Category Archives: Illustrators

Remarks and info about artists

Debussy’s Controversial Golliwog

‘The Golliwogg’s Dance’ by Alexandre Duval published by Enoch & C° (Paris, 1906) and illustrated by Moriss.

The colourful cover for Alexandre Duval‘s The Golliwogg’s Dance (1906) was drawn by illustrator, cartoonist and comedian Maurice Boyer, aka Moriss (1874 – 1963).  The music and cover clearly wanted to build on the success of the series of children’s picture book illustrated by Florence Upton.

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Illustration from the book ‘The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg’ by Florence Kate Upton, 1895

This series around a ‘Golliwogg‘ character started in 1895 when the American-born English illustrator Florence Kate Upton drew the pictures for The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg. Her mother Bertha wrote the verse. The two ‘dutch dolls’ referred to in the story’s title were peg wooden dolls, that thanked their name to their Dutch and German toymakers. These inexpensive and very popular dolls were sold undressed. Children would use scraps of fabric to make their clothing. For the third doll, the striking Golliwog, Florence sought inspiration from an old rag doll from her childhood.

Left and middle: peg wooden dolls, late 19th century. Right: Golliwog doll by Steiff (1908-1918).

Unluckily, Florence and Bertha did not trademark the Golliwog and soon, following the success of the children’s books, all kinds of doll manufacturers began producing Golliwog dolls. They were stuffed black figures, with a friendly look but having a bad hair day, wearing red pants and a bow tie. In England during the first half of the twentieth century, the Golliwog became almost as popular as the Teddy Bear.

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Golliwog’s Cakewalk‘ by Claude Debussy. Published by Durand (Paris, 1908).

In France the Golliwog inspired Claude Debussy. Golliwog’s Cakewalk is the sixth and final piece in his piano solo suite Children’s Corner (1908). Debussy dedicated this suite, about toys coming to life, to his much beloved daughter Emma, nicknamed Chouchou. The cover with a small elephant holding a gigantic Golliwog balloon is rather surrealistic, and was drawn by Debussy himself. The Golliwog’s cakewalk is clearly influenced by Afro-American ragtime and jazz.

The doll created by Florence Upton had everything of the blackface minstrel tradition: black skin, big mouth, frizzy hair, a festive dress with bow tie and tailcoat jacket. In 1913, the always wayward ballet dancer Alexander Sacharoff made his own ‘white’ interpretation of Debussy’s Golliwog. In it he patently declared his love for outrageous costumes and wigs.

Alexander Sacharoff as Golliwog. Photo by By Hans Holdt.

While Florence’s original Golliwog character was jovial and friendly some later specimens were sinister or menacing. This is also true in Marcel L’Herbier’s short phantasy film from 1936.  A little girl, together with her toys, watch the fearful dance of a Gollywog-Jack-in-the-box. The world-famous Alfred Cortot is at the piano, playing three pieces from Debussy’s Children’s Corner. The Golliwog’s Cakewalk starts at 5:32. That scene is preceded by a message —now considered overtly racist— warning the audience to certainly applaud the ‘terrible nègre‘ who can otherwise become very mean.

Even the famous Enid Blython also incorporated a rather evil Golliwog in her books. But it was later banished from revised editions.The popularity of the Gollywog contributed to the spread of the blackface iconography in Europe. Unaffected by a few fearsome embodiments, European children adored their doll. Like their parents they were racially insensitive and not aware that the blackface itself represents a demeaning image of black people. The prolific illustrator Clérice even paired a gentle ‘Gollyvog‘ (yes, the difficult double-U for the French ) with his characteristic cupid.

‘Monsieur Gollyvog’ by P. Codini & Richter published by P. Codini (Paris, 1919) and illustrated by Clérice frères. The song is dedicated to the Blue Cross, an animal welfare organisation that cared for sick and injured horses during World War One.

And of course the Golliwog was also used for marketing other things than sheet music.

De Vigny created a spicy, floral, oriental perfume for ladies. The fragrance was launched in France in 1919 as ‘Golliwogg’. Its bottle was designed by Michel de Brunhoff, who worked for Vogue France. He was the brother of Jean de Brunhoff, creator of Babar. The top of the stopper was fitted with real seal fur. These flasks were sold until the late 1960s. Robertson & Sons, a British manufacturer of jams and preserves, began using the Golliwog —or Gollie as the British lovingly called him— as the company’s mascot in 1910.

The advert above was distributed as late as 1984 when it became muddled by protests, indignation and outcry against its racism. 

