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Reviewer on visit to museum
In the spirit of les amoureux de Peynet, a Juliet who can declaim or sing down from this nearby balcony is needed
Well-suited to lithography: a Daumier drawing in the series Emotions Parisiennes, Fitzwilliam Museum
LA JUSTICE DE DAUMIER A PLANTU : CENT CINQUANTE ANNEES DE JUSTICE
EXHIBITION AT THE PEYNET MUSEUM IN ANTIBES
Reviewed by ANDRE BEAUMONT
12 July 2000
This exhibition of caricatures, cartoons, sketches and humourous sculptures about French justice or, rather, from the satirist's point of view, French injustice, over 150 years to the present day runs from 8 July to 30 September.
More than a few words should, however, be said first about the permanent collection, devoted to the work of Raymond Peynet, best known for his 'Amoureux de Peynet', the two characters of which are known in the Anglo-Saxon world through the 'Love is..' series of cartoons.
Peynet was a resident of the Cote d'Azur for 20 years until his death at 90 in January 1999. This Museum in Antibes is dedicated to him and half the space is given over to his work.
Born in Paris in 1908, he started his artistic life in promotional drawing working for a parfumier, then joined an advertising agency.
His work was first published in The Boulevardier in the thirties but it was not until 1942 that he created the famous little couple baptised successfully ' les Amoureux de Peynet' by Max Favalelli, editor-in-chief of Ric et Rac.
The exhibition gives a very good cross-section of drawings and other work starring these. Peynet featured them in the artistic promotion of many commercial products - dolls, perfumes, pendants and jewellry, lingerie and porcelain. Not to mention the immediate and continuing success of these characters in publications - one need only mention the French ones to measure the early success - Paris Match, Marie France, Elle, Ici Paris... Likewise, French commerce took up the succes fou of these little lovers with hardly a cloud in the sky and his work was used to promote Air France and Galeries Lafayette amongst other companies.
Indeed, he designed the bottle and box of the perfume called 'succes fou' by Elsa Schiaparelli.
The drawings and watercolours on display are the originals and more detailed that those of most cartoonists. In effect, he is a good artist with a strong personality, too.
Most touching to learn, as you undertake the tour of the exhibition, is that those who marry in Antibes town hall are give a 'diplome d'amour' - a 'diploma of love' - a certificate in the style of Peynet signed by the mayor. Antibes is a good home for a museum to Peynet and his two little, well-mannered characters.
The exhibition on Justice from Daumier to Plantu contains something much more hard-hitting - a good dose of satire at the expense of the French legal profession.
At its core is a set of 40 lithographs by Honore Daumier entitled Les Gens de Justice that unremittingly targets the greed and lack of principle of the legal profession in satirical fashion that comes across as sharply a century and a half later as any of our contemporary cartoons. For example, as his client is taken down to the cells, the lawyer tells his client that he regrets not having proved his innocence but on the occasion of his next theft he looks forward to proving it and vindicating his name.
Daumier is the grandfather of French satirical cartoonists and his broad style of drawing well-suited to lithography.
At 24 he made his name by being sent to prison for satirising the King. In his long life, for the age, he lived through the First Empire, the Restoration, the Hundred Days, the Glorious Three, the July monarchy, the Second Republic, the Second Empire, the defeat of the Commune and the Third Republic. It would seem that only a man like Talleyrand was a player longer on a troubled stage.
When he emerged from detention he was a tougher political satirist and Baudelaire said of him 'Daumier ne rit plus..', but in his Les Gens de Justice on display here it would be hard to say there was other than a lot of laughter, sharpened into memorable satire by experience.
In 1834, a law against the liberty of the press largely silenced him but he ventured into the fray again during the revolution of 1848. Thereafter, he devoted much time to satirising issues of morality, and the series Les Gens de Justice falls into this category.
Other than Daumier's Les Gens de Justice there are another 40 exhibits - drawings, lithographs, watercolours and sculptures. Artists include Plantu, Wiaz, Riss, Herrenschmidt and Faizant. A little over half are satirical, the others more neutral records of trials, by means of drawing and watercolour. The notoriety of some of the trials covered give a sharp-edged tinge of curiosity to those not steeped in French history - Papon, Barbie, Nuremberg, Humbert, Landru, Zola, Dreyfus.
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