1915 film footage of Monet, Renoir, Rodin and Degas
January 30, 2021 3:42 PM   Subscribe

"In this charming little artifact over a century old, Russian-born French actor, Sacha Guitry, employs newfangled technology, the motion picture camera, to capture some of France's great artists at the ends of their lives."
posted by cgc373 (20 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Smoke 'em if you got 'em...

Not sure I've ever actually seen photos of Rodin. Very cool film
posted by Windopaene at 3:58 PM on January 30, 2021

Monet looks like he's about to open up Jurassic Park.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:24 PM on January 30, 2021 [5 favorites]

"In 1915, with the newly innovated film camera ...". Kind of a stretch, William Dickson invented the camera in 1891.
posted by octothorpe at 6:33 PM on January 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

I find it really charming how quickly Rodin's beard filled with statue chunks and how little it bothered him.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 7:19 PM on January 30, 2021 [4 favorites]

What a treasure!

I was all ready with jokes about Rodin not looking like Gérard Depardieu, but damned if there isn’t a decent resemblance.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:42 PM on January 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

THANK YOU. It was surprisingly emotional to see Monet, right there with the waterlilies...
posted by brambleboy at 9:24 PM on January 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

Some background:
The clip is taken from a longer documentary called "Ceux de chez nous" ("Those from home") that was actually a propaganda movie edited by Sacha Guitry (with support of the Ministry of Fine Arts) as a reply to a manifesto of German intellectuals published at the beginning of the war. The 22-min movie, which includes many other French luminaries of the time, was first shown in November 1915 and commented live on stage by Guitry and his wife Charlotte Lysès. The people who appear in the movie are friends of the Guitry family (both Sacha and his father Lucien were themselves theatre celebs), except Degas. The old painter had turned misanthropic and refused to be filmed, so Guitry shot the clip in the street without Degas's knowledge. Sacha Guitry later edited longer versions of the movie, including one where he dubbed himself the artists shown (he had kept notes of what they said!). By the way, "Russian-born Sacha Guitry" is like saying "Lebanon-born Keanu Reeves". It's technically true but Sacha was not of Russian descent. He was born in Russia because his dad had been hired to run the Theatre Michel in Saint Petersburg in the 1880s and stayed there for 9 years. Pre-1917 Russian upper classes were really into French things so lots of French stage artists (and courtesans...) went there to make money. Lucien named his son Alexandre to honour the Czar, and a Russian nanny nicknamed him Sacha.
posted by elgilito at 2:48 AM on January 31, 2021 [14 favorites]

It was surprisingly emotional to see Monet, right there with the waterlilies...
posted by brambleboy at 9:24 PM on January 30 [1 favorite +] [!]

It really was. I too was surprised how much it affected me.

This was lovely, thank you for posting it!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:04 AM on January 31, 2021

Thanks for the background and fleshing-out, elgilito!
posted by cgc373 at 3:25 AM on January 31, 2021

Really lovely and as others have said, unexpectedly moving. And yet! Looking at these men who after a lifetime of dedicated rigorous practice are in a state of absolute mastery of their skills, as well as having family, respect, acolytes, wonderful material comforts, all very much well deserved ...

How many gifted women never ever got a chance to achieve that? That makes me sad. How many subverted and diverted, undermined, not given training, unable to apprentice, disregarded even when achieving the heights of their profession. Camille Claudel. Gwen John. Ida Nettleship, Augustus John's first wife, died in childbirth but for many years before totally consumed in the hard work of children and household. Paula Modershon-Beker, died in childbirth, actually that list is too depressing to go with.

I always see the film The Red Shoes as a hymn to all those invisible women when at the end they perform the ballet without her, an aching, tragic absence. All the power and beauty coalesced around, was animated by, manifested through, her work and sensibility, and she herself can no longer be found.
posted by glasseyes at 4:43 AM on January 31, 2021 [5 favorites]

Monet appears to have a ghost dog. I think I want one - but then again, maybe not. Have to think about this.
posted by BWA at 5:24 AM on January 31, 2021

Sheesh. Claude's beard must've been like an ashtray!

I've been to Giverny and to Rodin's home. Thanks for this.
posted by SoberHighland at 6:20 AM on January 31, 2021

This is so very cool. Thank you.
posted by aclevername at 6:22 AM on January 31, 2021

Ah Monet, what an impressive impressionist! He turns his head this way, he turns it that, again and again, yet the perilously long ash on the cigarette clamped in his lips does not fall. No way it would dare sully that venerable white beard. It holds on till he decides time's up, then one flick and it's gone.
posted by valetta at 6:52 AM on January 31, 2021

What's amazing to me about footage like this, terrific artists actually at work, is that they look like everyone else while doing it but the results are so very different--like, Monet sitting there smoking, looking over at the spot in his gardens he was painting, then dabbing his palette and brushing a bit; look, dab, brush brush; look, smoke, dab dab, brush brush brush brush [pause] brush; look; etc., very relaxed and casual. That's how I'd look painting there, too, but when you moved around to look at our canvases, they'd look pretty different.

Same with Rodin, he just looks like a dude nonchalantly chiseling at some stone for a while, and then you realize that a really expressive face is emerging, he's just sort of casually but consistently chonking out the bits that don't belong...it doesn't really look any different from anyone else making art in that medium, but what results is, of course, quite different than most could create.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:16 AM on January 31, 2021 [4 favorites]

Monet and Degas are two of my favorite artists. I enjoyed seeing them.
posted by kathrynm at 9:40 AM on January 31, 2021

It's amazing that Rodin never suffered serious eye damage from flying bits of marble! I never thought about the fact that safety goggles or protective eyewear is a really recent thing, and that sculptors of the past just relied on... squinting? That guy spent decades chiseling marble every day... really, really close to his face!

This leads me to wonder if the clothing they're wearing in these films is really what they would have typically worn. Being filmed like this would have been a special occasion. I wonder if they dressed up a little for these sessions?

This post gives me a lot to think about. Thanks again.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:11 PM on January 31, 2021 [3 favorites]

You learn new things everyday. I learned Renoir fathered a son at the age of fucking SIXTY.
posted by deadaluspark at 7:02 PM on January 31, 2021

That guy spent decades chiseling marble every day...

FWIW I’ve been told he actually did almost all of his work in clay and rarely picked up a chisel except for the benefit of visitors.
posted by Phanx at 11:32 PM on January 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

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