Yvette Guilbert, the fin de siècle fortune teller

Yvette Guilbert, the fin de siècle fortune teller

  • Yvette Guilbert singing "Linger, Longer, Loo".

    TOULOUSE-LAUTREC by Henri (1864 - 1901)

  • Portrait of Yvette Guilbert with the photographer's reflection in a mirror.

    RICHARD Jules (1848 - 1930)

To close

Title: Yvette Guilbert singing "Linger, Longer, Loo".

Author : TOULOUSE-LAUTREC by Henri (1864 - 1901)

Creation date : 1894

Date shown: 1894

Dimensions: Height 58 - Width 44

Storage place: Hermitage Museum website

Contact copyright: © Archives Alinari, Florence, Dist RMN-Grand Palais / Fratelli Alinarisite web

Picture reference: 07-536964 / CAL-F-001788-0000

Yvette Guilbert singing "Linger, Longer, Loo".

© Archives Alinari, Florence, Dist RMN-Grand Palais / Fratelli Alinari

To close

Title: Portrait of Yvette Guilbert with the photographer's reflection in a mirror.

Author : RICHARD Jules (1848 - 1930)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 4.3 - Width 4.3

Technique and other indications: Positive stereoscopic glass taken with Richard's verascope. Circa 1905.

Storage place: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 02-007656 / PHO2001-10

Portrait of Yvette Guilbert with the photographer's reflection in a mirror.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Publication date: December 2010

Historical context

The revelation at the Japanese Divan

At the end of the XIXe century, the café-concert has become a veritable "cultural industry" - to use the expression of Jean-Claude Yon - with 326 establishments in Paris in 1897. The songs that we listen to during these shows are then sold in the rue de 10 to 35 cents and have print runs of up to 300,000 copies, or even over a million for some.

Among the stars of the café-concert there is Yvette Guilbert, with a celebrity comparable to that of Theresa under the Second Empire. At Eden-Concert, it was the same, and she was predicted that she would never be successful.

She then went into exile in Lyon and then in Belgium where she began to meet some success thanks to songs like La Pocharde, very quickly getting tired of the repertoire imposed on her in traditional café-concerts.

Back in Paris, she performed in 1890 at the Moulin-Rouge, where she sang in the early evening. She triumphed in 1892 with The Fiacre, written for her by Xanrof (pseudonym of Léon Fourneau).

Image Analysis

The red-haired lady in black gloves, dressed in green satin

The painter Toulouse-Lautrec was familiar with the world of the café-concert and the women artists who animated these shows. He particularly admired red-haired women, and the character Yvette Guilbert had invented fascinated him. He first saw her at the Japanese Divan in 1890. Through her repertoire and the originality of her character, she was one of the women who aroused a passionate interest in him. In a letter dated December 1892, Henri wrote to his mother: “Monsieur Jules Coutaut, who was in Nice with us, spoke about me to Yvette Guilbert, the fin-de-siècle singer, and yesterday in her dressing room she asked me to make him a poster. It’s the greatest success I could dream of because it’s been performed by the most famous and it’s about doing something very good. The family won't savor my joy, but you are different. The great artist had indeed already been represented by Charles Léandre, Jules Chéret and Ferdinand Bac.

Taking advantage of the momentum given to its notoriety thanks to the success of the poster Red Mill (1891), Lautrec was then establishing his fame, and this commission for a divette in full glory offered him the opportunity to take rank among the great lithographers and poster artists of the time. In 1894, the project took shape. A charcoal and a large drawing are submitted to Yvette to announce her 1894-1895 season at the Café des Ambassadeurs. But the reception of these projects is very reserved, and despite the intelligence of the singer and her extreme skill in playing with her image, she rejects Lautrec's work and retains Steinlen's more static but more flattering drawing (see a lithograph kept at the Museum of Modern Art in New York).

Yvette Guilbert singing ´ Linger, Longer, Loo ª takes up a research that Lautrec had done for the December 22, 1894 issue of To laugh, diary of Arsène Alexandre. The café-concert artist then performed a repertoire of songs with lyrics of sarcastic irony or subtly daring humor, which were played as well as sung.

