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Remarks and info about artists

The Abstracts, part 2

'O Lady be Good' by George and Ira Gershwin. Sheet Music published by Editions Francis Salabert, Paris, 1925. Cover illustrated by Roger de Valerio.
O Lady be Good‘ by George and Ira Gershwin. Sheet Music published by Editions Francis Salabert, Paris, 1925. Cover illustrated by Roger de Valerio.

Roger de Valerio, the king of sheet music illustration, often used abstract forms and patterns. In his cover for Gershwin’s ‘O Lady Be Good‘, de Valerio accentuates the intimacy and tender affection of an enamoured couple in contrast to the fiery and exuberant world around it. Fabien Loris (see The Abstracts, part 1) and Roger de Valerio were inventive and humorous in their figurative drawing. But both had also the resourcefulness to apply geometrical forms, shapes and planes of colour in a refreshing, original style. As in these catchy de Valerio’s designs.

Mountain Greenery: sheet music illustration by Roger de Valerio
Mountain Greenery‘ by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (Salabert, Paris, 1926). Illustration by Roger de Valerio.
'Do I hear you saying?'. A cover design by Roger de Valerio (1928)
Do I hear you saying?‘ by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, publisher Francis Salabert (Paris, 1928). Cover design: Roger de Valerio.
Illustration by R. de Valerio for sheet music 'Un cœur une Chaumière'.
Un cœur une Chaumière‘ by René Sylviano, Jacques-Charles & Léo Lelièvre (Salabert, Paris, 1929). Illustration R. de Valerio.

Roger de Valerio used colours and patterns very functionally to obtain his primary goal: pull the attention to the music title, and sell it! Here is a vibrant example of how he succeeded for a song from the Zig-Zag revue, played at the Folie Bergères at the time the armistice was signed in November 1918.

Sheet music illustration by R. de Valerio for the revue Tig-zag
Will-o’-the Wisp‘ (Zig-zag revue), by Dave Stamper & Gene Buck. Publications Francis Salabert, Paris, 1915, illustration by R. de Valerio.

Because a publisher like Francis Salabert not only distributed music, but also was involved in financially managing the shows, he was often insistent that the cover showed an image of the vedettes. His favourite illustrator De Valerio knew how to deal with it, and skilfully arranged photographs, combining them with graphics.

Sheet music 'Perdon!' illustrated by Roger de Valerio., 1929.
Perdon!’ by José Sentis, published by Salabert (Paris, 1929), with a photo of femme fatale looking Rosita Barrios (photographer G. Marant), illustrated by Roger de Valerio.
'J'vous ferai voir', illustrated by de Valerio (1925).
J’vous ferai voir‘ by Henri Christiné and Albert Willemetz (from the revue ‘Paris en Fleurs’ with Maurice Chevalier and Yvonne Vallée). Publications Francis Salabert (Paris, 1925), probably illustrated by de Valerio.
Frescuras‘ and ‘Amargura‘, two tangos by the Brasilian-French composer José Lucchesi. Publisher: Salabert, Paris, 1929. Photography Sobol. The cover was probably designed by R. de Valerio, and printed in different colours (at the same time, as proven by the consecutive publisher numbers E.A.S. 5573 and 5574).

Some more of de Valerio’s abstract designs? Here they come.

'Le bout du nez', sheet music, designs attributed to R. de Valerio (1922 & 1928)
Le bout du nez‘, by Charles Cuvillier (Salabert, Paris, 1922) and ‘The Blue Room‘ by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (Salabert, Paris, 1928). Both designs attributed to R. de Valerio.
Abstract sheet music covers illustrated by Roger de Valerio.
Le Charleston Blues‘ by Henderson, De Sylva and Brown. Right: ‘Get a Load of This‘ by Harry Archer & Harlan Thompson. Both published by Salabert (Paris, 1926) and illustrated by de Valerio.
Absteact designs by Roger de Valerio for sheet music (1929)
Left: ‘La Calinda‘ by Herman Hupfeld and Huntley Trevor. Right: ‘Judy‘ by Pierre Norman, Jacques Murray & Marc Hély. Both sheet music published by Salabert in Paris, 1929, and designed by Roger de Valerio (left one unsigned).
Sheet music covers signed R. de Valerio.
Por tu culpa‘ by Manuel Jovès and P. Maroni, published by Salabert (Paris, 1928), most likely illustrated by de Valerio. Right: ‘As it were‘ by Y. P. Mullow (Salabert, Paris, 1929), signed R. de Valerio.

