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Reflections and memories

Fathers and Sons

Fathers and sons Posted on Thu, September 19, 2019 11:48:09

This painting, titled ‘Father and Son’, was made in the same period as ‘Deluge’. Triggered by the wars in the Balkans I wondered how it would be to carry a child, fleeing one’s home, how long would I last? And apart from the child what would I be able to carry? And how about having two children?
In Nineteenth Century Art, a Critical History by Stephen F. Eisenman I found the image I was unconsciously looking for. The picture on page 34 shows an elderly bearded man descending a mountain path in the evening dusk. He carries a boy of approximately six years (the age of my eldest son at the time). The caption reads ‘after François Gérard’ and the title ‘Belisarius’. I must have read then that this ‘Belisarius’ ‘harked back to the pathetic qualities of David’s own version of 1781, but exaggerated that pathos by imagining that the blind outcast’s young guide had been killed by a snake; Belisarius is left without aid, carrying the boy’s corpse through a deserted wilderness’.
But text didn’t work for me then as reading in depth does now, I simply reacted on the image. The little black and white image was my source and only now while looking at images of the picture on the internet do I see the snake coiled around the boys ankles ! And the colouring also surprises me, I turned the reddening evening or morning sky into a dark nightscape with fires burning and gasses exploding .

This painting was shown in 2000, at the KunstRai art fair by Willy Schoots Gallery. Helga Hofman, also present at the fair with her own gallery, bought my ‘Father and Son’. In a theatrical way she exclaimed; ‘I will never part from it, he is my guardian angel!’
Schoots’ Roland Janssen used to tell all the time how important cooperation between galleries was , to be able to build an artist’s career together and to have more possibilities like making catalogues together and share the tasks. And so it came to be that in 2002 I had a show at Helga Hofman’s gallery in Alphen aan den Rijn. I had had some doubts about her policy and way of presenting herself, but Roland said: “she is a terrific salesperson, she is able to sell all of Armando’s pieces, and more, when he shows them at her place.” So I pragmatically thought; “let’s give it a try.’ The gallery was established in the central space of a huge conglomeration of businesses, and the difficulty of installing a large amount of works in corridors and the central space had taken up a lot of time. On the day the exhibition opened I was approached by a couple who gave notice that they had bought one of my large works. They told me they were very happy with it, that Helga had spoken so full of enthusiasm about the work that they felt they absolutely needed to own it. Actually , them being in a difficult period they needed the support of their ‘guardian angel’.
It may well be that there were some small sales then, but this is how I remember it. She added her painting to the exhibition to sell it on. ( Naturally it was an exclusive transaction between gallery owner and customer, leaving me out of it, even so I had to be civilized and enthusiastic talking to the painting’s new owners. )That was the first time I encountered the aspect of trade in a hard way. The painting is out of my sight now, I would like to have a look at it again.

I stumbled upon Gérard’s painting again in Thomas Crow’s Emulation, making artists for revolutionary France which I bought last year. The cover shows a drawing by Ingres of the two heads, and the text under it reads; ‘Belisarius/ after Francois Gérard, presented to Mr. Leon Bonnat, January 30th, 1887’.
In his introduction Thomas Crow writes; ‘What follows is a history of missing fathers, of sons left fatherless, and of the substitutes they sought. The sons in question were painters, and together they made a great project in art, one in which a passionate imagination of antiquity brought them, over and over again, to the troubled territory of filiation and inheritance. Their intimate dramas of emotion and intellect were in turn inseparable from vastly larger ones, the crisis and overturning of a whole social order, in which a king who embodied all patriarchal was put to death and a republic of equal male brotherhood proclaimed.’
It is a wonderful book, of imagined and real orphans receiving support and education of substitute ‘fathers’, and of their own circle of young ambitious students. A metaphoric universe of strong patriarchs and adored adolescent males striving for ‘grandeur’ together. And the studio as a home for a new family.
It is also a story of emulation, the recycling and evolution of strong images, of succession and developing storylines. Starting with the ‘Belisarius, begging alms‘ by David from 1781, followed by Gérard’s version from 1795, simply called ‘Belisarius’ , Guerin’s ‘The return of Marcus Sextus’ from 1799, Girodet’s ‘scene from a deluge’ from 1806 on to the old man holding his dead son on Géricault’s ‘Raft of the Medusa’ from 1819
It is more than twenty years ago I read the book by Eisenman and painted my picture. Nineteenth Century Art, a Critical History was pubished in 1994, its first chapter ‘Patriotism and Virtue: David to the Young Ingres’ is written by contributing author Thomas Crow, whose ‘Emulations’ I read last year. This book was published in 1996 ! Two and twenty years, what is the difference anyway? Now I was eager to study and learn, then a small image was sufficient.

First RKD Blog

RKD Posted on Mon, June 03, 2019 15:45:35

My weekly visits to RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History in The Hague started on the 8th of april. During the six to seven hours that I’m there I open archive boxes and read, sometimes standing in between the shelves with books, sitting when delving deeper. I wander through the space and slowly lose focus. The search fans out in all directions and one thing leads to an other, it has many similarities to my own artistic practice when developing a new idea, so I can go along with it. At this stage I will not force myself to make choices or aim for a direction.


A temporary inventory of possible finds and questions.

The studio visit by Alexander Ver Huel to Ary Scheffer and especially the description of a visit to Wiertz’s studio. A small document of some 20 pages A5 stapled together. He describes his excitement and expresses his wonder looking at the enormous paintings and the trope l’oeuil paintings on walls of the studio. Together with my own photo-archive of artists’ studios I read “Mythen van het Atelier”( myths of the studio), a book based on extensive research at the RKD. Also Mayken Jonkman points out Rachel Esner’s text “in the artists studio with L’Illustration”. In a box labeled ‘Frankrijk 1800-2000 Dela’, I find two pages from L’Illustration with a description of a visit to Paul Delaroche’s studio. An engraving of the workspace accompanies the text.

The absolutely wonderful letters by Matthew Maris, reflecting on his life, dealing with the commercial aspects of being an artist and his participation as a soldier in the 1870 revolution in Paris.

The feud between Carel Vosmaer and Conrad Busken Huet about literary active women, in Vosmaer’s opinion their voices will lead to a greater appreciation for the arts but Busken Huet worries about the competition by these female writers . The correspondence between the men becomes gradually more hostile , an extra complication (Huet’s backing of the Dutch governments’ suppression of the Indonesian press), means the end of their friendship. I am attracted tot his fight over female writers because I’m developing some blogtexts on ‘lost women’. The physical overpainting by Courbet of Mme Proudhon and Jeanne Duval. Or the rejection by the French republicans of female participation in the revolutions of the 19th century (utopian socialism inspired by Saint-Simon and Fourier offered more possibilities in this aspect). I’m reading “The Woman of Ideas in French Art, 1830-1848” by Janis Bergman -Carton

Red studiowalls; Scheffer and also Adolph von Menzel. There will be more examples I’m sure

Dutch contemporary critiques of ‘A Jewish Burial ‘ by Hein Burger warning about “a dangerous experiment to introduce Courbet’s realism in our country”, and that “one can already detect in ‘a Burial’ the probability of stranding on the cliffs of an ugly reality”.

