The Fauves

The Fauves

The Fauves

The Fauves

Excerpt

In 1905 Paris was still a predominantly nineteenth century city. Life was regulated by the pace of the horse-drawn cab, although the Metro and the first motorcars were already in existence. Street cries had not yet become obsolete.

Vlaminck, the most famous of the Fauves, has left a happy description of the Paris of his youth in his Memoirs: "1900 -- the noodle period, as it has been described by Paul Morand -- was a time of great tranquility, of settled ideas, employment and money. Half of Paris seemed to be perpetually strolling round with a little cash in its pockets. Life was considered more engrossing than one's career or one's prospects. People lived on very little, made do with what they had. In the restaurants you could eat as much bread as you could manage, although conditions were rough enough at home -- oil lamps, water from a pump in the courtyard. A bathroom was a fantastic luxury.

"Paris had a kind of happy provincial routine. The streets were roughly paved and smelt of horse dung. Small shops had not yet been crowded out by big stores; craftsmen and artisans were independent. People knew how to take their leisure. Each district of Paris had its own distinctive character, and the first Metro stations were in the Art Nouveau style; Russian loans were considered gilt-edged, and the five-franc piece was really worth five francs. The cost of living was steady, unemployment rare. The middle-classes, comfortably ensconced in their Louis-Philippe armchairs, hummed the Valse Bleue or Les Cloches de Corneville and admired the pictures -- varnish and all -- of Bonnat, Bouguereau and Henner. In 1900 Monet, Sisley, Renoir and Cézanne were still regarded as revolutionary painters."

We can add a few details to this picture. Women wore corsets, bustles and buttoned boots; men, frock-coats, top hats, hard collars and pale lemon gloves. Moustaches were compulsory, except for waiters, who were forbidden the privilege until they went on strike in 1907. Beneath the trees of the . . .

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