While in the 1920’s Loris and de Valerio were applying abstract art in their music covers to create movement, other artists (especially in Germany) were exploring motion and timing of abstract images, in an effort to equal the expressiveness of musical compositions. One such avant-gardist was Walter Ruttmann, who made his first short film Lichtspiel (Game of Light) in 1921.
The music for string quartet was specially composed by Max Butting for the eleven minutes of film. In the original score Ruttman inserted drawings and other indications on how to precisely synchronise the music to the motion. The lightly-hypnotic effect of the film is remarkable in the finale (starting at 10′). And wake up… when I snap my fingers.

Jean Droit: a Scout Forever

‘Brévitas’ by Charles Scharrès and Paul Berlier, published by L’Art Belge (Bruxelles, 1917) and illustrated by Jean Droit.

Already a lot has been documented on Jean Droit, the creator of the two sheet music covers at the beginning of this post. He designed posters and post cards, and illustrated magazines and books. Jean Droit (1884-1961) was a Frenchman and very much a patriot. He grew up in Belgium and always would keep an emotional bond with it.

Illustration Jean Droit pour partition musicale de Charles Scharrès (1915)
‘Déjeuner de soleil’ by Charles Scharrès, lyrics by Edmond Rostand. Published by L’Art Belge (Bruxelles, 1915). Illustration by Jean Droit.

In WWI Jean Droit actively fought at the front, and regularly acted as war journalist sending reports and drawings from the trenches to L’Illustration. He got wounded many times, and received the appropriate honours and decorations. Again in WWII, Jean Droit joined the army to defend his country.

Aquarell from Jean Droit (1914)
‘L’enlèvement des Allemands – Bois de Crévie- Meurthe-et-Moselle, 28 août 1914’. Aquarelle by Jean Droit for the magazine L’Illustration. source: Eric Dyvorne, Souvenirs de Campagne – Grande Guerre 14-18.

Being a lover of nature and forest Jean Droit became a pioneer and fervent defender of the Boy Scout movement in France and Belgium. The motto ‘Once a Scout, always a Scout‘ certainly applies to him. Shortly before his death, at the age of 77, Jean Droit aka Talkative Woolf attended his last camp.

le-loup-bavarde-jean-droitHe wrote and illustrated many books for children and teens on how to be the perfect scout, how to wear your uniform correctly and other essentials of Scoutism.

‘Marche des Boys Scouts’ by A. Bosc, published by Auguste Bosc (Paris, 1928) and illustrated by Jandumon.

For many Boy Scouts at that time, an ‘Indian‘ was a hero and a symbol of the closeness to nature and the great outdoors. Likewise, Jean Droit had a fascination for Native Americans since his childhood and for emulating Natives who roamed the Great Plains of North America.

Left: Jean Droit in Native American dress (s.d.). Right: Jean Droit in Boy Scout uniform, (1961). Source: Scoutwiki.

In 1929, together with the like-minded Paul Coze, he founded the study group Wakanda. Its goal was the study of the life and art of the Native Americans through exhibitions, performances, camping, games, and outdoor life, and through a lasso club. For the lasso club they weirdly had to change roles and become a cowboy.

Paul Coze making publicity for the ‘Club du Lasso’.

Paul Coze aka Panther on the Lookout, had started Boy Scoutism in France and tried to introduce Indianism to the great dismay of the Catholic clergy.