Caricatures by Jan Holswilder for ‘de Lantaarn’ a Dutch satirical magazine, technically as well as artistically on a very high level and with a high degree of social commitment. To just show one, Dutch and Belgian policemen play a game of tennis with gypsies on the border between the two countries.

A menu found in a box labeled ‘1456, Toegepaste Grafiek’, for a dinner on the 20th of november 1904. The occasion is the publication of a range of “Books on Children’s Lives”, apparently books about street arabs were popular at the end of the 19th, beginning 20th century. The opulent ten- course menu provides a stark contrast to the children’s poverty. The menu is made out to M.J Brusse, a journalist and writer of a book called ‘Boefje’( little rascal), the drawing on the cover is by Theophile Alexandre Steinlen.

In the text by Ver Huel of his visit to Ary Scheffer’s studio he observes Scheffer wiping over a canvas with a wet sponge to enhance the viewing experience. In a photograph of Jozef Israëls in his studio one can see a little paintingtable . On it a metal can on a stick and a couple of sponges. I do use sponges sometime to fill in large areas ( of air in particular) but I’m amazed about Scheffer’s action and wonder how Israëls used them.

The text by Jonathan Crary “Géricault, the Panorama, and Sites of Reality in the Early Nineteenth Century” stimulated me to start a new big painting and a linocut. In ‘RKD bulletin 2012-2’, “De weg naar het heilige der heiligen, de donkere tocht naar het atelier van de kunstenaar” van Mayken Jonkman, she describes and analyses the passage through long and dark corridors and over high steps towards the studio of the artist, a journey from the dark to the light. In this article she makes a reference to Jonathan Crary’s “Techniques of the observer. On vision and modernity in the 19th century”.

Jeroen Kapelle “Carel Vosmaer en de kunstenaars van de Haagse etsclub”, brings back many nostalgic feelings, thinking about the days and evenings with ‘de Enige Echte Eindhovense Ets Club’ at Grafisch Atelier Daglicht with beers, friendship and music. I connect experiences of that time with Emiel Heijnen’s research on learning outside of schools as published in “Re-Mixing the Art Curriculum’’ and the principle of ‘The Commons’ as defined by Pascal Gielen. Ideals that are hard to ‘sell’ to politicians these days.

My research of Martersteig’s ‘Pariser Barrikaden 1848’ continues, in one of the boxes labeled ‘Duitsland 1800 -Heden’ I find a portrait of Paul Delaroche, Martersteig studied with him to better himself in the art of history painting, also a text from ‘der Cicerone’ by E.Redslob dated 1914 (With seven illustrations of works mostly from the collection of his family). In another folder I find four reproductions; a “family of the artist”, the Weimar painting that drew my attention to this painter. But the image that really catches my eye is a painting called “die heisse Suppe”. A young hawker has removed his basket with wooden toys . He sits on his knees and eats soup from a pot which a housekeeper, sitting on the steps, holds in het lap. In its sentimentality it reminds me ‘het Italiaantje’( The little Italian) as mentioned in a lecture by Gerard Rooijakkers about the door-to-door selling of catchpenny prints in Brabant.

I read about little painted portraits made to resemble a mezzotint by Boilly. Over the course of his career he made more than 5000! These portraits were his major source of income, his autonomous works in which he addressed contemporary issues were not popular with collectors. Matthijs Maris called the paintings he made on demand ‘potboliers’ or ‘suicides’. The question how to finance one’s own autonomy is a dilemma many artists struggle with.

In E. R.D. Schaap’s “Romantiek” I read about the suicide of baron Gros, also a subject I want to know more about. Schaap , a painter himself, clearly voices his opinion about works of artists. For instance in this fragment in which he describes Millet’s chosen subjects; “I dare to claim that it was never revealed to me to value a clothed peasant more than a naked woman, not even as the subject for a painting.” Information on E. Schaap in RKD images reveals a photograph of his studio on Villa Nova, on the walls many a landscape but also a reclining nude woman!

The two versions of “Napoleon crossing the Alps”, the shift in political accents when comparing the paintings by Jaques-Louis David and Paul Delaroche. Also of course, in connection to my magazine/ autobiography ‘Ezel’, the mule in Delaroche’s painting has my attention.


Gathering all this information brings an important question to mind, which is; am I still researching the theoretical context of my work over the past twenty years or am I building a new theoretical space for future works?

I convince myself that it is necessary to keep reflecting on my original research question, as I formulated it at the end of 2017 in the application for a gueststudio in Paris. This is; how can I as an engaged artist combine tradition and actuality in my practice and in what way can a study of 19th century practices help me in this?

To be honest I have to admit that a question like this also aims to find arguments to account for an already chosen direction. A given fact is that in my new works I already combine elements from the world of high art with imagery of caricature and catchpenny prints.

My ambition is clear, I want my works to function in society, through them I aim for dialogue and to take part in the democratic debate. I refuse to accept a marginal position for the arts in our days. A big inspiration for me is the status of the arts in the 19th century.

Erased Women

Appearing Posted on Tue, May 14, 2019 20:32:40

Misogynie was a term unknown to me until recently. Since the election of a bragging pussygrabbing guy to the highest position in the USA, his unworthy behavior illustrates the meaning of this term perfectly. Hate towards women, the sense of being wronged by them, the feeling of entitlement to their bodies and attention. I assumed that we would have left all that behind since the movement for women’s rights started more than 200 years ago, but hey, didn’t I also think the same about religion in politics and people’s everyday lives and openly aired racism? Uncivilized behavior, intolerance, narrow mindedness, I would gladly have done away with it. House breakers seem to be more popular than builders. Where are we heading in these times of post-truth and deepfake?

The difference between civilized and uncivilized behavior becomes painfully clear when you compare the attitude and actions of New Zealands Prime Minister Jacina Ardern after the terrorist attack in Christchurch with those of her male colleagues in politics. Let’s hope the 21 st century will become the Age of Women, it cannot be fast enough.

In the opinion of many the 19th century is seen as the Age of Men. They had the means and the power to exert total control over the lives of women. Whether it be the English pauper putting a rope on his wife’s neck to sell her in the marketplace ( 1) or the rich heir locking his spouse away in their appartment while he himself was active in society and free to enjoy the company of demi-mondes and workergirls. Apart from individuals the majority of women were confined to their allocated space, at the same time mental as well as physical. ( 2)

Male and female

Linda Nochlin compares Courbet’s “Proudhon” to “The Lictors returning to Brutus the Bodies of his Sons” by David, and specifically goes into male and female zones of the paintings. The dramatically grief stricken young daughters and the brooding thinker’s pose of Brutus. Whereby Courbet show’s Proudhon’s little girls reading and playing( 3)

She describes the socialist thinker as a “prude and anti-feminist extraordinaire, author of that milestone in the history of misogyny, La Pornocratie ou les femmes dans les temps modernes.”

Opposed to him the Fourierist Jean Journet represented a radically different faction of early Utopian Socialism. On the 1st of January 1857 he published a poetical pamphlet L’ère de la Femme ou la Règne de la harmonie universelle which he dedicated to the Empress Eugénie. It seems to me a puzzling move, considering his practice as a wandering prophet, spreading his message of Universal Harmony and equality of the sexes, to dedicate this utopian vision to the wife of an autocrat leader.