The Golliwog was also known as a classic contortionist act. A sketch by the Florida Trio from the early fifties gives an idea of the torturous feat. An  extremely double-jointed figure in a golliwog costume is doing amazing foldings and bendings. Don’t try this at home!

Let’s end with a quiz question. Into what name did the Golliwogs change their name in 1967, the year in which they recorded their single Tell Me? Not too difficult, if you ask me. Just listen to the first two singing notes and you’ll know the answer.

Pals, just pals

Partitions musicales ilustre par Würth pour la chanson 'Les Copains' (1929)
Pals, just Pals‘, by Dave Dreyer & Herman Ruby, french lyrics of ‘Des Copains’ by René Nazelles. Sheet music published by Publications Francis-Day s.a. (Paris, 1929). Cover illustration by Würth.

I am often surprised by the direct power of many covers designed by Würth. The drawing for the ‘Pals, just Pals‘ fox-trot is deceivingly simple. With a few elements, sober colouring and small gestures the image relays the mild mood of an intimate and relaxed conversation between two long-time friends. Or do you imagine the two naval officers being more than friends?

The US version of the ‘Pals, just Pals’ song published by Irving Berlin.

Pals, just Pals‘ is the theme song of the silent film Submarine directed by Frank Capra in 1928. It tells the story of the friendship between two sailors in the US Navy. The nautical best friends accidentally pursue the same woman, and through this triangular love situation their friendship comes to an end.

The film comes to the heart of the matter when both ex-friends get involved —one as a victim the other as the saviour— in a submarine disaster. The denouement of this tragic experience is that their old friendship will renew, and for the better!
The film is inspired on the catastrophe of the U.S. submarine S-51 in 1925. There even exists a dedicated webpage about this accident at sea. The one and a half hours Capra film is on YouTube (type ‘submarino‘ for your search) but a short extract of the movie will do in order to appreciate its male flavour.

For the rest of this post, I will entertain you with other masculine friendships.

Het Eerstgeboortefeest‘ (by J. C. Kerckvoorde & S. De Haas, published by Den Boer in Middelburg, s.d.) and ‘Kwik en Kwak het lustige Vriendenpaar‘ (by a certain ‘Johan’, published by Alsbach, G. & Co in Amsterdam, s.d.)
Jolly Boys‘ by Frank Thurban. Published by Carl Gehrmans Musikförlag in Stockholm, s.d., and illustrated by Gunnar Widholm.
Camarada‘ tango by F. Canaro, published by Francis Salabert (Paris, 1923) and illustrated by Roger De Valerio.
Låt oss vara kamrater‘ by Helan (Helin) and Gösta Stevens. Skandinavisk Production (Stockholm, 1932). Illustrator: Moje Aslund
Robert Macaire (in: Avec le sourire – Revue)’ by Maurice Yvain. Editions Francis Salabert (Paris, 1921). Cover illustration by Roger De Valerio
Var lugn för mej (Sjömans-Shimmy)‘ by Victor Corzilius & Berco. Musikaliska Knuten (Stockholm, 1925), illustrated by Jacob.
Bleus et Anciens‘ by Guy Dumay Published by F. Pech & Cie (Bordeaux, 1902) and beautifully illustrated by Bernard Naudin.
Briqmolle et son camarade‘ by Ant. Queyriaux & Chicot, published by Emile Bénoit – Au Métronome (Paris, s.d.). Cover illustrated by Charles Gangloff.

Now these two last gentlemen have a very Gilbert and George attitude. The perfect reason for us to look at a short documentary on their Living Sculpture performances.
The song ‘Underneath The Arches‘ is at 1:30. How very moving it is to hear and see them singing this 1932 Flanagan and Allen ‘Great Depression’ tune.

Keep smiling: Marie Laurencin, Apollinaire and the Mona Lisa

‘Pour endormir l’Enfant’ by Marguerite Canal & Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, published by Laboratoires de La Passiflorine (Paris, sd) and illustrated by Marie Laurencin.

This gentle cover of two dreamy young girls in typical pastel colouring and soft shading is the only one in our collection illustrated by Marie Laurencin (1883-1956). She was a painter and got acquainted with the artists who took up residence in the Bateau-Lavoir, amongst them Max Jacob, Picasso and Bracque.

Marie Laurencin, ca 1912. Source: Wikipedia

In 1907 Picasso introduced Marie Laurencin to his friend the poet Guillaume Apollinaire and they became romantically involved. Their passionate affair was burdened by Apollinaire’s alcohol abuse, his jealousy and violence. It lasted until 1912 and had already started to crumble the year before when Apollinaire was wrongly suspected of having had a hand in the theft of the Mona Lisa.