In Paris Paul Coze and Jean Droit were inspired by a Yakima chief Oskomon (his name meaning green maize) who, according to his professional partner Molly Spotted Elk, was neither a Yakima nor a chief. Nonetheless Paul Coze introduced Charlie Oskomon into the Parisian high society where he met his patron Mme Clement-Herscher. She would manage his career until 1939.

Charlie Oskomon at dinner with the Parisian beau monde, 1930.

Mme Clément introduced her protégé Chief Oskomon to Molly Spotted Elk. Both soon started performing together. The handsome vaudeville dancer and singer Charlie Oskomon, who had previously performed as a Show Indian in America, charmed the Parisian beau monde. A delicate marquis remembered that he felt overcome by a deep vertigo watching Chief Oskomon’s athletic body with its virile force and its dramatic and violent expression. Another contemporary wrote: “He dances with the ease of a young savage god. He seems impregnated by a holy light.”

Left: Portrait photo of the real Indian “Os-Ko-Mon”, a chief of the tribe of the Yakima Indians, who appeared as a medicine man at the Karl May Festival in 1939 Rathen (Graphische Anstalt Gebr. Garloff, Magdeburg) source: Right: Oskomon in war attire (Picture by Sonya 1924).

Charlie Oskomon with his noble carriage made a great impression on Jean Droit and Jean Coze, and they became friends. He would frequently perform in their Cercle Wakanda, and they  published his poems. These were translated in French by the marquise de Luppé, another one of his female patrons. According to Jean Coze’s wife, Oskomon was ill-tempered and was being kept by Mme Clément and a bunch of other crazy old women. In that way he earned enough to live very comfortably in Paris.

Chief Oskomon circa 1930 in Paris.

In 1931 Chief Oskomon’s partner Molly Spotted Elk performed at the Exposition Coloniale Internationale, a six-month colonial exhibition held in Paris. This event attempted to display the diverse cultures and immense resources of France’s colonial possessions. At the same time Chief Oskomon would perform at the parallel Exposition de la Mission, organised by his pal Paul Coze.

Cherokee‘ by Maury Madison published by Salabert (Paris, 1931) and illustrated by MJ. The photograph shows the United States’ Indian Club, managed by Thomas O’Brien.

Between the crackling of the 78 rpm disc you can hear Chief Oskomon singing a sun dance, albeit arranged and orchestrated by the aforementioned Mme Clément who happened to be a composer. Years later in 1960, Jean Droit would meet Charlie Oskomon again in New York where he was working as a doorman.

It is said that Jean Droit was deeply Catholic. All the more surprising to find numerous lightly erotic images in his oeuvre. One of the nicest is this one for L’Escapade by Henri De Regnier. A reader of these pages might remember Henri De Regnier of the Académie Française as the adoptive father of Tigre, another sheet music illustrator.

Jean Droit's illustration for L'Escapade (1941), by Henri de Regnier. source:
Jean Droit’s illustration for L’Escapade (1941), by Henri de Regnier. source: Freddy Daems

To our surprise we found in our archives a small collection of eight catalogue cards delicately drawn by Jean Droit. They were printed by the famous Bénard lithographer from Liège for the elegant fur stores of Charles & Cie.

Four catalogue cards for Charles & Cie , illustrated by Jean Droit (Liège, s.d.)
Four catalogue cards for Charles & Cie , illustrated by Jean Droit (Liège, s.d.)
Four catalogue cards for Charles & Cie , illustrated by Jean Droit (Liège, s.d.)

Hey, why not some music after this avalanche of images? We find Serge Gainsbourg appropriate: he had an ugly fight in the media with Michel Droit, son of Jean Droit, who as a conservative writer and journalist greatly took offense at the reggae version of the Marseillaise. Michel Droit wrote in Figaro Magazine (1979): “Quand je vois apparaître Serge Gainsbourg je me sens devenir écologiste. Comprenez par là que je me trouve aussitôt en état de défense contre une sorte de pollution ambiante qui me semble émaner spontanément de sa personne et de son œuvre, comme de certains tuyaux d’échappement… “(*).
Of course Gainsbourg reacted furiously in the media. Et cetera !

