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George Barbier

Cover by George Barbier (Photo credit: Wikimedia.org, all)

Pierrot et Arlequin, George Barbier

Pierrot and Harlequin by George Barbier

Art Deco

Jean-Gaspard Deburau
Charles Deburau (Jean-Gaspard’s son)
Jean-Louis Barrault
Pantomine and Mine
Les Enfants du Paradis 

A few weeks ago, I posted an article on “Leo Rauth’s fin de siècle Pierrot.” Leo Rauth died too young and under tragic circumstances. However, although Rauth‘s artwork predates George Barbier‘s (1882–1932), who is considered an Art Deco artist, both artists depicted commedia dell’arte stock characters: Pedrolino, or Pierrot formerly known as Gilles, and Harlequin (Arlecchino and Arlequin) and did so in “galant” fashion following in the footsteps of Jean-Antoine Watteau (10 October 1684 – 18 July 1721).

Pierrot is a major figure in France. He appears in the art of Antoine Watteau, a student of Claude Gillot (both eighteenth-century artists, middle and late). Pierrot then grows into Jean-Gaspard Deburau‘s Battiste, a role Charles Deburau, Jean-Gaspard’s son, inherited. Pierrot had entered the world of pantomime and mime.

These one-man performances were replacing entertainment by the large troupes of the commedia dell’arte and the Comédie-ItaliennePierrot’s apotheosis is Baptiste, a role played by Jean-Louis Barrault in Les Enfants du Paradis, Paradise being distant and inexpensive seats or benches. Les Enfants du Paradis is a legendary film directed by Marcel Carné who used a text by Jacques Prévert.

Barbier as Fashion Illustrator

George Barbier: illustrator 
“pochoirs” (stenciling)

However, Leo Rauth differs from George Barbier. First, Barbier is considered an Art Deco artist. Second, he was a fashion illustrator at a time when haute couture was developing rapidly and the publishing industry sensed an opportunity it quickly seized. Moreover, japonismewoodblock printing, would prove the technique of artists who needed copies of their work: posters, illustrations. Printmaking was not new to the western world. François Chauveau engraved the Carte de Tendre.

As you know, the fine arts diversified in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century due, to a large extent, to japonisme. Japanese prints flooded  Europe, France and England particularly. They were plentiful and therefore an inexpensive yet beautiful artwork. Illustrators needed such a tool.

Barbier, used pochoirs (stenciling)[I] that enabled him to make replicas of his designs, but many artists chose various forms of engraving. They made etchings (on copper usually), woodcuts (wood), linocuts (linoleum) or some other material.

Engraving is referred to as an intaglio technique. For instance, etchers trace their drawing into a “ground” applied to metal, they use acid to bite into the drawing. They then insert ink that flows into the engraved (etched) parts of the metal and, when pressed onto paper, only the engraved or etched parts of the pieces of metal, the image, will show on the paper. Artists and designers can also make reproductions of their work using lithography, silkscreens (stenciling) and pochoirs (also stenciling).

Chansons de France pour les petits enfants

Chansons de France pour les petits enfants Maurice B. de Monvel

The Boutet de Monvel Dynasty

Maurice Boutet de Monvel
his son: Bernard Boutet de Monvel
his nephews: George Barbier and Pierre Brissaud

George Barbier

George Barbier belonged to a dynasty. He was the nephew of Louis-Maurice Boutet de Monvel (1851– 1913) to whom we owe the Chansons de France pour les petits enfants, Jeanne d’Arc (online), illustrations of 22 Fables by Jean de La Fontaine  (online; see Sources and Resources).

Barbier was also a first cousin to, Bernard Boutet de Monvel, Maurice’s son as well as a first cousin to Maurice’s other nephew, Pierre Brissaud. All three were occasional designers and/or illustrators, or exclusively illustrators and designers.

Among a growing number of fashion magazines, the three cousins and numerous colleagues provided illustrations to La Gazette du Bon Ton, which was founded in 1912 by Lucien Vogel and was distributed by Condé Nast. Its American counterpart was La Gazette du Bon Genre, an Internet Archive publication (See Sources and Resources).

Barbier also designed theatre and ballet costumes. In fact, he helped Erté, Romain de Tirtoff (23 November 1892 – 21 April 1990) design sets and costumes for the Folies Bergère. In French “R” is pronounced er and “T,” té = Erté. In fact, Barbier led a group nicknamed “The Knights of the Bracelet,” by Vogue.

The Plane Crash: 28 October 1949

Bernard was also an interior designer, a portraitist, and the last of the Paris dandies, a work of art in himself. He died as he lived, conspicuously. Bernard B. de Monvel was killed in the Air France Lockheed Constellation crash of 28 October 1949, in the Azores. Among the forty-eight victims were world-champion boxer Marcel Cerdan  (aged 33), Edith Piaf‘s lover, and virtuoso violinist Ginette Neveu (aged 30). Benard B. de Monvel was 68.


As I was going through my neglected email, I found an advertisement for this pochoir.

art deco table

“Original pochoir by Bagge Huguet from La Gazette du Bon Ton, a leading Art Deco revue in Paris in the 1920s, showcasing the latest fashion and design. The Art Deco period was a highpoint in French art. Leading artists included Georges Lepape, Georges [sic] Barbier, Edouard Garcia Benito, Erté, and others.”

But let us look at Barbier’s reading of Fêtes galantesLes Années folles, or the Golden Twenties, were a reborn fête galante, à la Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby (1925) that dictated a degree of resemblance between Rauth and Barbier. However, people danced the Charleston, not the sensual tango a product of the 1890s.


Sources and Resources

The Gallery

Harlequin, George Barbier

Harlequin by George Barbier

Harlequin, George Barbier

Harlequin by George Barbier

Harlequin, George Barbier

Harlequin by George Barbier (Photo credit: Tumbler)

 (Please click on the small images to enlarge them.)

Harlequin, George Barbier

Harlequin by George Barbier

Brighella & Pierrot, George Barbier

Brighella & Pierrot by George Barbier



[I] “stenciling.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 12 Aug. 2014. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/565251/stenciling>.

Ginette Neveu plays Maurice Ravel‘s Tzigane

by-barbier-georges-sketch-proposal-for-the-ballet-carnival-russian-ballets-of-diaghilev-theatre-company© Micheline Walker 
12 August 2014