The Independent Traveler's Newsletter                                         PAGE TWO

Sculptor Alfred Janniot - A Trans-Atlantic Art Déco Giant continued . . .

The United States was, however, far from lagging behind. In 1935, he was appointed 'Ambassador of French Sculpture'  to produce New York’s Rockefeller Center Fifth Avenue Maison de France gilt-bronze portal, portraying 'The Encounter of the American and European Continents', still lovingly maintained [see photo on page one]. He also took part in the 1939 New York World’s Fair. 

Paris’ Beaux Arts School, the Prix de Rome with its Villa Médicis residency, was followed by a number of prestigious public and private commissions, culminating with the award in 1938 of the Legion of Honor ~ on the face of it, Janniot’s career was mainstream classical.  Wherein, then, lay his undeniable originality?

I put the question to Anne Demeurisse, who heads the Paris-based Association des Amis d’Alfred Auguste Janniot (, and edited a major collectively-authored book/album on Janniot, published in 2003. 

Her answer: "Compared with the sterner and more sober, even severe, strains of Art Déco, his work delighted in sheer fun, tended to overflow with joy and fantasy.  For me, its fleshiness and smiles evoke, well, let's say Rubens!" 

To escape Vichy mobilization during World War II, Janniot found refuge at the country estate near Paris of a philanthropist for whom he worked.  Although he never joined the Résistance, he and his protector did help save and hide Allied airmen.

After the War, Art Déco moved away from the international esthetic center-stage, with Janniot’s monumental and figurative style tending to be replaced by a more minimalist and abstract fashion. To survive, he became a part-time professor at his alma mater, Paris’ Beaux Arts School. Students there appreciated him as both teacher and host to occasional after-class drinks. A second part-time occupation was enabled by a law decreeing that one per cent of state building commission budgets must be devoted to artistic embellishments. Virtually until his death in 1969,  Janniot contributed statuary to more than 20 public projects ~ mainly educational institutions ~ throughout France.

Today, most people entering New York's Fifth Avenue Maison de France via Janniot’s gilt portal probably wouldn't even recognize its creator's name. Yet Janniot hasn't been entirely forgotten in the U.S.A.  In 2004, for example, his work was the subject of an exhibition at the Maison Gerard in downtown Manhattan. And the Smithsonian's prestigious Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington recently acquired a bust by him, while the Museum of the City of New York is organizing from September 2008 a temporary retrospective including work by Janniot and entitled 'Paris/New York: Design, Fashion, Culture 1925 – 1940.'

(All photos courtesy of the Association des Amis d’Alfred Auguste Janniot.) 

 'Paris Art Déco' is but one of 16 Paris strolls Arthur guides to help independent visitors discover
Paris Through the Ages.  For more information, contact him at
and please don't forget to mention FRANCE On Your Own!

           Janniot with his Terra Mater  (“Mother Earth”), 
       a 1963 creation at the Orsay Sud University Center 

Ici et Là

This column is intended to advise you about cultural events, news and happenings
in France or France-related events taking place in the United States
between now and the publication of our next issue.

In France. . .

o  Madame Tussaud's. . . in London has just added the wax figure of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to its collection of statesmen/women and other famous people in history.  The model of the French President shows him holding a cell phone. . . a sign of the times.  Madame Tussaud (Marie Grosholtz) was born in Strasbourg, France over two centuries ago.  She learned from her mother's employer, Dr. Philippe Curtius, the art of wax modeling ~ making her first wax figure that of Voltaire.  She eventually settled in London where she opened her now-famous 'museum'.  Today, in addition to London, there are Madame Tussaud's in Amsterdam, New York, Las Vegas, Berlin, Washington DC, Hong Kong, Shanghai and, soon, Hollywood!

o  The French Government Tourist Office . . . is going to help Americans trace their French ancestors back to the villages where they lived before emigrating to the United States.  You can begin the process for your family by registering at the web site  The Maison de la France will then send you the information they have on your family and their home town. 

o  Tecktonik . . . we have read,  is the new dance rage among the young in France.  Not considered a graceful or 'adult' type of dance, it has quickly found its way to the Internet on YouTube.  A mix of hip-hop and techno, some say that the dance style is not very good.  We tell you all of this just in case during your next visit to France you find yourself standing on a street corner or in the Métro next to some young people flailing their arms around and exhibiting rather odd leg movements that don't seem to have much rhyme or reason. 