Flaubert in turn was absolutely not in favor of universal harmony and the equality of the sexes. In a letter addressed to George Sand, whom he views as a representative of la Troisieme Sexe’, he uses a remarkable cattle-metaphor ( remember the English pauper from before?): But then, what idea have you of women, O, you who are of the third sex? Are they not, as Proudhon said, “the desolation of the Just”? ( ) The people who have no need of the supernatural, are rare. Philosophy will always be the lot of the aristocrats. However much you fatten human cattle, giving them straw as high as their bellies, and even gilding their stable, they will remain brutes, no matter what one says. All the advance that one can hope for, is to make the brute a little less wicked. But as for elevating the ideas of the mass, giving it a larger and therefore a less human conception of God, I have my doubts.(4)

Courbet had intended to paint his friend’s portrait for some time but despite pressing Proudhon and seeking the help of friends like Castagnary he didn’t succeed to convince the philosopher to pose for him.

In contrast to the extreme ability of Courbet to handle the media Proudhon in turn was very withdrawn. Victor Considérant, another early-socialist, described him as; “ “That shy man who was determined that none should share his views” (5) Alan Bowness in going through all 14 parts of Proudhon’s Correspondance and the 9 ‘Carnets‘ hardly finds any mention of Courbet. He concludes on the basis of this research that their relationship was very uneven ( a conclusion Klaus Herding contradicts) (6)

Proudhon complains about the barrage of long letters by Courbet. In a letter to Chaudet (1st of June 1864) he writes; “I’ve had an enormous letter from Courbet. I think he went poking about in the oldest grocer’s shop in Ornans for the dirtiest yellowest coarsest exercise- book so as to write to me. You’d believe that letter belonged to Gutenberg’s century ( ) This time he covered no less than fourteen pages with the dregs of wine. It’ll be a job to answer all that”( 7)

In 1863 Courbet had asked him to, at least, have his likeness photographed.On January 13th 1865 he writes Castagnary “You must see Proudhon immediately on my behalf. Ask him by way of pretext for the letter I wrote him (..) Try to arrange it with him, or at least with his wife (..) if he dies without his portrait done, we will never have it.” Proudhon dies six days later.

Courbet fears that he will be too late to contribute the painting to the Salon that will start in two month’s time. And miss the ‘momentum’ to present the posthumous portrait of his hero.

He decides to base his hommage on a recollection of a visit to Proudhon’s family in 1853. He describes the scene he wants to paint; “When it did not rain, he was in the habit of carrying all his paraphernalia – his books, his papers, his briefcase, his writing desk- out to the three stair steps, and when the sun shone, his wife and children came to work with him. ( ) One child is playing in the sand; the other is spelling out her letters under the eye ofhet mother, who is in the middle ground.” ( to Eugene Carjat, february-March 1865)

With the help of the material he received through Castagnary ( photographs and a deathmask) he succeeds in finishing the portrait in two months’ times so he can present it at the Salon.

From a letter to Jules Luquet, ( May or April 1865). “My dear Luquet: Our friend Carjat has just written me a magnificent letter about my paintings. He is delighted with the painting of Proudhon. Only the woman leaves something to be desired as far as resemblance, the children enchant him. I cannot tell you all the compliments he pays me and has been asked to pay me by friends who have seen it. As for the woman, it was understood from the start: the woman that is there is a provisional figure that has, however, some of the quality of Mme Proudhon”.

He plans to add her portrait when he arrives in Paris: ” I felt strongly about not asking anything of an administration that has always and on every occasion behaved so badly toward me. However, if, as you assure me, I could work for a day or half a day at the Exhibition before the opening without too much bootlicking, I would, on my arrival in Paris, paint a portrait of Mme Proudhon from life on a bit of canvas and transfer it to my painting. It is a matter of three hours”.

Ten Doeschate-Chu , in a note concerning this letter; “Though Courbet probably did paint a portrait sketch of Mme Proudhon, he did not receive the authorization to alter the Portrait of Proudhon. When the Salon was finished, he decided to eliminate the figure of Mme Proudhon altogether. (8)

The work continues, in a letter from April 1866 Courbet writes; “I am still working on the portrait of Proudhon. I removed the little wall that was in the back and it is larger by half. I will be painting Mme Proudhon (of) whom I have ( a sketch) ready at my atelier”.

14 juli 1867 he tells Castagnary ; ”I removed the woman, I finished the children, I redid the background, I retouched Proudhon. It looks now splendid to me.

Courbet painted out the figure of Mme Proudhon and replaced it by a mendingbasket placed on top of some garments draped over Mme Proudhon’s chair.

A lot has been written by this decision of Courbet, as for instance this assessment by Linda Nochlin. “he removed the image of the wife of his protagonist after the picture was first shown, substituting the metonymic ball of yarn for her redundant persona, still visible in x-ray. No doubt Mme. Proudhon detracted too much from the dominating presence of her misogynistic husband, the hero of the piece”. ( 9)

( 10)


This blog offers a lot of starting points for new texts. For instance “The responses to Proudhon” by Madame d’Hericourt, or the letter of Jeanne Deroin which are contemporary documents of the early feminist movement ( 11) Also the disappearance of Baudelaire’s muse Jeanne Duval from Courbet’s painting ‘The Studio’, and the ghosts of women in ‘A burial’ that could turn into a story on painting technique and issues of restauration. And of course Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the role of women in the American elections of 2020.


2. On exceptions to the rule read; “The Woman of Ideas in French Art, 1830- 1848 by Janice Bergman Carton, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1995.

3. Courbet, Linda Nochlin, Thames and Hudson Ltd London, 2007, page 14

4.–4.html ( 19-09-1868)

5. G.Woodcock, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, MacMillan, London, 1956.

6. Alan Bowness, Courbet’s Proudhon, The Burlington Magazine Vol 120, March 1978. Klaus Herding “Proudhons “Carnets Intimes” und Courbets “Bildniss Proudhons im Familienkreis”. Malerei und Theorie/ das Courbet-Colloquium 1979, Frankfurt am Main. In this article Herding also considers Proudhon’s patriarchal individualism and the detached relationship of the philosopher and husband in dealing with his wife and family. In his words ‘the collission of practice and theory.’

7. Jack Lindsay page 185-86

8. Letters of Gustave Courbet, Petra ten-Doeschate Chu, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1992. Letter 65-11

9. Courbet, Linda Nochlin, Thames & Hudson, 2007, page 14.\

10. A very readable article is , Replies to Proudhon, A Woman’s Philosophy of Woman; or A Woman Affranchised door Madame D’Hericourt uit 1864.

11. Female Writers’ Struggle for Rights and Education for Women in France 1848-1871 by Joyce Dixon-Fyle. Peter Lang Inc., International Academic Publishers 2006, page 160 and further.

