mardi 24 septembre 2013

Another American in Paris


This is a painting I've known for decades now since it hangs in the Gare de l'Est in Paris, a railway station close to where I live.

This station was the departing point to the front in eastern France for hundreds of thousands young French soldiers from 1914 up to 1918.

Just, little did I know that the painter was an American one who had lost one of his sons some months before the end of this nameless massacre.

The young man we see wearing a white shirt in the middle of the painting is holding a bouquet of flowers in his rifle which reminds of the French expression "partir fleur au fusil" which indicates how light-heartedly people at the time thought the war would be a matter of few weeks before the Germans would be flatly defeated.

There is a strong temptation to imagine this young man is actually Albert Herter's own son since this painting is made in remembrance of him and how could possibly his father not want to represent his beloved deceased in a painting dedicated to the dead of WWI?

This is another piece of information I've learned about the links that tie Americans and Paris. Guess there are still many others that I'm not aware of.

11 commentaires:

jean laine a dit…

Une petite erreur : le soldat de gauche avec un bébé dans les bras porte des bottes ( comme d'ailleurs les soldats allemands de cette époque). mais ce n'est pas très grave. Une pensée : une telle guerre européenne semble inconcevable aujourd'hui.

Flocon a dit…

Merci de l'observation, il faut connaître son affaire pour relever ce genre de détail...

Je suis étonné de l'apparente absence d'information sur ce tableau sur la toile hormis Wikipédia mais peut-être n'y a t-il pas grand chose à dire? Et pourtant...

Merci de votre passage,

Anijo a dit…

Salut Flocon,

Tu y trouveras plus d'informations ici

Anijo a dit…

Quand Joe Dassin chant des fleurs aux dents il utilize une phrase qui est l'origine de l'expression "la fleur au fusil", c'est ça?

Anijo a dit…

I don't understand what Jean Laine is wanting to say, but here is a representation of "Le Poilu d'août 1914 - L'entrée en guerre" and he's dressed just like the man holding the baby on the left side.

Flocon a dit…

Yes Anijo, this is the blog where I learned about this painting and had I read the complete text I would have known that the boy in the middle of the painting is the painter's own son as I ultimately guessed (that wasn't too difficult to imagine anyway). But I didn't know about the grieving parents.

I had noticed the elderly couple on the left and the one in the middle just at the feet of the triumphant boy but now, pay attention to the direction in which the look of the mother on the right goes: There is behind the carriage glass a figure of another young man who seems "absent" with no expresion on his face like that of a ghost. Could it be that the painting contains at least two images of the deceased son? The optimistic one going to war and the one as his memory will appear to his parents after the end of the war?

Please note how the looks of the young man and that of his mother connect above the father's head.

Je vais aller voir à la Gare de l'Est if there's a sign somewhere near the painting with some information about it.

Like you, I didn't see the point about the soldier wearing boots but perhaps was the man not supposed to be in uniform before arriving on the front where he would receive his military packaging?

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Il existe deux expressions :

* La fleur au fusil which apparently dates back to WWI

and

* La fleur aux dents. Google in French is saturated with links to the song by Joe Dassin but he didn't create the expression though. I think (but couldn't give any evidence right now) that la fleur aux dents is prior to WW1, and the meaning is that of Joe Dassin: being naively optimistic, young and unexperienced. It has a fully positive spirit in it.

Anijo a dit…

Thank you Flocon,

Yes, Google English is also saturated with links to Joe Dassin's song and that's why I asked you.

I finally decided to Google both "la fleur aux dents" and "la fleur au fusil" and found this.

Quelqu’un d’intrépide, n’anticipant pas le danger, s’élancera dans son projet « la fleur aux dents » ou « la fleur au fusil » surtout lorsque le départ est pour la guerre et quiconque aura le malheur de quitter ce monde trop tôt, « mourra dans la fleur de l’âge ».

Anijo a dit…

Could it be that the painting contains at least two images of the deceased son? The optimistic one going to war and the one as his memory will appear to his parents after the end of the war?

Please note how the looks of the young man and that of his mother connect above the father's head.


Yes, indeed. Good observation.!

Flocon a dit…

Je suis allé sur place voir le tableau hier après-midi. Il n'y a qu'une affichette ridicule qui informe que la toile a été peinte dans une salle vide du château de Versailles.

It also says that the father painted himself as the old man holding a bouquet of flowers on the right while his wife stands on the left part of the painting wearing a white dress and holding her hands together.

Another interesting thing is that both parents are represented as they would have looked like in 1926 (and most probably even much later) after the death of their son but certainly not as they were in August 1914.

But there is a second layer of time since the young woman facing the old father on the left may be the mother as she looked like at the time of the departure of her son who she is looking at over the father's head.

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Regarding the list of expressions with the word "fleur" in them, this is a very good finding Anijo and all the set espressions are to be remembered since they're all likely to be met one day or another.

jean laine a dit…

Je reviens pour expliquer que les poilus ne portaient pas de bottes mais des bandes molletières ( je n'ai pas la traduction en Anglais pour Anijo). Seuls les soldats allemands portaient des bottes, déjà en avance d'une guerre dès cette époque ! Il faut avouer que ce devait etre bien plus "pratique" . ( S'agissant d'une telle boucherie, ce mot " pratique" me semble étrange !)

Flocon a dit…

D'après le lien qu'a fourni Anijo le poilu d'août 1914 portait bel et bien les jambières modèle 1913 et les bottines modèles 1912.

Les bandes molletières n'apparaissent que l'année suivante et apparemment jusqu'à la fin de la guerre.

Seuls les officiers et les aviateurs portaient des bottes.

Comme le précise l'article il y a eu constantes évolutions et modifications au cours du conflit mais j'aurais pensé que les bandes molettières avaient été remplacées par les bottes. Apparemment c'est le contraire qui s'est produit.

Manque de cuir ou incompétence de l'État-major ou désir de maintenir la distinction de classe troupes/officiers jusque dans les tranchées?