o  Caen, Normandy  . . . is the site of an exhibition entitled A Global Monument, which can be viewed at the Caen Memorial Museum through November 11, 2008.  The exhibit is an effort by the New York State Museum to remember those who perished in the 2001 World Trade Center attacks.  Items in the exhibit were either found at the site or donated by the families of the victims.

o  Nuclear power leaks. . . made the news in France and around the world.  France receives some 80 per cent of its electrical power from nuclear plants and takes great pride in having an unblemished record when it comes to accidents, leaks and human missteps.  That all changed in July during routine maintenance at the Tricastin nuclear plant in the Rhône region.  Agence France Presse published reports that French environmentalists sounded the alarm after a third incident in a month at a nuclear plant ~ this one left 100 employees contaminated.  A broken pipe was blamed for this leak just one week after a uranium spill at another of its plants polluted the local water supply. The French government is trying to reassure residents in the region that they are safe, while organizations such as Greenpeace France are angered over what they see as an inevitable result of nuclear power.  The water table near the plant, Tricastin, and the water tables at France's 57 other nuclear facilities, will be investigated by an independent committee appointed by French Ecology Minister, Jean-Louis Borloo. The hope is that they can dispel public concern over nuclear waste management and possible contamination associated with nuclear generating plants.

o  Visitors . . . to the beautiful 19-mile long Île de Ré will be happy to know that the steep toll (more than $25 in high season) will disappear, and travel across the bridge from the Poitou-Charentes mainland will be free when construction is fully paid off in 2012.  The island is a bucolic and relaxed place most of the year, and the local population of 17,000 is not at all happy that access to the island will be free, creating what they predict will be an intolerable influx of people.  Currently, the island receives tourists numbering nearly 180,000 annually ~ those who can and are willing to pay the hefty bridge toll.  During school and bank holidays, there are already traffic jams on the island's roads.  Some locals are hoping to come up with a plan to keep cars parked near the bridge, providing people with alternative ways to get around the island...without their cars!

o  French passports. . . will become biometric in the coming months, displaying both a photo and fingerprints of the owner.

o  Nuit Blanche . . . will be celebrated throughout France on the first Saturday of October at museums, parks, tourist sites, movie theatres, and other cultural locales.  It will begin at sundown and end with breakfasts (provided by local organizations) for those who stayed up all night .  The Nuit Blanche began in Paris in 2002 and has become an annual event.

o  Le Salon du Chocolat . . . will take place at the Porte de Versailles in Paris from October 29 to November 2.  This annual event has special meaning for us because our dear friends from the Pays de la Loire won a first prize a few years ago with their delectable Tas du Sel. The finest chocolatiers in France will be on hand with their creations, and visitors will be in abundance ~ especially chocoholics!!  For details visit

o  The Musée Picasso in Paris . . . has a studio exhibit to explore the creative process of the artist as opposed to his finished works.  There are more than 450 objects on display including paintings, sculptures, studies, photos and ceramics through the first of September.  For more information visit

o  The Musée des Arts Décoratifs . . . offers an exhibit entitled Aussi Rouge que Possible (As Red as Possible), using some 400 objects of the museum's collection in various shade of this color.  Included are textiles, furnishings and apparel.  Through September 17, 2009.  For more information please visit

o  Visitors. . . should take advantage of the annual Journées du Patrimoine, traditionally the third weekend of September (the 20th and 21st this year) when they can visit all state-run monuments, châteaux, museums, as well as many private homes that are only open to the public on these two days of the year.  Over 14,000 buildings throughout France participate in these national heritage days.  You can learn more at

o  Languedoc-Roussillon . . . hosts a celebration of Rabelais entitled, La Dégelée Rabelais, using Rabelais as the theme behind approximately 30 exhibits throughout the five départements that make up the region.  Until September 28th.  To learn more, visit

o  Until October 13 . . .visitors to Nice can view Musée Chagall: Un peintre à la fenêtre at the museum dedicated to the artist to see an exhibit exploring his work from over 100 paintings and drawings gathered from major French and international collections.  Details can be found at

o  Jazz in Marciac . . . is a major event in the Gers département in Gascony.  This year's event runs through August 17 and features Herbie Hancock, Diana Kroll, Gaetano Veloso, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Winton Marsalis and others.  Visit for details, and contact if you are looking for last-minute accommodations in the Gers.  They may know of a room or two at two nearby château B&Bs!

