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The French “Ninth Art”: Bandes Dessinées

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The French love bandes dessinées — drawn cartoons.  We may call them  “funnies”  in the States  but here they take the art form quite seriously. 

The graphic style is recognized and debated by art historians in France as the “Ninth Art”  —  a category that ranks comic drawings along with poetry, architecture, painting and sculpture.

My first exposure to bandes dessinées (drawn strips) was at an exhibition in the Place De Herbes.

Art in UzesThinking it was a book signing that was drawing the crowd of people, young and old, I walked up to the tent set up in the plaza to get a closer look.

Strips of cartoons on single sheets of paper; comic books in soft and hard covers; and colorful posters were stacked in piles on the tables. Hard-bound books with CDs of George Brassens, Jacques Brel, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and other music icons were arranged in neat rows.

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Artists were busy selling and signing the books and comic strips to the enthusiastic shoppers.

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The artist that got my attention was Jose Correa.

Jose Correa

Jose Correa

He was seated at the end of one of the long tables, busy signing his work — with gusto. It was his art that was featured on the poster for the event, I learned.

“Ok,” says me to me as I walked to get in line to meet Correa. “I’ll get a poster and have it signed.” “Better, yet, ” says me, “I’ll  ask him to sign one of his CD books.”

Jose Correa

The CD set has music of Jacques Brel, the French singer who became famous during the time of Frank Sinatra. Brel is still a legend in France. The CD book has pages and pages of  cartoon drawings by Correa, along with his dialogue on the music.

Jacques Brel CD book

Jacques Brel CD book

 

Inside bande dessinee graphics, poetry and CDs

Inside bande dessinee graphics, poetry and CDs

Owning a CD with a personal message from the artist sparked my curiosity about bandes dessinées.  Here’s what I’ve learned.

“Bandes dessinée” is a type of art made popular in France and Belgian in the 19th century. Unlike “comic books”, the subject matter for bandes dessinées was not humorous. The “strips of paper” were more like graphic novels, occasionally penned by famous French artists. The drawings often raised public debate, similar to political cartoons. (See below for reference and more details.)

 "A family supper" from Caran d'Ache in le Figaro on February 14, 1898. The drawing depicts the divisions of French society during the Dreyfus Affair. At the top, somebody says "above all, let us not discuss the Dreyfus Affair!". At the bottom, the whole family is fighting, and the caption says "they have discussed it".

“A family supper” from Caran d’Ache in le Figaro on February 14, 1898. The drawing depicts the divisions of French society during the Dreyfus Affair. At the top, somebody says “above all, let us not discuss the Dreyfus Affair!”. At the bottom, the whole family is fighting, and the caption says “they have discussed it”. Wikipedia

In the 20th century the popularity of bandes dessinées grew rapidly as the drawings appeared in national papers and magazines. Themes were both serious and humorous. Cartoon characters and comic books from America flooded into Europe.

Le Journal de Mickey, based on Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, was published in France in 1934.

Le Journal de Mickey

Le Journal de Mickey

When War started, the Nazis occupying this part of Europe banned comics that came in from the US. Bandes dessinées artists in France and Belgium picked up the slack and finished many of the adventures of Superman and Flash Gordon. Since then, comics from the US have never been as popular with the French — replaced by the work of famous comic artists from around the world.

Some of the cartoon characters known in the US today originated in France.

Recognize this?

The Smurf characters originated in France.

The Smurf characters originated in France.

References: Thanks to Wikipedia for providing just enough information to make me dangerous!

Caran d’Ache the artist 

The Dreyfus Affair

‘Til next time 10247353_712774975446317_5694589719174608707_n

3 replies »

  1. Continue to be impressed by the variety of offerings Uzes has in the summer! My parents had a Jaques Brel album ages ago…I loved it…now you have inspired me to go to iTunes. The CD might be helpful with Your French.

    Like

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