free people in paris

First, Henry James took to Europe his delicate sensibilities, and later Ernest Hemingway too his lusty appetites. James described his countrymen as noxious exports, vocal and clannish. Experimentation and the permissive culture of France had replaced Italy as the point of exodus after World War I, and Paris, the city of light, though not Arcadia, was seen as the cultural capital of the world…

A discernible feeling of boredom with America and a hastily considered distrust of its proper place in the world is implicit in many of the home-thoughts-from-abroad of the time. From Italy, Santayana wrote of the Boston where he grew up that there was “no food for the senses” there ( he was to hide away in a Roman convent throughout World War II on a very spartan diet of beans and polenta). Bernard Berenson too, spoke slightingly of the United States, while staking out squatter’s rights to Florence and the surrounding hills, making, in Alan Pryce-Jones’s words, “like other great American expatriates of the time, an effective contribution to an ideal League of Nations… one of those who took Europe in stride without ever losing the sense of being American.”

Bernard Berenson. click image for source...

Bernard Berenson. click image for source…

That sense of being American was soon to be challenged dramatically. In 1939 some unofficial census of the American colony in Paris placed its membership at nine thousand; there were not ocean liners enough to accommodate the mad scramble of those who wanted to go home. Even the great cognomen Talleyrand did not much avail the Duchess of that name, who, American by birth, waited too long, hemmed and hawed, hastily packed a dozen Vuitton trunks, and demanded passage for herself and maid on the next westbound Cunarder. Told that the ship was already overbooked, she pounded the desk of a shipping company and invoked the stars and stripes. “Now, once and for all,” she said, “I am Anna Gould.”

---Title  Portrait of Anna Gould (1875-1961)---artist: Carolus-Duran. source:WIKI

—Title Portrait of Anna Gould (1875-1961)—artist: Carolus-Duran. source:WIKI

…Its hard to know if the modern day counterpart of James’s characters exist, the archetype of the idler, the impecunious drifter, the tax dodgers, social snobs, educated drones…


(from the Smithsonian) see link at end:The City of Light shone like a beacon for many American artists, who felt better appreciated there than in their own business-preoccupied country. By the late 1880s, it was estimated that one in seven of the 7,000 Americans living in Paris were artists or art students. For women especially, the French capital offered an intoxicating freedom. “They were Americans, so they weren’t bound by the conventions of French society,” says Erica E. Hirshler of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, one of the exhibition’s three curators. “And they were no longer in America, so they escaped those restrictions too.”

---A self-portrait painted when she was thirty-five, wearing a bonnet, against a bluish background that, with its fishlike streaks of green, resembled the bottom of the sea, shows her face was not unlovely.* Niece of Ellen Day Hale describing Self Portrait---click image for source...

—A self-portrait painted when she was thirty-five, wearing a bonnet, against a bluish background that, with its fishlike streaks of green, resembled the bottom of the sea, shows her face was not unlovely.*
Niece of Ellen Day Hale describing Self Portrait—click image for source…

A striking self-portrait by Ellen Day Hale, painted just before she returned to her native Boston, makes the point. Seen from below, her head tilted slightly, Hale is every bit the flâneur—that disengaged but acutely perceptive stroller through Parisian crowds celebrated by poet Charles Baudelaire as the archetypal modern figure (by which he, of course, meant “man”). “It’s an amazing portrait for a woman in 1885 to be that forthright and direct and determined-looking,” says Hirshler.

In America, only Philadelphia and New York City could provide the kind of rigorous artistic training, based on observation of the nude model, available in the French capital. “Go straight to Paris,” the prominent Boston painter William Morris Hunt told a 17-year-old art student. “All you learn here you will have to unlearn.” Paris offered the aspiring artist three educational options. Most renowned (and the hardest to enter) was the École des Beaux-Arts, the venerable state-owned institution that gave tuition-free instruction—under the supervision of such Salon luminaries as artists Jean-Léon Gérôme and Alexandre Cabanel—to students admitted by a highly competitive examination. A parallel system of private academies dispensed comparable training for a fee. (Women, who were barred from the École until 1897, typically paid twice what men were charged.) The most successful of these art-education entrepreneurs was Rodolphe Julian, whose Académie Julian drew so many applicants that he would open several branches in the city. Finally, a less formal avenue of tutelage was offered by painters who examined and criticized student work, in man

ses for the pure satisfaction of mentoring. (Students provided studio space and models.)

The feeling of being an art student at the time is convincingly rendered in Jefferson David Chalfant’s jewel-like 1891 depiction of an atelier at the Académie Julian . Clusters of men at easels gather around nude models, who maintain their poses on plank tables that serve as makeshift pedestals. Weak rays of sunshine filter through the skylight, illuminating student drawings and paintings on the walls. A veil of cigarette smoke hangs in air so visibly stuffy that, more than a century later, it can still induce an involuntary cough.

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