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’Angelus (1857-1859) by Jean-François Millet, Paris, musée d’Orsay. (source: The Yorck Project). Right: ‘L’Angelus‘, 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.

4 thoughts on “Douhin, a Nice Illustrator from Nice”

  1. Beste Divine en Frank, deze wonderschone bladmuziek en menu weer opgeslagen bij mijn afbeeldingen. Wanneer verschijnt er een boek over bladmuziek, gemaakt door jullie ?

  2. Ja Divine en Frank , ik dacht net hetzelfde als Bram. Waarom geen boek. Naast de prachtige illustratie zijn jullie teksten bijzonder boeiend en dit alles met een vleugje humor.

  3. We received this message from Meryl Udang. Later she kindly also shared the image of the Douhin painting, plus his letter.
    ” I came upon your blog post from August 2016 when trying to learn more about Douhin. I found it interesting to learn about Douhin’s illustrative work as I own an oil painting of his wife Marthe Douhin ‘who is sitting on the wall of the park of Chateau-la-Vallière, near the famous pond’. My grandfather purchased this painting around 1927, the date of a letter I have written by Mr. Douhin to my grandfather giving some information about the painting. I thought I would pass on this information to you. As you know, there is little about him online.
    Cheers, Meryl “

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