La Ceramique Francais

There are 96 solid oak steps up to our fifth floor apartment – fortunately also a teensy lift that just takes an adult plus suitcase, so I only count the steps going down on my way out for baguette and croissants from the boulangerie at the corner.

We are in Paris escaping the rugby. The other day, we were wandering some of the Passages (covered arcades to us), thinking about Walter Benjamin and noting the changes from  an earlier visit, as they are steadily being restored.  I wondered about the restoration process as I had enjoyed the immediate post WWII atmosphere – dusty cracked glass, faded gilt, chipped tiles and most of all the curious range of goods offered in the shops and galleries sheltered beneath the glass roofs. Now many are a little more predictable and glossy but I came across a bookshop I remembered, Libraire Paul Vulin in Passage Jouffrey, which has not changed. Only books on art – thousands of them and several dozen of those on ceramics. I was reminded that our studio based art form was begun by the French, in the late 1800s, and their history throughout the 20thC has been so very different from ours.  Bernard Leach just didn’t figure. At all. Even the doughty wood-firers down in La Bourne went their own way, paying attention to French traditions rather than medieval British. There in the Passage on tables, and inside the shop on oak shelves were books on every possible aspect of La Ceramique Francais, from Sevres production and Gallica/Roman terracottas through to a marvellous tome on Raoul Dufy’s work in ceramic – the range of his decoration! Wow! Clearly something he pursued over many years. I almost bought it despite it being in French – the images were enough of a seduction and in the end only the weight and thoughts of that excess baggage cost stopped me. I may send for it after return. For anyone else interested it is Raoul Dufy by Gerard Landrot published by Editions Langlande. There was another on mid-century French studio practice when we, and England, were busy with the Anglo-Oriental. Written by Anne Lajoux and called La Ceramique en France 1925-1947 it is published by Sous le Vent. Neither was expensive, just heavy. Book Depository in UK sends free world-wide.

But not every book was in French. There is a new publication by Emmanuel Cooper – former editor of Ceramic Review magazine. This is called (surprise) Contemporary Ceramics and is published by Thames and Hudson. It is large and glossy and cost 42 Euro. (As against the former two’s 16 and 18 Euros) But it did not look instantly wonderful on my first riffle through. Images obviously supplied by the invited artists as the ‘jolted’ sequences offered, and writing was minimal and, at least initially, seemed to be rehashes of artist’s statements rather than much by way of analysis. Grouping of genres had the Janet Mansfield touch. But I was not encouraged to linger long by the very abrupt shopkeeper who clearly wanted to get home for tea. So I may be completely misguided in my initial views and some club/society would find it a worthwhile addition to their library I am sure. Be happy to receive a review if anyone does get it in.

Below, some images of three of the six or seven Passages….



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