(*) Michel Droit: When I see Serge Gainsbourg appear, I feel myself become an environmentalist. Understand by this that I instantly find myself in a state of defence against a kind of atmospheric foulness that seems to spontaneously emanate from his person and work, as from certain exhaust pipes…

Douhin, a Nice Illustrator from Nice

Sheet music for the Carnaval de Nice, Illustrated by Douhin in 1894.
‘Carnaval de Nice – Op. 54’ by Maurice Decourcelle. Published by P. Decourcelle, Nice, 1894. Cover illustration by A. Douhin.

The ‘Carnaval de Nice‘ waltz by Maurice Decourcelle was published posthumously by his son Paul. The radiant cover is from artist André Douhin. The Bibliothèque Nationale de France lists 92 compositions by Maurice Decourcelle (1815-1888), almost all of them published in Paris. His four latest compositions were published in Nice by his son Paul Decourcelle: three of them in 1882, and the ‘Carnaval de Nice‘ above, twelve years later, in 1894. The three earlier publications show definitely less attractive covers by Ernest Buvall.

Three sheet music covers for the music by Maurice Decourcelle, published by his son Paul, and illustrated by Ernest Buvall.
Opus 52, 53 and 55 of Maurice Decourcelle, published in Nice in 1882 by his son Paul Decourcelle. All three covers illustrated by Ernest Buvall. Source: BnF

Ernest Buvall was a popular and typical 19th-century illustrator, who created romantic and often dreary covers. Luckily for all lovers of sheet music, André Douhin took over his work at Decourcelle, well in time to enter the fin de siècle: gaiety, dancing and partying in festive colours!

Cover for Pizzicati drawn by André Douhin (1894).
‘Pizzicati’ by Ernest Gillet, published by Paul Decourcelle (Nice, 1894). Cover drawn by André Douhin.

Paul Decourcelle (1854-1940), the son of Maurice, was not only a publisher but also a composer of polkas, marches and waltzes. His creations, under the nickname Heinrich Tellam, were undoubtedly targeted at the mondaine and cosmopolitan public, visiting the casinos and concert halls of the French Riviera. The stylish covers of Douhin, with graphical references to mosaics and stained glass, accentuated that musical chic.

'On arrive' by H. Tellam (1895). Sheet music illustrated by André Douhin.
‘On arrive’, a march by Heinrich Tellam (=Paul Decourcelle). Published by P. Decourcelle in Nice (1895) and illustrated by Douhin.
Cover design by André Douhin. for sheet music by Decourcelles (1895).
‘Voulez-vous?’ by Heinrich Tellam. Sheet music composed and published by Paul Decourcelle, in Nice (1895). Cover design by André Douhin.
Partitions musicales illustrée par A. Douhin (1895).
‘Serpentins’, a walz from Heinrich Tellam (Paul Decourcelle, Nice, 1895). Cover by A. Douhin.
'MadriPariVienne' by H. Tellam. Sheet music cover illustrated by André Douhin (1896)
‘MadriPariVienne’ by H. Tellam. Publisher: P. Decourcelle (Nice, 1896). Sheet music cover illustrated by André Douhin.
A. Douhin illustration foor sheet music cover 'A la bonnne franquette' (1897).
‘A la bonne franquette’ by H. Tellam. P. Decourcelle publisher, in Nice (1897). André Douhin illustrated the cover.

All the above covers from our sheet music collection by André Douhin are published in three years time (1894 until 1897). It is odd that we have to jump seven years to find the Polka des Polichinelles drawn in the same style. Or perhaps we need to collect a few more to fill the gap…

cover illustration by Douhin for 'Polka des Polichinelles' (1906)
‘Polka des Polichinelles’, by Eugène Damaré. Published by Decourcelle in Nice (1906) and cover illustration by Douhin.

