‘A Bite-Sized History of France’ delightfully combines French history with gastronomy

Napoleon’s most famous (and probably apocryphal) quote weaves together war and food: “An army marches on its stomach.” In a few short words, we are led to consider the immense logistics that make war possible, and the humanity of the people who wage it. It’s a fitting quote to introduce A Bite-Sized History of France, a new and impressive book that intertwines stories of gastronomy, culture, war, and revolution.

Each amuse bouche-sized chapter of “A Bite-Sized History of France” tackles a different theme, ranging from the relationship between the revolutionary government and potatoes to the connection between the thoughts of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and a search for “authentic” French food. The book delves back to the origins of seemingly eternal fixtures of French food culture (chocolate, raw oysters, sweet pastries) and teases out the meaning of their arrival. And it dives into serious historical events ranging from revolutions to sectarian massacres with real conviction, recapping many of the most significant political and military developments in France’s long history as it goes.

Throughout the book, the authors return to certain themes that tie together its many far-flung topics and tastes. Chief among these are the theme of inequality – an examination of how the rich and the poor pursue pleasure and sustenance is at the heart of “A Bite-Sized History of France” and that frame provides a window into economics, inequality, and revolution. Perhaps mostly strikingly, the authors tell the story of a famous Christmas Day feast for wealthy Parisian during the 1870 siege by Prussian troops. Food had seemingly run out, but for those with means, the zoo would serve as a kind of exotic butcher shop:

“[The meal] began with a stuffed donkey’s head, an inelegant successor to the usual porcine centerpieces of prewar banquets. The soup course included elephant consommé. This was followed by kangaroo stew, rack of bear in pepper sauce, and roasted camel à l’anglaise (a cheeky reference to what the French saw as the plainness of English cuisine.) The main course included le chat flanqué de rats (cat flanked by rats) and cuissot de loup, sauce chevreuil(wolf in deer sauce), a wry inversion of the natural order.” Continue reading “‘A Bite-Sized History of France’ delightfully combines French history with gastronomy”

Gauguin Review

The conceptual dullness of the new French biopic Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti hit me especially hard, since I was fired up to see those Tahitian pictures after a June trip to Paris and the Musee D’Orsay, where many of them reside. Have you been to a highly-touristed art museum lately? It used to be that if you wanted to get close to study the brush strokes it was a guard who’d ask you to step back. Now, it’s people who yell at you for blocking their iPhone photos. The museum’s Postimpressionist area would be a great place to get lost, but, like Paul Gauguin, it ends up making you want to flee civilization for shady pandanus glades halfway around the world — preferably without Gauguin’s raging syphilis.

The syphilis isn’t mentioned by name in Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti, although Gauguin has an unspecified cough that will obviously be fatal, because in biopics there is no such thing as an inconsequential cough. But as played by the febrile Vincent Cassel, this Gauguin seems too tightly wound for sex. The image of Gauguin the voluptuary eating and screwing and painting naked Tahitian women might be a cliché, but the director, Edouard Deluc, has gone to the other extreme. Although the script is based on Gauguin’s own writing, the film presents him as such a gloomy Gus that he might have swapped souls with his onetime pal Van Gogh.

The movie opens in France, where Gauguin is stricken that his oh-so-proper wife won’t come to Tahiti with the kids — though I imagine she’d have put a crimp in his lifestyle if she had. He does need her family money, since rich people are finding his latest works a mite unruly. He’s also dismayed that none of his fellow painters or acolytes will abandon Paris for distant French Colonial paradises. What Deluc gets right is that Gauguin, like most great artists but few in great-artist biopics, spends most of his time not carousing but sitting in front of canvases. What doesn’t come through is how entwined in Tahiti Gauguin’s various impulses were. The artist tells a doctor friend, “I paint and draw all day long and live in harmony with everything around me,” but you don’t see Buddhist oneness in Cassel’s face, especially as he ages into someone resembling Fagin. Non-transcendental, too, are composer Warren Ellis’s somber cellos and violins [. . . ]

Continue at THE VULTURE: Gauguin Review

10 Famous Women Artists Who Conquered the World 

Have you ever noticed that most people are not familiar with women artist, even if they can name a lot of male artists? If you are asked to name at least several well-known artists, then you will remember men only: Raphael, Gogh, Dali, and so on. And what about women? Didn’t women succeed in the field of fine arts or perhaps their works have been lost on the pages of centuries-old world history? What was women’s role in art history?