12. On this site one can find portraits of the older Madame Proudhon and her grown-up daughters.–+Pierre-Joseph+Proudhon%22%26label_fulltext%3D%26tri%3D&label_complete_search=%22Portraits+–+Pierre-Joseph+Proudhon%22&type=


Appearing Posted on Tue, April 16, 2019 10:26:37

In October 2012 I started with a page called Open-source painting on Facebook.( 1) My intention was to share my research into classical painting techniques and materials. For years I had taught students of AKV /StJoost the essentials of the techniques of painting in short courses from six, sometimes even five, lessons ( 18 or 15 hours in total for a study-period of four years!). To offer them and everyone else interested a broader perspective of possibilities I decided to share my own experiments with trying out techniques I had theoretical knowledge of. I did this by posting step-by-step photographs and short texts. In doing this I intended to expand the technical abilities of my followers and to help them with ‘reading’ the classical works that inspired them by showing the different steps of their production.

One side effect was that while visiting museums and looking at paintings my attention kept shifting between their content and their physical qualities

In 2013 I visited the Schlossmuseum in Weimar. On the first floor one painting caught my attention , there was something peculiar happening in it. The picture called “Pariser Barrikade’ was painted by Friedrich Wilhelm Martersteig in 1848. It shows a scene from the Februari-revolt which he had witnessed as a student in Paris. On the barricade men dressed in smocks stand out against a clear evening or morning sky. The lefthand side of the painting looks fine but on the right heavy parts are overpainted, parts that catch the eye immediately because the paint has become transparent and its adhearance seems faulty. Because of this I made some photographs of details for my archive.

Clearly visible is the change in size of the two figures at the end of the barricade, halved rather rigorously to suggest a deeper perspective and to make their size somewhat more realistic in relation to the high buildings behind them.

The middle-class couple on the right, with the son putting a coin in a box, presents another problem. The ‘husband’ looks rather clumsy and seems to be added later after the picture dried. I think that in the uncorrected version the woman and her son visited the site of the barricade unaccompanied by a male. In the composition her pale face seems to almost touch the deeply tanned face of a man next to her. This ‘revolutionary’ reminds me of the man with the sabre on the picture by Delacroix from 1830. Behind her and partly visible one can see a figure with a red cap and next to him a surly looking older gentleman eyeing her closely. This grouping with the reserved woman modestly casting her eyes down and the three male faces seems to me more achieved than the state the picture is in now. It may have been possible that the red cap attracted to much attention, but Martersteig could easily have changed the colour. The added husband painted as if he is pulling the woman out of the picture is an anatomical failure. One only has to look at the way their holding arms is suggested.

detail Delacroix

After his studies at the Art Academies of Dresden and Düsseldorf Martersteig stayed in Paris from 1838 to 1848. He enlisted as a student with Paul Delaroche and also assisted Ary Scheffer with the production of a few large canvases. With his own works he took part in a couple of Salons. Beginning of 1848 King Louis Philippe offered Martersteig the opportunity to participate in decoration work for the Palais of Versailles, but because of the outbreak of the February-revolt this never happened.

His picture ‘Pariser Barrikaden’ is one of the few documents in paint of the February-revolt created by German artists. After returning to Weimar Martersteig had high hopes of returning to Paris. While waiting for the conditions to change for the better he finished ( or changed?) works he had started in France. In the end he never went back. (2)

The women with the three types of men around her made me think of a picture of Christ before Pilate painted by a follower of Jheronimus Bosch from the collection of Museum Boymans van Beuningen. (detail) ( 3).

What can one make of the suspicious glances aimed at the woman? Does she represent something the men and even the ‘husband’ dislike? I will do some more research and follow up on it later on.

The appearance of corrected parts and even hidden figures by the paint becoming more transparant, (especially paints mixed with leadwhite), is a well known phenomenon. The find made during a collaborative research project conducted by the National Galleries of Scotland and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London looks to be pretty spectacular. The painting in question, a portrait of Sir John Maitland, painted by Adriaan Vanson was seemingly painted over a portrait of a woman. The researchers claim it bears striking similarities to other depictions of Mary Queen of Scots made during her lifetime. The monarch was forced to abdicate the Scottish throne in 1567 after being accused of murdering her husband. Imprisoned by her cousin Elizabeth I she was executed in 1587. The painting hiding her image was created two years after Mary’s death, with historians speculating that the artist may have abandoned the portrait and then covered it up due to her execution. Keeping it twenty years in case of future use and then wait another two years after her death to cover it up?

This might be the start of other exciting stories. In a new text I will write about ‘lost women’.



2. Martersteig; Pariser Lehrjahre/ Ein Lexicon zur Ausbildung deutscher Maler in de französischen Hauptstadt” Bd. I: 1793-1843. Herausgegeben von France Nehrlich und Benedicte Savoy



A poet in the attic

Poets Posted on Wed, February 06, 2019 11:08:17

Who doesn’t know this work? It is called ‘the Poor Poet’ and was painted by Carl Spitzweg in 1838. It’s his best known work by large, although Spitzweg was just in his fourth year as a self-taught painter when he created it. And had almost half a century ahead of him . Before he decided to become an artist Spitzweg worked as an academically trained chemist.

The poor poet is lying on several mattresses in the corner of an attic. An open umbrella is meant to shield him from the water entering through a leaking roof. Bundles of his own writing lie next to the oven. Alexandra Matzer writes that rather than an august artistic genius, Spitzweg opted to present the figure of a bohemian: antibourgeois, destitute, but inspired.

And I think that she has a point when she writes; ‘Only after analyzing all aspects and a required sense of empathy Spitzweg’s social criticism will show itself. Amusing though the motif might at first glance appear, it is also a socio-critical comment on the precarious situation of artists. As is so often the case with his works, it is precisely this ambivalence that constitutes the appeal of Spitzweg’s depiction. This ambiguity is also expressed in the iconography of the pointed cap worn by the “poor poet”, for during the French Revolution the so-called Jacobin or liberty cap was used as a symbol of republican resistance. Seeing as it was only a mundane sleeping cap widely worn by the people, it could not be banned as a sign of subversive views. Seen from our own time the work has clear elements of Romanticism and then especially the German Biermeier variant ( 1)

In 1844 The Magazine ’Fliegende Blatter’ is founded in Munich and Spitzweg is engaged as one of the artists to draw caricatures. He goes into satirical works by French artists like Daumier and Grandville. The fact that there also existed an interaction becomes clear by the variation on ‘the poor poet’ that Daumier draws for the ‘Le Charivari ‘(May 26,1847).The lithograph is titled; “Brigand de propriétaire… qui ne veut me faire faire des réparations qu’au beau temps !…” [The landlord really is a robber … It seems he chooses to make roof repairs only during sunny weather …].

There are a lot of similarities with ‘der arme Poet’ but Daumier didn’t draw ‘un Pauvre Poète’, although a book lies on the ground there is no pen or quill in sight, this poor man has other issues to deal with. The next image incorporates Daumier’s drawing into a bigger story…

Edmund Texier, image from ‘Tableau de Paris’ from 1852. Cross-section of a Parisian house about 1850 showing the economic status of the tenants varying by floors.

In 1850 a lot of residents of Paris protested the plan of Baron Hausmann,(nickname ‘artiste démolisseur’ artist-demolisher) to build identical five -story houses with uniform façades along the boulevards. They feared that the uniformity of the buildings would turn Paris in a dull and monotonous city.

