Posts Tagged ‘Petit Nicolas’

Understanding Paris

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Last week I furthered my understanding of Paris by attending two events – an exhibition by illustrator and comic designer, Jean-Jacques Sempé, and a lecture about American artists in Paris in the time period between the two World Wars. Both provided an interesting insight into the development of Paris during the 20th century.

Sempé

The Sempé exhibition was held at the Hôtel de Ville and I had to elbow my way through the mass of people who had turned out to see it. Despite having been open for numerous weeks, there was still a huge interest in the works of the French illustrator. Sempé is known for his comic character, Petit Nicolas, and his representations of France as he provides a comical yet truthful view of la vie en France. The exhibition had a huge selection of his work and it clearly demonstrated the processes and time Sempé puts into his drawings before he is able to publish. It is sometimes relieving to see that it takes time and effort to get work published and that I have to put my head down and get some work done if I want to get anywhere with my writing.

Sempé

So French.

American Expats in Paris

My American friend, Greg, had a spare ticket to attend a lecture on the American expatriate artists and writers who arrived in Paris in the early 20th century. The talk was run by the Harvard Club of Paris and it wasn’t until the day of the lecture that I realised I was going to be hanging out with Harvard graduates. I put on my “I’m intelligent” shoes.

The talk was presented by a Harvard lecturer, Sue Weaver Schropf, and explored why so many artists and writers from America decided to move to Paris between 1913 and 1930 and what happened when they got here. There were many post-lecture discussions about Midnight in Paris as essentially the lecture covered the same time period, only with a better script and no terrible acting. Essentially, these artists were coming to find a place where they could work with other artists and not be restricted or controlled in the work that they were producing. It was a city of cultural and artistic development where ideas were flowing and it was ok to be different.

It was an interesting talk, although I would have liked it to have gone a bit deeper into modernist theory as I was craving a university level cultural studies class . Obviously time and audience-knowledge didn’t allow for it but the talk was still an interesting overview of that artistic movement.

What I really enjoyed about the evening was the room we were seated in and the Harvard graduates themselves. The room was beautiful – located in a building just off the Champs Élysée, it had a frescoed ceiling, big french windows and a view of the Grand Palais. Spectacular. Almost as spectacular were the egos sitting in the room.

Maybe I am jealous (I’m not), but it does seem that being a Harvard graduate is a very socially and economically important thing. I have only seen this sort of networking on television and I thought that that was where it belonged, but apparently it exists in the real world, too. After the lecture, the woman in charge of the evening thanked the speaker and then proceeded to make the claim that the only other place in the world where people are encouraged to come together and work and discuss and create amazing things is the Harvard campus. I almost laughed.

Then came the drinks and nibbles and the real networking began. I stuck to Greg like glue, not wanting to reveal my true identity incase I would be kicked out onto the street (nice street, though). However, we did begin talking to two men who were both very interested in my ‘escape to Paris’. I think the subject of the evening’s lecture helped as I am in a very teeny-tiny way following the steps of Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. I just need to start drinking more absinthe and hanging out with more prostitutes.

Anyway, as a result I have decided I need to read more books from that time period. Another thing to add to my to-do list.