasted until early 1856, and was fought initially over the rights of Christian minorities in the Holy Land, which was under the domain of the Ottoman Empire. On one side was the Ottoman Empire allied with Britain, Sardinia, and France, who favored the rights of Roman Catholics. On the other (losing) side was Russia, which favored the Eastern Orthodox Church. While the churches worked out their differences and came to a mutually satisfying agreement, Nicholas I of Russia and Emperor Napoleon III of France both refused to budge. Nicholas issued an ultimatum that the Orthodox subjects of the Empire be placed under his protection. Britain attempted to mediate and managed to arrange a compromise that Nicholas agreed to. However, when the Empire demanded additional changes, Nicholas refused and prepared for war. With the support of France and Britain, the Ottomans declared war on Russia in October 1853.

The war began in the Balkans but battles were carried out at the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Caucasus, the White Sea, and in the North Pacific. Eventually neutral countries began to join the alliance. Isolated and facing invasion from the west if the war went on, Russia sued for peace in March 1856. The war ended with the Treaty of Paris, signed on March 30. As a result, the Black Sea became neutral territory with warships and fortifications completely prohibited, which was a major setback to Russian influence in the region. The Ottoman vassal states of Wallachia and Moldavia became largely independent with Christians granted official equality, and the Orthodox Church regained control of the Christian churches in dispute.

The Battle of Kil-Bouroun (Kinburn) was one of many battles fought during the three years of the Crimean War.  Staged at the tip of the peninsula of Kinburn on the south bank of the Dnieper River near the Crimea, it was the site of an attack by the French and British navies on the Russian outpost there during the final phase of the war. On October 17, 1855, France and Britain attacked the outpost with a fleet of ironclad ships, destroying the fortifications within mere hours and suffering almost no damage. This decisive battle helped to signify the decline of the traditional wooden warship.

F.A. Bernett Books currently has in its inventory a scarce and fascinating portfolio of lithographs commemorating this wintry naval battle, with large and detailed depictions of the ships and the ruined fortifications.

Paris, (François-Edmond). Nos Souvenirs de Kil-Bouroun Pendant l’Hiver Passé Dans le Liman du Dnieper, 1855-1856. A beautiful and rare album comprising title page, a map showing the location of the naval battle of Kil-Bouroun (Kinburn), and 15 chromolithographic plates depicting mostly maritime scenes after the battle along the ice-bound Dnieper River, including inside the fort, disembarking onto the ice, and ruined fortifications, lithographed and colored by Eugene Ciceri and Adolphe Bayot, the ships drawn by Antoine Léon Morel-Fatio, after drawings by Paris. Some details appear to be hand-colored. Some scattered foxing, small stain to inside front cover, a few small tears along binding, spine very slightly shaken. Folio. Full leather, raised spine. Paris (Arthus-Bertrand/Becquet Freres) n.d. (circa 1856). Very scarce; as of October 2017, WorldCat locates only two holdings in North America of this suite. 48752

{ 0 comments }

Le Bal des Quat’z’ Arts: Revelry and Debauchery in Turn of the Century Paris

September 8, 2015

“It is a riot, a revival of paganism…It is also, in its way, a hymn to beauty, a living explosion of the senses and of the emotions.” – E. Berry Wall, Neither Past Nor Puritan In 1892, Henri Guillaume, Professor of Architecture at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, proposed that the students […]

The École de Montmartre in 1920’s Paris

August 17, 2015

              Paris in the late 19th and early 20th century, especially during the periods known as the Belle Époque and les Années Folles, was a hotbed of intellectual and artistic life. During the former, Montmartre was abuzz with cafés, cabarets, and artists’ studios, with a large number of painters […]

Charlie Hebdo’s Ancestors

January 23, 2015

  Journalism in France has a rich tradition of political satire and caricature, dating back many hundreds of years and gaining footholds at many crucial moments in France’s history. Popular in the 17th century, Molière and Jean de la Fontaine earned their fame mocking the upper echelons of society through comic plays or fables, often […]

Soucoupes Volantes Viennent d’Autres Mondes.

Thumbnail image for Soucoupes Volantes Viennent d’Autres Mondes. August 15, 2013

Collection of 20 titles, ca. 50-300 pp. each. Paris / Geneva / Moscow, 1897-1973, offered with Inforespace. Cosmologie Phénomènes Spatiaux Primhistoire. Revue Bimestrielle. Nos. 1 (1972) – 67, 69 – 71, 73 & 75, incl. the “hors serie” December annuals nos. 1 (1977) – 8 (1984). Altogether 80 issues comprising a 17-year head-of-series run of […]

Dreaming in Dirigibles: The Airship Postcard Albums of Lord Ventry.

Thumbnail image for Dreaming in Dirigibles: The Airship Postcard Albums of Lord Ventry. July 26, 2012

Collection of 548 postcard prints and original photographs depicting airships, dirigibles and zeppelins, ca. 1890 to 1960. Most images 3 x 5 in. or 4 x 6 in., housed in period 4to and tall 4to boards albums, one with spine partially detached.  N.p (United Kingdom?), N.d. (ca. 1890 to 1960).  (47267) The golden age of […]