The painter's nervous and brief lines in the service of a pure and synthetic drawing serve particularly well the lean and slender figure of the singer in the scabbard. In order to fix reality, Lautrec has chosen to symbolize Yvette Guilbert with the most personal and original accessory of her outfit, these gloves which she mentions in a letter to André Antoine "the skin so sticky to my arms that I" was afraid of never getting permission to get out of it ”. Lautrec treats them flat, without modeling, like a black, independent serpentine figure. With an emphasis on makeup, the pale face, red lips, brow line and eye shadow, he transforms Yvette's face into an expressive mask, a sort of serious clown. But the singer will not appreciate this poster and will be deeply shocked by this portrait: "Little monster! But you made a horror! "Even later, as the years passed, Yvette Guilbert would remain perplexed and would declare:" I found myself so fiercely caricatured that I took no joy in it, the genius of the artist did not manage to appear to me, and I did not. I never came to understand by what I was synthesized by Lautrec. "

Yet it was by breaking down her pouts without any concession, by restoring her expressive deformations and her physiognomy, that the painter fixed the image of the singer. He fully contributed to his fame during his career as well as to his posthumous glory, notably by immortalizing his famous black gloves.

The other portrait of Parisian singer Yvette Guilbert was taken by photographer Jules Richard in 1905. Here he used his preferred format, developed and patented under the name Vérascope Richard. Taking up the principles of stereoscopic photography, born in the 1850s, this process, intended for amateurs, perfectly restored, according to its inventor, "perspective and absolute relief". In this image, the deliberately supported presence of the artist photographing, in the background, like the subtle play of mirrors, accentuates the impression of depth of field. This type of photography was an immediate and considerable success until the 1930s, in part thanks to the great maneuverability of the camera.

This shot by Yvette Guilbert, who had already built an international career in 1900, was most likely intended for an advertising campaign: the singer’s celebrity being at its peak, it could be used to extol the qualities of the Vérascope.

Interpretation

A media character

Yvette Guilbert has led her career in an exemplary manner. She started from nothing, without any network, or particular vocal talent to become a major artist of her time with huge cachets. At a time when the café-concert proper began to compete with the music hall, Yvette Guilbert sought to distinguish herself from other traditional singers by offering the public a more artistic and intellectual form of performance.

In the Briefs which she will publish in 1927, she explains her desire to build a brand image for herself that is different from the stereotypes of the concert café, both in the choice of her songs and in her appearance. Because, unlike Theresa, she could not sing and did not have a great voice. It was even criticized for a slightly sharp tone and a certain lack of power. In 1889, at the Eden-Concert, she thus conceived "the idea of ​​a silhouette that stands out against everything that we saw then" (Y. Guilbert, The song of my life), an image based on simplicity and distinction in order to make the most of a slim and lanky body and a face without particular grace.

It was his comrade Polin, successful singer from Eden, who introduced him to the Songs without embarrassment by Leon Xanrof, whose cheerful, mischievous and rather fine tone pleased him immediately.

This is how she became a "fortune teller", deploying the art of emphasizing the innuendo of songs. Having only a trickle of voices, she chooses to interpret them economically, to speak them more than to sing them. She put on shows based on chiseled speech, new diction and rhythm. She also had the very modern intuition that she had to work on her image, her gestures, find a silhouette that would contrast with the usual comic repertoire. She thus made an elegant, distant character, an icon in a context where urban performances were part of mass culture. She played very skillfully with the characteristics of her physique: her pallor, her thinness, her very long and very thin neck, her drooping shoulders, her long legs, her narrow waistline. She marked her face with an exaggerated make-up, eyes shaded with black, her mouth red, deliberately displaying the livid face of a dead man: "French writers, and those everywhere who cared to care about me, said that I was a living and macabre poster. I wanted to be. "For historian Serge Dillaz, Yvette Guilbert was undoubtedly the" first modern interpreter ".

  • cafe-concert
  • stardom
  • bohemian (life of)
  • fin de siècle spirit

Bibliography

Quentin BAJAC, 48/14 The Orsa Museum reviewy, n ° 15 autumn 2002, Paris, 2002.Catherine DUTHEIL-PESSIN, “Y. Guilbert, the press, his image, his career”, in conference proceedings Press, song and oral culture in the 19th century. Live speech in the challenge of the media age, Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier III, October 9-11, 2008, Valenciennes, Presses Universitaires de Valenciennes, 2010.Yvette GUILBERT, The song of my life, Paris, Grasset, 1927.Anne MARTIN-FUGIER, Actresses, Paris, Le Seuil, 2001.Claude ROGER-MARX, Yvette Guilbert seen by Toulouse-Lautrec, Paris, Au pont des arts (Impr. Of the Ruche), 1950. Jean-Claude YON, Cultural history of France in the 19th century, Paris, Armand Colin, 2010.Yvette Guilbert, end of century fortune teller, catalog of the exhibition at the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Albi, September 30-November 16, 1994, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, 1994 Serge DILLAZ, The Song under the Third Republic, Paris, Tallandier, 1991.

To cite this article

Catherine AUTHIER, "Yvette Guilbert, the fin de siècle fortune teller"


Video: Yvette Guilbert - Madame