Despite of the protests Hausmann was able to gain support from the authorities and hundreds of these houses were built. The caricature shows the interior of one of these houses; “On the streetlevel the cook lets her so-called nephew get a taste of the soup. Madame Conciërge danses to the music of the piano played by her daughter who studies at the ‘Conservatoire’. Like ‘tout le monde’ she’s intent upon becoming an artist. On the first floor Madam takes a nap and Sir stretches himself while they wait for visitors to arrive. All the luxury in the world and one is bored! On the second floor we see the richness of marital bliss, father, mother, children and their toys. A floor higher we see the landlord who comes claiming the back rent. On the fourth floor we see a workman out of money and artists stamping their feet in order to stay warm( also based on a print by Daumier). And a philosopher daydreaming under his blankets, brooding on ‘un ouvrage palingénésique ’ while an umbrella hangs over his head to protect him from the leaking roof. ( 2)

An ‘Ouvrage palingénésique ’, what a wonderful notion! The source of this difficult word is ‘rebirth’. A work of rebirth. A phenomenon well known to artists . No success again, no sales, critiques, not even a mention of one’s name! Back in the studio you have to reinvent yourself, improve this and that, visualize even stronger, do some soul-searching and find a way to charge your inner artist and reappear reborn with new works that will inevitably convince everyone !’

On a side of the box of Chris Ware’s sensational ‘Building Stories’ you can find a small drawing of one of the main figures who sighs ; “I don’t think you can make yourself into an artist…you just have to be born that way, like being gay, or something…that was my problem, I think…I was always just art-curious” ( 3)

Back to a real poet, Baudelaire. On page 67 of the dissertation Linda Nochlin wrote as her final thesis presented in 1963,( 4) ( which I was lucky to find in the outstanding multi media center of Fontys Hogeschool der Kunsten in Tilburg), I find when Nochlin discusses Courbet’s portrait of Baudelaire; “(…)but with representing Baudelaire concretely at this particular moment of his life ( probably the time when the impoverished poet sought shelter in an improvised bed in Courbet’s studio)” He may be poor but that doesn’t diminish his inner powers. Manet complains in a letter addressed to Baudelaire about the reception of Olympia and writes.” I could wish you were here, insults pour down on me like hail. I should so much like to have your opinion of my paintings, for all this outcry irritates me, and it is evident that someone or other is at fault.” But Baudelaire already knew something of how prophets are treated.The imperial authorities had presecuted his masterpiece . He had been convicted and fined 300 Francs. The judge ruled that six of his verses had to be suppressed for future editions. He answers Manet ; “ I must speak to you of yourself. What you demand is really stupid. They make fun of you, the jokes aggravate you; no one knows how to do you justice, etc, etc. Do you think you are the first man put in this predicament? Are you a greater genius than Chateaubriand or Wagner? Yet they certainly were made fun of. They didn’t die of it. And not to give you too much cause for pride, I will tell you that these men are examples, each in his own field and in a very rich world,whereas you are only the first in an art in the state of decadence.” ( 5)

The homeless poet

Jehan Rictus ( 1867-1933), born Gabriel Randon, was forced to live on the streets at the age of 17 amongst the clochards and other poor people of Paris. Later on in life his experiences became the source material for his poems. A collection of which were printed under the title ‘Les Soliloques du Pauvre’( the poor’s soliloquy). Dreams of the last warm stay, remembering the arms of a woman, the life of the poor in a style that attempts to imitate their language ( through slang, dropped letters and so on) The poems are melancholic , sometimes filled with bitterness an rage but also with a humoristic touch to them. His ‘Soliloques du pauvre’ is translated into English under the same title ( 6) but apart from this fact I’m unable to find more. But I really like reading the texts aloud and try to get into the rhythm, like I did with a poem called Espoir , a fragment;

The language expresses a rough pulsing rhythm . I learn that Rictus became successful as a singer in the Paris cabarets. An album from 2017 by the French rapper Vîrus gives me an idea of the almost hallucinant power and renews the urgency and actuality of these poems. Listen to Vîrus’ version of ‘Les Soliloques du Pauvre’ and feel the tension building up.

By forming a large historical circle I would like to end this text with a stanza from François Villon’s ‘Big Testament” from 1461.

(Ah God! If only I had studied in the days of my mad youth, and learned good habits, now I’d have a house and soft bed, but look. I fled from school like a bad boy…And writing these lines ,I fear my heart will break) ( 7)



(2) Own translation of the text on page 65 of the first part of Texier’s book.

(3) , Photographer; Julian Andrews. Do yourself a big favour and buy the box, it is still available I bought it for 38 and a bit Euros.

(4). “The development and nature of Realism in the work of Gustave Courbet; a study of the style and its social and artistic background, Linda Nochlin 1976. ( Outstanding dissertations in the fine arts) Originally presented as the author’s thesis, New York University 1963”. (A major find from the sensational media library of Fontys Hogeschool der Kunsten, Tilburg. Education management, please consider that it is absolutely no problem to let books rest for a while, it is not wise to confront scientific libraries with economic shelf-life ideas. Knowledge gets better while resting, just like good wine)

(5) Olympia, Paris in the Age of Manet, Otto Friedrich, Aurum Press Ltd 1992, pagina’s 25-26.

(6) Herbert W. Kitson ‘Les Soliloques du Pauvre’. ( University Press of America, 1982)

(7) ( Theophile Alexandre Steinlen was one of my heroes during my study to become an illustrator. When you say ‘Steinlen’ you automatically say ‘cat’. When you go deeper into his works , like I do now and didn’t do in the 1980’s, I find that he engaged himself with the social issues of his time, at times combined with the decorative use of cats’ bodies).

( 8) I own a real nice Dutch edition of François Villon’s, Het Grote Testament, translation by K.J.A.Janson, Het Spectrum Utrecht-Antwerpen, 1961. The French version I found here;, and by copying the first lines “Hé ! Dieu, se j’eusse estudié” , I came upon ‘A place to live and other selected essays’ by Natalia Ginzburg ( edited by Lynne Sharon Schwartz)and there I found an English translation minus the two last lines which I attempted to translate myself. Not very poetic but it gives an idea of the content.

A wandering in search of yellow figures.

Le Nain Jaune Posted on Wed, January 16, 2019 15:10:40

In the second blog on “Le Nain Jaune” I made a short mention of Henry Harland and the Yellow Books. Harland was the literary editor of the series , Max Beerbohm the artistic editor and with him I will start this text.

In October 1896 Beerbohm’s story “The Happy Hypocrite” was published in number eleven of the series of Yellow Books. Lord George has fallen in love with the young actress Jenny, a yellow dwarf named Cupid caused this by shooting an arrow in his breast. Lord George boldly proposes marriage to Jenny, but she says that she will only marry a man with the face of a saint and a saintly character. In order to make her change her mind George calls in the service of a mask-maker a Mr. Aeneas. Wearing the mask Lord George shows himself to Jenny. Beerbohm offers some motives to play down the cheating by attaching the love for art and beauty to the mask, the result of wearing it changes not only the looks but also the character. The two marry and live blissfully in a little cottage. One day a former lover of George shows up and pulls his mask down in a jealous rage and to his own astonishment the mask has done its work and his face has changed permanently ( 1)

Cupid, the Yellow Dwarf by Max Beerbohm and on the right ‘The Yellow Kid’ by Richard Felton Outcault.

