Einar Nerman

Swedish matchbox illustrated by Einar Nerman

In Sweden the commonly found matchboxes carry an illustration by the hand of one of its finest illustrators: Einar Nerman (1888-1983). Nerman was very productive during his long life. He studied art in Stockholm and later also worked and lived in Paris, London and New York. He painted, designed costumes and sets for ballet, and

A ballet scene for which Nerman designed the costumes and the set
A scene from “Les vierges folles” (1920), from Les Ballets suédois. Costumes and set by Einar Nerman. Photo copyright the Dansmuseet, Stockholm. Source: Marc Arthur, Performa Magazine.

he illustrated magazines and books, amongst others for the works of his communist brother.  It is said that he also composed music and set the poems of his brother to songs. We haven’t yet found such songs.

Just married: Einar Nerman and his wife Kajsa in 1916
Just married: Einar Nerman and his wife Kajsa, during the Christmas season in 1916. (source: Swedish Wikipedia)

His short biography is on Wikipedia, but you will find much more about his work on Willy or Won’t He. Other delightful work is reproduced by 50 Watt, especially his fairy tale illustrations. Nerman was also a master caricaturist: have a look on the Drawger website.

Luckily for us Nerman started in  1913 to illustrate  sheet music covers for many years, mostly for Ernst Rolfs Musikförlags, but also for other publishers such as A.B. Skandinaviska, Elkan & Schildknecht, and Nordiska Musikförlaget.

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No doubt: Swedish design at its best!

Le train des maris

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‘Le Train des Maris’ by Georges Bolle & Ludivic Turquet, published by Union Musicale (Paris, s.d.) and illustrated by Charles Biqual.

With the development of railways in the second half of the 19th century, the upper and middle classes started to enjoy the summer  at the seaside. Women and children could stay for one or two months while the husbands joined them each weekend.

Every Saturday evening, after work, a train full of happy husbands departed direction coast and returned back on Monday morning. These express trains from Paris or Brussels to and fro the North Sea resorts were called trains des maris (husband trains). In Germany it was the Ehemännerzug which brought the husbands from Berlin to the Baltic Sea and back again.

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On the naive Parisian trade card above two men buy their tickets, first class of course, for the train des maris.

According to the Figaro there also existed ‘trains des amants’ or lover trains – so very French! On Monday morning these trains brought the young men from the cities to the ‘lonely’ married wives at the resorts. They returned home on Saturday morning before the arrival of the husbands…

The Belgian artist Félicien Rops made an amusing etching of a train des maris: a wife and her lover are seen kissing, behind huge and symbolic horns while in the distance the horn-bearing train takes her husband on his way.

Digital Capture

I don’t think it is a coincidence that Charles Biqual depicts the horned cows in the foreground of the sheet music cover, do you?

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Anyway, some women seemed very cheerful when the train des maris had left, as illustrated by Herouard for La Vie Parisienne.

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The Kinkajou, one of the many dance crazes of the Twenties

A kinkajou is a small mammal native to Central and South America with nocturnal habits and related to raccoons.

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Kinkajou

The name of this cute little animal was used for a dance novelty in the late 1920s. An article of the Examiner in 1927 explained how to dance the Kinkajou: ‘You must sway the shoulders, tango like a sailor manipulating a gangway, and then change from one foot to the other as though in pain, lifting each foot well off the ground.’

While the dance originated in the 1927 Broadway musical Rio Rita, there was a serious disagreement in Paris on who created the original dance routine: the dance teacher Jean Mesnard, the beautiful Irvin Sisters or Albertina Rasch? In fact, all three of them contributed to the pseudo-craze.

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Music by Harry Tierney, lyrics by Joseph McCarthy, cover by Würth
The Albertina Rasch Girls illustrated by Würth
The Albertina Rasch Girls, as illustrated by Würth
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The Albertina Rasch Dancers in costume for Rio Rita (1927).

It was Albertina Rasch,  leader of her own troupe The Albertina Rasch Girls, who choreographed the Kinkajou for the original Ziegfeld production on Broadway. The Albertina Rasch Girls also performed the Kinkajou dance routine at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, together with Harry Pilcer.

Strangely, at exactly the same period Publications Francis-Day edited another version of the Kinkajou sheet music, also by Würth. This time Würth chose not the stage of the Moulin Rouge as the central theme, but drew a highly stylised close-up portrait of the two main actors.

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Also in 1927 Paddy & Zez Confrey composed The Black Kinkajou. Although the manager of the Irvin Sisters insisted they had nothing to learn from a dance teacher and that they could very well invent their dance routines themselves, it was Jean Mesnard who choreographed the dance moves that were presented by the Irvin Sisters at the Concert Mayol in Paris.

A lot of quarreling for nothing, because the Kinkajou was never really succesful…

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The Black Kinkajou, illustrated by Pigeot

Pigeot, the illustrator of The Black Kinkajou had presumably never heard of a kinkajou and thought a drawing of a cat might do as well.

In 1929 the stage musical Rio Rita was made into a film. A rare excerpt with the Kinkajou dance routine made it to YouTube: