Wednesday, 1 June 2016

A jester's look on life

A lavishly illustrated book of an unusual artist from the Art Deco period. Roland Paris (1894-1945) doesn't easily fit into the conventional Deco artist genre. He worked in a range of media, oil painting, woodcuts, porcelain, bronze and prints. This separates him from most other artists who concentrates one media and become well known for it, for example: Cassandre for posters; Mauboussin and Fouquet for jewellery, Lalique for glass or Chiparus for statuettes. Shayo says in his Preface that Paris's work is not always elegant or graceful and frequently becomes a caricature of the subject. The book's title refers to the jester king and there are pages of paintings and statues of jesters with smiling (or should that be cunning) faces.

A distinctive aspect of all the statuettes created by Paris is their lack of detail. He used bronze and ivory like other artists of the Deco period but doesn't take advantage of the precision that bronze offers, when cast, to fill even the tiniest shape, though all the ivory faces and hands are quite detailed as they were created in a foundrie's ivory-carving workshop. The texture of his bronze statues looks very similar to the porcelain ones, a medium that can't easily capture detail.

The book has a remarkable selection of work (with 472 in color) predominately statuettes but also postcards, watercolours, sketches, prints, woodcuts, masks, lamps (statues on the base of a table lamp) magazine illustrations and oil paintings. The book's first sixty-five pages with the author's illustrated essay also has examples of a cartoon strip, illustrations of trolls for an exhibition, title page and roughs of a character to be used in a book of poems written by Paris. This essay also has photos of Paris and his family.

The Bibliography doesn't list any other book specifically about Roland Paris so this one by the author should be accepted as the standard work on this intriguing Art Deco artist.

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