The Yellow Kid ( 1896-1898) created by Richard F. Outcault was one of the first comic newspaper characters. At first the Kid was just one of a group of street kids from the New York slums. He wore a blue nightgown of one of his sisters for lack of other clothing. One day Charles Saalburg, who was in charge of the colour prints, got the bright idea of colourizing the gown yellow. This was still experimental at the time, since yellow ink didn’t dry properly. But the effect was; it increased the visibility of the boy with the buckteeth and protruding ears. For Outcault The Yellow Kid represented not an individual, but a type he had noticed during his wanderings through New York’s streets . The kids do mischief, joyfully engage in slapstick and speak a phonetic language. Which had a huge appeal to the largely new immigrant population of New York. Outcault developed the speech balloon as a container for this language and also wrote it on the Yellow Kid’s gown. Another first was The Yellow Kid’s tendency to reference recent news events. Political cartoonists had done this as early as the late 18th century, but in comics this was still a novelty.

Despite his popularity The Yellow Kid fell victim to politics in 1889. In the run up to the Spanish- American War newspapers like William Randolp Hearst’s ‘The New York Journal’ were responsible for creating an atmosphere aiming for war. An effect of the mood created against anything Spanish was also an antipathy against the colours of the Spanish Flag, yellow and red. In this atmosphere the yellow gown made the Kid vulnerable and contributed to Outcault’s losing interest in his creation ( 2)

´The Big Type War of the Yellow Kids´ caricature by Leon Barret published in Vim Magazine 1889. (3)

Joseph Pullitzer of ´The New York World´ and William Randolph Hearst of ´The New York Journal´ , (newspapers that featured the Yellow Kid cartoons ) build a block tower and bicker about who’s war it is. Their stories swayed US public opinion to believe that the Cuban people were being severely persecuted by the Spanish, and that the only way for them to gain their independence was through American intervention. Hearst and Pulitzer made their stories credible by self-assertion and providing false names, dates, and locations of skirmishes and atrocities committed by the Spanish. The papers also claimed that their facts could be substantiated by the government. More than 100 years of neo-conservative influencing of public opinion and government policy, what has changed over the years?

A curious monkey

Hans Reyersbach was born in Hamburg in 1898 and met Margarete Waldstein (born 1906) at a party for the 16th birthday of Margarethe’s sister. Hans was already living in Brasil when the two met again in 1935 after she had left Germany to escape from the nazis. They decided to get married and travel to Paris for a honeymoon that would last almost 4 years. While in Paris, Hans’s animal drawings came to the attention of a French publisher, who commissioned him to write a children’s book. The result was ‘Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys’. One of its characters, an adorably impish monkey named Fifi, was such a success that the couple considered writing a book focused entirely on it. With the advance of the German army the Reys , being Jews, decided to flee Paris in 1940. In a lot of texts about this episode I come upon sentences like ´Hans assembled two bicycles´ or a reference to ‘self-made bicycles´, so I also got curious. How did he turn two bicycles into one and how did it look? In the end I found this image from a film made about the couple’s adventures (5)

A tandem! Is it possible they considered resting in turn and keep going forward? Would the one resting have found stability against the other? Would they have continued cycling during the night? Riding the tandem, with only their winter coats and four picture books strapped to the racks, the couple travelled to the south of France. In Bayonne they were issued life-saving visas signed by the Brazilian Vice-Consul. They were able to cross the Spanish border, travelled by train to Lisbon and from there they went to Brazil and straight on to New York. Where in 1941 the first Curious George story was published. (4)

( 6) Curious George rides a bike. And The man with the Yellow hat

In the stories Curious George has a steady companion , the man controlling and educating him is called “The man with the Yellow Hat”. This man catches George in Africa ( “One day George saw a man, he had on a yellow large straw hat. The man saw George too. “What a nice little monkey”, he thought. “I would like to take him home with me”. He put his hat on the ground, and, of course, George was curious. He came down from the tree to look at the large yellow hat”.) and takes George with him to America wherethe little monkey, curious as he is, constantly gets into trouble . The first Curious George story is a big success from the start and a whole series of new stories follow. They keep being reprinted and adapted to new times, animation series, movies and television films are made. (The first television adaption was aired in 1980 and I’m inclined to think Mike Kelley may have seen it and based his Mr Banaman on the character of the Man with the Yellow Hat. I will go into that in a new text.) As an illustration of the ongoing popularity of Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat: two photographs of Halloween costumes ( 7)

Driving off on a bicycle.

The story of the Rey’s escape made me think of a book that had made a big impression on me when I read it in my adolescent years. The book’s title is ‘the Russkoffs’ and it is written by Francois Cavanna. In my recollection the main character decided, in the same June days of 1940, to take his bike and leave Paris, fleeing from the advancing German army. The idea to just get on to your bike, skip school and drive away ,towards the horizon, stays with me, even after 40 years since I read the book. I wanted to refresh my memory so I bought a second hand copy, started reading and found out that my memory and interpretation had created an alternative story.

François , just 16years old, is the son of Italian immigrants. He is fed up with school, and wants to get a job. His father is a bricklayer and like all immigrants of the first generation he wants his son to have a more comfortable life. François starts working in one of the post offices of Paris and is only engaged for a short time when the war starts . The director of the post office calls for an emergency meeting during which he informs the employees; “The Krauts are already in Meaux. You will go home straightaway to fetch your stuff, take only the most necessary. In three hours time there will be a bus which will take you south. These are orders of the government. Those who refuse will face huge penalties.” The director continues;” I’m unable to accompany you , I’ve received orders to stay and confront what’s coming.” “A hero, well almost, he shouldn’t have worn those slippers during working hours. But he’s got tender feet”, Cavanna remarks cynically. Of course the bus doesn’t show up. The director tells his employees; “those of you who have bicycles will have to use these. The rest of you best take the train, if you can still catch it, if not you should try going on foot. The regrouping will be in Bordeaux, at the central postoffice. Try to stay together as best you can”. And so François mounts his bicycle and he’s off, adding one more body to a chaotic exodus. Eventually he notices he’s been overtaken by the German army and returns home after a couple of weeks.

The real subject of ‘the Russkoffs’ starts right on the first page of the book, the chapter is called “Slave Market.” François has been drafted to work as a forced labourer in Germany. He is working on a metal press that makes parts for grenades. The book describes his experience of three years prison camp, hunger, survival and mass dying, the encounter with his love and soulmate the Ukranian Maria and the nearing collapse of Germany. And the slow return back to France, losing Maria along the way, during a short absence of François she is rounded up by the Russian army and he is unable to find her. The book is dedicated to ‘Maria Jossifovna Tatartsjenko, wherever she may be’. The last lines of the book read ; “Once, I don’t know how I will go there. To the Ukraine, to Charkov. I will find her. In the meantime I will study the Russian language. And I started working again, one has to live, dying is no option”. ( 8)

The formative war experience turned Cavanna into a person with a big distrust for power, someone who has learned to look behind the scenes, someone who defuses all rhetoric . After the war he starts drawing comics for the newspaper ‘Le Déporté du travail’, a paper founded by the Association of Forced Labourers. He continues drawing for satirical magazines like Zéro and La Presse Aux Oeufs D’Or ( The Press with the Golden Eggs). Here he gets to know Georges Bernier. Together with him he starts the satirical magazine Hara-Kiri in 1960 and its successor Charlie Hebdo in 1970.