In the US. . . (and Canada!)

o  Louis Braille . . the Frenchman who invented the alphabet for the blind, has been honored in the United States by putting his image on the face of a new silver dollar commemorating the 200th anniversary of his birth.  The new coin has readable Braille characters enabling the blind to distinguish the denomination of the coin.  The unveiling took place in Dallas recently at the annual convention of the National Institute of the Blind.  The Institute is promoting the learning of Braille by children and has as its goal to double Braille literacy in children by 2015.

o  New York city hosts . . . Framing a Century: Master Photographers, 1840-1940 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through September 1st.  This exhibit of the first one hundred years of photography includes works by Le Gray, Nadar and Man Ray.  Visit for more information.

o  The Cantor Arts Center . . . at Stanford University will host the exhibit Spared from the Storm: Masterworks from the New Orleans Museum of Art through October 5th.  Some 80 paintings, drawings and sculptures by many of the most influential artists (primarily French and American) of the 17th through mid-20th centuries will be on display.  Come to see work by Monet, Picasso, Magritte, Chagall, Degas, Braque, Cassatt, O'Keefe, Pollock as well as Bonnard, Bouguereau, Corot, Dufy, Ernst and so many more.  Docent tours can be arranged for those interested.   For more information please visit

o  San Francisco's Legion of Honor . . . is the venue for Women Impressionists:  Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzalès, Marie Bracquemond and offers 150 paintings and work on paper to the viewer for purposes of comparison and to evaluate their roles in the history of Impressionism.  Through September 21, 2008 at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.  Details at

o  The wine 'war' . . . between aficionados of French wines and aficionados of California wines continues.  A film about the blind tasting that was won by California over France in 1976 has just been released (it's called Bottle Shock), and we're here to tell you about a new book by Alice Feiring, journalist and food critic, entitled  The Battle for Wine and Love - Or How I Saved the World from Parkerization.  Her view is the same as many wine critics of late:  California wines are too alcoholic and she adds "overblown...over-oaked, overpriced and over-manipulated."  She goes on to say that since the year 2000 a lot of technology has taken hold in California and the wineries are now using yeast, enzymes, tannin, oak and acid, over-extracting techniques, micro-oxygenation, dialysis and reverse osmosis...and picking the grapes when they are too ripe. She doesn't exclude many other wine regions from her wrath either.  She says about 90% of the world's wines have been similarly corrupted.  But, she praises most French vintners for striving for authenticity and being committed to working with nature.  Ms Feiring says that they couldn't care less what wine critics say (thus, we suppose her reference to Parker in the title of her book), and their philosophy is spreading to Italy and gradually to the rest of Europe.  She evens likes the prices of the imported wines in comparison to the California wines.  So for those of you who adore California wines, the Bottle Shock movie should please you (but remember, that was 1976), and for those of you who think there's no wine like French wine, the timing of Alice's book couldn't be better!

o  Through September 28 . . . visitors to the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts can enjoy a retrospective spanning 40 years in the career of the late Yves Saint Laurent.  His reinterpretation of various art movements, including Impressionism and Pop Art, is seen in a collection of accessorized outfits, videos and drawings.  For more information visit

o  See the work of Louise Bourgeois . . . a living artist, now 96 years of age, who has spent some 70 years in the contemporary art world.  Well-known for her sculptures, this exhibit also draws on her paintings, works on paper, and installations.  Through September 28th at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.  Details at

o  New York . . . also hosts the incredible Prayer Book of Queen Claude de France (1499 - 1524) on view indefinitely at the Morgan Library and Museum.  This masterpiece of Renaissance illumination contains 132 scenes from the lives of Christ, his Mother Mary, the apostles and many saints.  Only 2-3/4 by 2 inches in size, it was created by an artist only known as 'The Master of Claude de France', and whose remaining works number about one dozen.  Enlargements of the pages are provided for easy viewing, and the show includes the Prayer Book of Anne de Bretagne, commissioned by Queen Claude's mother.  Don't miss this exhibit!  For further details visit

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