In fact, the women’s share in art really does constitute a smaller number compared to men’s one and therefore only a relatively small number of women managed to become renewed.

Sofonisba Anguissola

She is a famous Italian artist of the second half of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century, who, first of all, gained her reputation as a portrait master. It is noteworthy that Sofonisbawas born in a noble family, where art classes were held thanks to her father, who dreamed of realizing all the creative abilities of his family consisting of four girls.Sofonisbais known for living portraits of her relatives who she tried to portray in their habitual activities. Among the teachers of the famous artist are Bernardo Campi and Michelangelo himself, although there is no complete certainty about that.

Marie Bashkirtseff

The main merit of this talented artist is that she became among the first Russian female artists whose works were purchased by the Louvre. Marie lived in the middle of the XIX century leading a short but bright and life full of creativity.Marie received all the necessary knowledge concerning painting at the Academy of Painting, however, the girl was constantly engaged in self-education and ask uncle: “Please, type my essay free!”. Soon, she was praised by famous critics in the press becoming more and more popular. To date, original Bashkirtseff’s paintings are a real rarity in the art world, as most of her works were burned down during the Second World War.

Angelica Kauffman

Angelica is considered one of the most educated and talented women during the Enlightenment age. It is known that her father was a middle-handed artist and her family moved not only from city to city, but also to other countries quite a lot.Angelica could paint beautiful things at the age of nine and even then, she was dreaming of becoming a great artist, which, she managed to do. As a result, Angelica was admitted to the Accademia di San Luca, and a few years later, she also joined the ranks of the French Royal Academy. Angelica was the most productive during her stay in London, which lasted 15 years.

Zinaida Serebryakova

Zinaida was born at the end of the nineteenth century in a creative family, in which it was difficult not to become an artist. From the early childhood, the girl was told about the important role of art in the life of every person. At age 25, the artist introduced her own self-portrait to the world, which was highly appreciated by critics at that time.

For a while, Zinaida had to stop painting because she was left alone with four young children. Everyone who knows Serebryakova’s art confirms that it is her paintings that represent the real Russian talent and deserve an art gallery dedicated to her paintings alone.

Marie Tussaud

When it comes to women in art, we are positive that many of you are familiar with the Tussaud name. Surprisingly, but little Marie did not know that her father was a sculptor for a long time, who, in consequence, handed over to her the whole life of his life – the Museum of Wax Figures. Marie continued her father’s business, followed by her children and other descendants.

Camille Claudel

Camille was a persevering and very talented artist who conquered Paris at the age of eighteen. Camilleis known for her resemblance to the popular artist of that time named Rodin with whom, she even had an affair. Nevertheless, such sculptures as “The Wave” and “The Waltz” received mass approval among true connoisseurs of art, and after Camille’s death, they were placed in a separate hall of the Rodin Museum [ . . . ]

Continue reading at: 10 Famous Women Artists Who Conquered the World | Times Square Chronicles



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The Years by Annie Ernaux review – a masterpiece memoir of French life

Annie Ernaux is long overdue to be recognised in Britain as one of the most important writers in contemporary France, and this edition of The Years ought to do the trick. Originally published there in 2008, it was immediately heralded as Ernaux’s masterpiece, her brief Remembrance of Things Past. It has been expertly rendered into English by Alison Strayer, who captures all the shadings of Ernaux’s prose, all its stops and starts, its changes in pace and in tone, its chatterings, its silences.

The book spans the timeframe from the author’s birth in 1940 up to 2006, and moves from her working-class upbringing in Normandy to her years teaching French literature in a lycée, living in the Parisian suburb of Cergy, raising two sons and eventually divorcing. But it is not a straightforward autobiography; rather it is told in a choral “we”, which sometimes shifts into the third person, so the author appears as “she”. This is as close in as it gets. In so doing, Ernaux puts paid (hopefully once and for all) to the idea that memoirs by women are about the small-scale, the domestic. She shows it is possible to write both personally and collectively, situating her own story within the story of her generation, without ever confusing the two. She reflects on the book she is writing even as she writes it, resolving: “There is no ‘I’ in what she views as a sort of impersonal autobiography. There is only ‘one’ and ‘we’, as if now it were her time to tell the story of the time-before.” [ . . . ]

Continue at THE GUARDIAN: The Years by Annie Ernaux review – a masterpiece memoir of French life | Books | The Guardian