Cover of the Russkoffs. And a special Père-Lachaise edition of Charlie Hebdo, 5/02/2014, devoted to François Cavanna 1923-2014.



2. R. F. OUTCAULT’S THE YELLOW KID A Centennial Celebration of the Kid Who Started the Comics. Introduction by Bill Blackbeard, Kitchen Sink Press.

3. Totally beside the point but very funny; on the original Vim Magazine I cannot find anything but for those who like well muscled appealing men in minuscule bathing trunks this is a very nice search term.



6. Original drawing for one of seven Curious George stories with a dedication by H. A. Rey to ‘Nancy,who was too old for this book when it was first published, but who is now the right age, with love, from her ancient friend’.

7. Nowadays the stories of Curious George are being read in a critical way. There are a host of blogs questioning educational aspects of the behaviour of the Man with the Yellow Hat, aspects of western colonialism, and capitalist appropriation to name a few.

8. De Russkoffs, Francois Cavanna, 1980 Uitgeverij Lotus Antwerpen, translated by myself, in absence of an English translation

The development of the Yellow Dwarf.

Le Nain Jaune Posted on Mon, January 07, 2019 13:46:53

As I pointed out in the first text about Le Nain Jaune it is plausible that the name of the magazine is derived from Madame D’Aulnoy’s fairy figure. In this text I will attempt to create order in the many variants of yellow dwarfs that have developed over time. First in connection with political and literary magazines, secondly the yellow dwarf as a fairy figure in books and as a theatre figure, and thirdly the use of his name as a pseudonym.

The original first magazine had a short lifespan and existed from 1814 until 1815, manged a short restart in Brussels under the name of ‘Le Naine Jaune Refugié’ which publication ceased in 1816. In the same year Le Nain Tricolore, or Journal Politique, des Arts, des Sciences et de la Littérature was founded . It was a magazine with Bonapartist sympathies. It didn’t take long for the whole group of editors to be convicted and sent into exile to the abbey of Mont- Saint-Michel where they stayed for three years.

‘The three literary dwarfs, or the bastard children of the yellow dwarf fight over its corpse’

The story of this caricature is told in the preface to the edition of January 1816: “Le Nain Blanc didn’t survive its prospectus, Le Nain Verte is even lesser known than the Green Giant and Le Nain Rose could be named after the colour of its envelope and the dwarf poppy. They are still circulating without resistance, without readers almost . By presenting their existence to the public I do not aim to clarify their title or colour. As the only son and heir of Le Nain Jaune , grown up in its true French school, I must declare why I wear new colours, because in principle I’m the same”. The text of the preface goes on explaining the symbolism of the colours and ends with; “everything for the Fatherland and the Truth, is my motto and I remain loyal to that”. (1)

In 1818 an English version is published under the name; ‘The Yellow Dwarf, a Weekly Miscellany’, a newspaper edited by John Hunt, No 19, Catherine Street, Strand. (2) I find more information on Hunt in a publication called ‘The Law Advertiser’ under the header ‘Insolvent debtors’. Hunt is mentioned as bookseller and publisher of ‘the Examiner, London Weekly Newspaper’. He seems to have been active from a large number of London addresses and even to have lived in Rouen, France for a while. I’m wondering if he continued his publishing on the other side of the Channel.( 3)

The first issue of The Yellow Dwarf reports about a lawsuit against a fellow publisher, a Mr. Hone. He is accused of publishing ‘three squibs in the form of parodies of part of the service of The Church of England”. The piece makes reservations about the argumentation of the prosecutor and puts forward arguments to show that they are not in good order. There’s a further piece about a speech on the freedom of the press by Mr. Jollivet, deputee of the Assemblée Nationale in which he is quoted; “The liberty of the Press is less necessary in a Representative Government than in other.-” “The Press” he added, “is represented as the only instrument by which truth can be made known; but the passions of men are too impetuous, to permit the Press that Liberty which some demand. The real National Representation is in the King.”

On the 16th of May 1863 a new Nain Jaune appeared in France, this time in the form of a newspaper, edited by Aurélien Scholl, this Le Nain Jaune would continue until 1876. An illustration in the head of the paper of the second of August 1865 shows a dwarf armed with a crossbow, rising from a grave amidst a group of onlookers. ( 4) Despite continuing the use of satire, the focus of the newspaper was less on politics and more on literature when compared to the first Nain Jaune. The list of names of its contributors is imposing, amongst them Théodore de Banville, Henry Rochefort ( also known by the portret painted by Manet), Emile Zola and Victor Hugo. Jules-Antoine Castagnary, a close friend of Courbet, ( see blogtexts 1 en 2) was chief-editor of Le Nain Jaune for a while.

Recently I was able to buy a copy of “Album des Bêtes à l’usage des gens d’esprit,” published by Aurélien Scholl. The book consists of three sections with engravings based on drawings by Grandville and Kaulbach. As publishing house is mentioned; Paris, Aux Bureaux du Nain Jaune, 1864.

The painting monkey on the title page smokes a pipe decorated with the head of Napoleon!

The journey of the fairytale.

Because of its great popularity Madame d’Aulnoy’s fairytale was translated for an English audience in the 18th century. The translations were adapted to different audiences, the rooms of noble and upperclass ladies and to nurseries. A very extensive article about the many modulations and adaptations to the story is written by Évanghélia Stead. (5) Le Nain Jaune turns into The Yellow Dwarf and Toutebelle becomes princess All-Fair . Sometimes the dwarf wins but in other stories the outcome is a happy one, the princess gets her happy ending, imaginably to spare the delicate children’s soul.

Editions in the series Walter Crane’s toybooks and one of Crane’s woodcut illustrations

It didn’t take long for the story to inspire theatre writers. Their productions were called pantomimes. Of which ‘The Yellow Dwarf or Harlequin Cupid and the King of the Goldmines’ by Henry J. Byron is the best known. The first performance was in Covent Garden,London in 1869.

In this play the figure of the Yellow Dwarf is characterized as; “not the pink of politeness, but the in-carnation of villainy”.

A chorus from one of the songs:

Bad,bad,bad as he can be,
Here in me one you see;
Most atrocious
In what’s wrong, and never right
I delight, boys, I delight
The Yellow Dwarf as bad as you could wish for,
Yes, I’m a fellow of the deepest dye,
he very deepest dye,
Though I’m yellow

There are a lot of varying theatre-productions on the Yellow Dwarf theme, to name just a few; ‘The Yellow Dwarf or Harlequin and the son of the sunflower” by G.D.Pitt, and ‘Harlequin (and the) Yellow Dwarf or the enchanted Orangetree and the King of the Goldmines’, by T.L. Greenwood .

The Yellow Dwarf’s part in a pantomime written by James Robinson Planché was played by Frederick Robson . This painting from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, shows him in his role as Gam-Bogie. A creative reference to Gamboge, a bright yellow color coming from a natural resin and the word Boogeyman. This image of badness may only be compared to that of Roark Jr, the Yellow bastard from Frank Miller’s Sin City. A sadist untouchable by wealth and connections. But now I’ve strayed far from chlidren’s fairytales.