Groupe d’artistes’ oil painting by Marie Laurencin (1908) – From left: Pablo Picasso, Marie Laurencin herself, Apollinaire and Fernande Olivier (Picasso’s lover). Source: Trivium Art History.

Just like Marie Laurencin, Apollinaire had been raised by a single mother. His father disappeared very early on and his mother travelled with her children from hotel to hotel, frequenting the European casinos. The cosmopolitan Apollinaire spoke five languages and was exceptionally cultivated. The poet scraped a living as a clerk in different places. While working for an investor’s chronicle Guide du Rentier he befriended Honoré-Joseph Géry Pieret a scoundrel born in Belgium who was sacked from the chronicle for attempted blackmail and would at some time work as Apollinaire’s personal secretary. In 1907 Géry Pieret stole two prehistoric Iberian sculptures from the Louvre and sold them to Picasso.

Ancient Iberian bust, stolen from the Louvre (3rd century BC). Now in the French Musée d’Archéologie nationale. Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Archéologie nationale).

Making light of it Géry Pieret allegedly once said to Marie Laurencin: “I am going to the Louvre, Madam, do you need anything?” Picasso, who may have commissioned the theft himself, used the sculptures for his famous masterpiece Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907).

In May 1911, after some adventures abroad about which he entertained Apollinaire through letters, Géry Pieret returned to Paris. The poet lodged him in his kitchen in exchange for some menial and secretarial jobs. In June, Géry Pieret told Apollinaire that he had stolen a third statuette from the Louvre and kept it in his host’s lodgings. In August came the shocking news: the Mona Lisa had been stolen from the Louvre.

Sheet music cover of a song about the theft of the Mona Lisa. (for copyright reasons,click on this link to see a picture of a street vendor selling this sheet music)

Géry Pieret smelling profit, or hoping for his 15 minutes of fame, presented himself as Baron Ignace d’Ormesan at the headquarters of the newspaper Paris-Journal. He bragged about how easy it was to steal from museums and as a proof of his audacity he handed over the recently stolen statuette.

While reading the article published by the newspaper, Apollinaire suddenly remembered the two other stolen statuettes bought by Picasso who kept them hidden in his sock drawer. In panic Picasso and Apollinaire ran out to throw the statuettes in the Seine but soon changed plans and decided Apollinaire would bring them to the offices of Paris-Journal. He tried to do this anonymously, but was arrested and put in jail. He was accused of involvement not only in the theft of the statuettes but also in that of the Mona Lisa.

‘Le Jocond’ by Pierre Arezzo, Ch. Thuillier & Will, published by Marcel Labbé (Paris, sd) and illustrated by Pousthomis.

Apollinaire informed the police that the thief of the three statuettes was Géry Pieret and that Picasso had bought two of them. By then Géry Pieret had left France, but Picasso was questioned by the police. Picasso was so scared he even denied knowing his friend Apollinaire. He was not jailed by lack of evidence. After six days in custody and after pressure from the Parisian art world Apollinaire was released and neither the painter nor the poet were charged with receiving stolen goods.

Apollinaire was devastated by the whole affair and the way he had been treated. Moreover, after leaving prison he was expelled from his apartment. Marie Laurencin and her mother had to shelter him in their house. A year later their turbulent liaison was over.

The real thief of the Mona Lisa, Vincenzo Peruggia, was caught in December 1913 when he tried to sell the painting in Firenze.

Frontpage of the ‘Journal Illustré Quotidien Excelsior’, December, 14th 1913.

A newspaper illustration after his arrest illustrates that stealing from the Louvre was indeed not difficult at all. There were no alarms and the artworks were not firmly secured. The thief only had to unhook the painting, take it out of the frame, hide the canvas under his blouse and use a small staircase to leave the museum. Et voilà, as simple as that.

In 1931 the theft of the Mona Lisa was romanticised in a German film Der Raub der Mona Lisa. The same year Henri Sullivan composed his foxtrot Mona Lisa which has nothing to do with the film but the French sheet music has a wonderful cover illustrated by Kramer.

‘Der Raub der Mona Lisa’ by Robert Stolz & Walter Reisch published by Alrobi (Berlin, 1931) and illustrated by Herzig. Right: ‘Mona Lisa’ by Henry Sullivan & Desmond Carter, published by Chappell (Paris, 1931) and illustrated by Kramer.

Our finale is also unconnected to the story of the great robbery. But Nat King Cole’s soft baritone voice will probably steal your heart if not your ear.