We couldn’t find a biography of the very talented illustrator Douhin. But we stumbled on his predilection for the slightly-erotic work. In 1903 he illustrated a book of Victor Nadal. It was probably intended as one of a series, Les Sept Péchés Capitaux (The Seven Deadly Sins). We were unable to find the other six books…

André Douhin's cover illustration for 'La Paresse' by Victor Nadal. Published by E. Bernard et Cie., 1903
André Douhin’s cover illustration for ‘La Paresse’ by Victor Nadal. Published by E. Bernard et Cie., 1903. (source: mimesis)

Perhaps the initial project about The Seven Deadly Sins was abandoned. In lieu of books, we found on the usual collector markets naughty postcards from around 1903 on the titillating theme, illustrated by André Douhin.

‘Avarice’ and ‘Paresse’, postcards illustrated by Douhin, perhaps a remnant of a larger erotic project of Victor Nadal, Les Sept Péchées Capitaux. (source: Plumedoie & Pina postcards)

Illustrating bawdy postcards was back then perhaps a lucrative job, because we found other spicy ones illustrated by Douhin.

Saucy art nouveau postcards, illustrated by Douhin (source: Bouquet)
Saucy art nouveau postcards, illustrated by Douhin (source: Bouquet)
Equestrian erotica. Post cards illustrated by André Douhin. (source: Maréchal and Gedev)

Searching the net for more Douhin postcards, brings the same old, same old. Also the expected few sketches, posters, magazine and book illustrations.

Douhin_poster_Horse-race copy

Various illustration work by André Douhin. (sources: finerareposter, marechal and invaluable)

Out of the ordinary is the menu that Douhin drew for his friend Eugène Humbert. Humbert was one of the pioneers of the French neo-Malthusian movement, which in contrast to other countries, evolved in a radical revolutionist direction. Neo-Malthusianism advocates population and/or preventive birth control, promoting contraception.

Menu drawn by André Douhin for the 'Dîner des joyeux Condoms', the New Year dinner of Eugène Humbert in 1911.
Farcical menu drawn by André Douhin for the ‘Dîner des joyeux Condoms’, the New Year dinner of Eugène Humbert in 1911. (source: International Institute of Social History)

In 1936, André Douhin got killed when his car crashed into a tree between Paris and Rouen (in Vieux-Villez). He was 73 years old.

Newspaper article on the death of André Douhin in Le Cherbourg-Eclair, 2 avril 1936 (p.2). (source: Normannia)

From the newspaper article announcing his death, we learn that Douhin had created a museum devoted to Jean-François Millet, in the master’s old workshop in Barbizon. He worked there as conservator, making it his life’s work to guard the legacy of Millet.

Post card of the Millet house, as published by Douhin (ca 1930). (source: Pichonnais)
Postcard of the Millet house, published by A. Douhin (ca 1930). (source: Pichonnais)
The Millet house and museum in Barbizon in 2013. (Photo taken by Remi Jouan)
The Millet house and museum in Barbizon in 2013. (Photo taken by Remi Jouan)

Millet…, yes! The iconic Angelus. One used to sing about everything so why not about the bucolic evening prayer?

L’Angélus (1857-1859) by Jean-François Millet, Paris, musée d’Orsay. (source: The Yorck Project). Right: ‘L’Angélus’, song by Gaston Maquis and René Esse, published by Albert Repos (Paris, s.d.). Illustrated by Esch, inspired by Millet.

Two more things. Firstly, we do not know if the cover artist signing as H. Viollet or Viollet-Douhin is related to André Douhin. It may be a collective signature for the cooperation between André Douhain and Henry Viollet.

Secondly. We don’t know where André Douhin was born, nor where he grew up. But imagining that he was from Nice (which is maybe not so far from the truth) got us a catchy title for this post.