In April 1894 the first Yellow Book was published , a series published by The Boldley Head. With Aubrey Beardsley as art editor and Henry Harland as literary editor, the new magazine would publish works unlikely to be accepted by mainstream publishers. Harland contributed a lot of short stories and was fond of using pseudonyms, for each of which he adjusted his writing style. He wrote three satirical essays under the pen name “The Yellow Dwarf ( 6)

Le Nain Jaune is the title of a book Pascal Jardin wrote in loving memory of his father Jean Jardin , the yellow dwarf being his nickname. A book filled with anecdotes about a happy childhood and a father as a practical joker. By publishing his book “Des Gens Tres Bien” a painful family tragedy becomes visible, as grandson Alexandre reveals the collaboration history of his grandfather. During the World War Two occupation of France Jean Jardin acted as Head of the President’s Office for Pierre Laval. Laval was notorious for his role leading the government of Vichy and his collaboration with the German authorities. In 1945 he was convicted for treason and executed by firing squad. In his book Alexandre Jardin explores the efforts of his family to portray his grandfather as a typical civil servant, loyal to his superiors, simply carrying out orders. And tries to come to terms with the past. (7)



2. (Nrs 1 -21 of ‘The Yellow Dwarf’ can be read through Google Books),no.19+Catherine+street+Strand&hl=nl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiNpPLStbbfAhWB2aQKHTRPADgQ6AEIKzAA#v=onepage&q=the%20yellow%20dwarf%20%20j.hunt%2Cno.19%20Catherine%20street%20Strand&f=false


4. Unfortunately I can only find low-res images of this frontpage, if someone finds a picture with a higher resolution I would be much obliged.

5. Évanghélia Stead, ‘Les perversions du merveilleux dans la petite revue; ou, Comment le Nain Jaune se mua en Yellow Dwarf’, in ‘Anamorphoses decadents: lárt de la défiguration, 1880-1914, etudes offertes a Jean de Palacio’. Presse de L’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 2002

6. On Henry Harlands activities and writers’ carreer in New York, Parijs and London see Barbara Schmidt’s article,


Le Nain Jaune

Le Nain Jaune Posted on Mon, December 17, 2018 13:32:15

One of the reasons I started this blog and the research for it was my fascination with the interaction between high and popular art. And how this can be studied by looking at the personal practices of individual artists. When artistically dealing with the workings of politics and personal engagement. The first time I encountered the yellow dwarf was while leafing through a Time-Life book , ‘The world of Delacroix’, written by Tom Prideaux. On page 35 of the Dutch translation a black and white reproduction is shown of a drawing of three monkeys, the accompanying caption reads; while still studying at the École de Beaux Arts (1816-1817) Delacroix began publishing caricatures in a Parisian newspaper Le Nain Jaune, unbiased social satire. In Delacroix’ etching ‘three literary midgets’ quarrel on the gravestone holding the remains of Le Nain Jaune, caused by a contemporary process threatening the closure of the newspaper. ( 1)

A coloured version of the image I found on the internet shows that the fur of the dwarfs or monkeys has different colours(2). I like to think that they represent the ‘tricolore’, red-white-blue. Although the blue has a viridian, dark green hue. (2) The donkey in the middle tries to protect white and yellow booklets against the attempts of the other monkeys to take them away. He is in a desperate situation because of the giant goose feather and the foolswand he clutches at the same time. The subtitle of the print reads; les trois Nains Littéraires, ou les bâtards du Nain Jaune, Se disputant ses Dépouilles. In a rough translation this is ‘The three literary dwarfs, or the bastard children of the yellow dwarf fight over its corpse’.

In the recent catalogue published on the occasion of the Delacroix exhibition in the Louvre ( 3) I find another image and here the monkey in the middle has a grayish blue fur. Which goes to show that it is advisable to check multiple sources. Ségolène Le Men names the three dwarfs as representatives of three competing smaller satyrical ‘journals’. From 1807 to 1820 Delacroix lived in the Rue du Coq Saint Honoré, also the address for the Martinet Libraire this etching could have been printed ‘on the premises’. ( 3)

Delacroix and his relation to caricature is a very complex matter. There has been written a lot about a group of prints signed EXXXXX .

One of Delacroix’ earliest friends and first biographer Achille Piron recalls that Delacroix supposedly cooperated on two caricatures for ‘Le Nain Jaune’ and in 1930 in an article for ‘la Gazette des Beaux Arts’ Jean Laran confirmed that the 6 letters represent his first name Eugene. (4) Nowadays doubt reigns. The British Museum, owner of a substantial group of Delacroix prints, mentions ‘formerly attributed to Delacroix’ behind producer name

In a next blogtext I will go into Delacroix and the more than 20 lithographs he made for Le Miroir.

Le Nain Jaune must have been a real collector’s item. Every five days a gathering of a 24 page issue in a book-sized format was published , accompanied by nine large, hand coloured fold out caricatures each month.

Le Nain Jaune became especially famous for inventing two new royalist “orders” as a means of riculing the supporters of the prerevolutionary regime. One of these orders was that of the girouette (weathervane). A statesman was pictured with a particular amount of weathervanes representing the numbers of times he changed his opinions and allegiance to regimes. As can be seen in this print of a sixheaded Talleyrand. The second invention is ‘The order of the Eteignoir’ ( “candlesnuffer)‘ , playing on the double meaning of the French word lumière to indicate both “light” and “enlightenment.” The candlesnuffer became a symbol of reactionary attempts to turn back the clock and stifle liberty.

Members of the Order of the Eteignoir wear candlesnuffers as hats, Le Nain Jaune , 15 februari 1815.

In Juli 1815 ‘Le Nain Jaune’ was suppressed by royal decree, the editors found refuge in Brussels ( at the time ruled by the Dutch) where they established ‘Le Naine Jaune Refugié’ and succeeded to smuggle this exile version into France. International pressure on the Dutch government resulted in closure of the paper after half a year.

I suppose that the name of the paper was a reference to ‘Le Nain Jaune’, a fairytale written by Madame d’Aulnoy in 1698. In contrast with the ending of a lot of fairytales in this story the bad guy wins and not the charming, but greedy princess Toutebelle and her parents. A promise is a promise even little princesses cannot get away with breaking it. So the yellow dwarf in this sense is an avenger of broken promises.

The Yellow Dwarf in an Epinalprint and Le Nain Jaune the namesake of the paper.

(1) De Wereld van Delacroix, Tom Prideaux , Time-Life Bibliotheek der Kunsten, 1971. A lot can be argued against this text fragment. Le Nain Jaune was founded in December 1814 and was suppressed in July 1815. The date 1816-1817 as mentioned by Prideaux as the date that saw Delacroix earliest attempts at caricature is after the closure of the paper. Unbiased social satire is a strange sentence connected as it is with a satirical political magazine. And it might be an interesting discussion if the remains of a magazine rest in a gravestone or in a grave.


(3) Delacroix, Musée du Louvre, Éditions Hazan, 2018. ‘Delacroix et L’Estampe, by Ségolène Le Men, page 375.

(4) Jean Laran, ‘Péchés de Jeunesse d’Eugene Delacroix’, La Gazette des beaux Arts, janvier 1930.

(5) Censorship of Political Caricature in nineteenth century France, Robert Justin Goldstein, Kent State University Press 1989, page 101 and further

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