EXCLUSIVE! THE PARIS TRIBUNE SERIAL: MICHEL RAGON’S “TROMPE-L’OEIL”

“If Ragon’s erudition is immense, it has always been irrigated by the blood and misery of real life.”

— François Nourissier

 

By and copyright Michel Ragon
Translation copyright Paul Ben-Itzak

Reflecting the author’s popular roots, Michel Ragon’s 1956 “Trompe-l’oeil” is less an easy parody of the nascent contemporary art market than an introduction to the complex Abstract Art universe disguised as tragi-comic spoof, with complementary swipes at corrupt art critics and co-opted art magazine editors  à la Balzac’s “Lost Illusions” and latent post-war anti-Semitism in France. The  colorful fictional characters interact with some of the real life artists that Ragon, as a critic and curator, championed in the epoch (à la Zola). Michel Ragon died February 14 in Paris, at the age of 95.

 

Le Feuilleton (the Serial): (English translation followed by V.O. française) Exclusive! “Trompe-l’Oeil,” Michel Ragon’s saga of artists, dealers, critics, & anti-Semitism in Post-War Paris, Part 14: Anti-Semitism rears its concrete head in the Abstract art World (Subscriber-only content; to learn how to subscribe, e-mail paulbenitzak@gmail.com.)

 

Ragon Artistes à la Ruche

Some of the Jewish and other artists (see the latest episode of the our serialization of Michel Ragon’s “Trompe-l’Oeil,” below) who, along with Man Ray, Foujita, and others helped Montparnasse and the surrounding areas usurp Montmartre as the artistic nucleus of Paris in the 20th century, photographed here in 1914 at the “Ruche” (hive), a colony of artists and other exiles in the 15th arrondissement. The photo, as well as work by Modigliani, Jules Pascin, Chaim Soutine, Moshe Kisling, Marc Chagall, and others (regrettably, not Mané-Katz, one of the period’s most important figures) are featured in “A School in Paris,” theoretically running through August 23 at the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism in Paris. Photo copyright mahJ. (Given that one of the exhibition’s sponsors is the French interministerial government delegation “against racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-LGBT hate,” it seems appropriate to use this image to illustrate an episode of “Trompe-l’Oeil” in which Michel Ragon depicts how post-War anti-Semitism infiltrated even the art world.)

by and copyright Michel Ragon
Translation copyright Paul Ben-Itzak
From “Trompe-l’Oeil,” published in 1956 by Éditions Albin Michel

Part 14 in the Paris Tribune / Arts Voyager exclusive English-language translation of Michel Ragon’s seminal 1956 novel taking on the world of Abstract art, artists, art collectors, art dealers, and art critics in Paris, as well as post-War anti-Semitism in France. For the first 13  parts, click here. For more on Michel Ragon, in French, click hereV.O. française follows English translationNot already a subscriber? Please support our work today, performed under increased risks and with increased costs during the current crisis, by making a donation in dollars or Euros via PayPal in designating your payment to paulbenitzak@gmail.com , or write us at that address to learn how to donate by check.

Fontenoy came by the next day to pick up Manhès and they took off for the Hotel Drouot auction house. On the way, Manhès told his friend:

“No luck. I haven’t been able to get a hold of practically any of my collectors. Mumphy doesn’t want to buy anything. Others are game, but they don’t have any scratch at the moment.”

At the entrance to the Hotel Drouot, they met the two friends Manhès had charged with ratcheting up the prices. Cutting a swathe through the crowd of buyers and onlookers, they arrived in the hall reserved for paintings. A smattering of people were scrutinizing the paintings, the auction not scheduled to start for another hour. Manhès couldn’t help exclaiming, “Holy shit! I didn’t realize Levy had hoarded so many of my paintings!” For the full episode, click here.

 

Le Feuilleton (the Serial): (English translation followed by V.O. française) Exclusive! “Trompe-l’Oeil,” Michel Ragon’s saga of artists, dealers, critics, & anti-Semitism in Post-War Paris, Part 13: The Empire Strikes back against Abstract art (Subscriber-only content; to learn how to subscribe, e-mail paulbenitzak@gmail.com.)

 

Ragon Trompe Enguerrand Quarton. Pietà of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. Oil on wood, 163cm x 219cm. Musée du Louvre

“Pietà of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon,” sometimes attributed to 15th-century Provencial painter Enguerrand Quarton (also known as Charonton, Charreton, or Charton). Oil on wood, versus 1455. 163 cm x 219 cm. Musée du Louvre. If you have to ask what a 15th century tableau is doing in a roman a clef about the Abstract art world and market in Paris in the 1950s, then you don’t know Michel Ragon, who wrote “Trompe-l’Oeil.” Read on. (According to the Petit Robert encyclopedia, Charonton was known, in part, for “the abstract and monumental character of a compositional style that was complex but clearly ordered, and which denoted the pictorial adaptation of the architectonic composition to French tympans.” Ragon, of course, was also an authority on architecture….

by and copyright Michel Ragon
Translation copyright Paul Ben-Itzak
From “Trompe-l’Oeil,” published in 1956 by Éditions Albin Michel

Part 13 in the Paris Tribune / Arts Voyager exclusive English-language translation of Michel Ragon’s seminal 1956 novel taking on the world of Abstract art, artists, art collectors, art dealers, and art critics in Paris, as well as post-War anti-Semitism in France. For the first 12  parts, click here. For more on Michel Ragon, in French, click hereV.O. française follows English translationNot already a subscriber? Please support our work today, performed under increased risks and with increased costs during the current crisis, by making a donation in dollars or Euros via PayPal in designating your payment to paulbenitzak@gmail.com , or write us at that address to learn how to donate by check.

The press crusade against Abstract art forged on. At the same time the dealers, buttressed by advertising campaigns and exhibitions catering to the in-crowd, launched figurative painters who communicated the so-called anguish of the modern world. As the radio silence and denigration had not been enough to demolish the best of the new Abstract painters, the major Paris galleries devised an ingenious new way to make them disappear. They started off by offering the artists exclusive contracts. These arrangements created an illusion. People told themselves that the New Painting had finally arrived. Then they noticed that the galleries in question continued exposing and selling their habitual artists. The best Abstract painters of the new generation, those whom one had previously been able to discover at the little galleries, became invisible. The gate-keepers had found a way to crush them, to confine them in the basements — in a certain fashion to buy their silence. For the full episode, subscribers click here.  Not already a subscriber? Please support our work today, performed under increased risks and with increased costs during the current crisis, by making a donation in dollars or Euros via PayPal in designating your payment to paulbenitzak@gmail.com , or write us at that address to learn how to donate by check.

Le Feuilleton (the Serial): (English translation followed by V.O. française) Exclusive! “Trompe-l’Oeil,” Michel Ragon’s saga of artists, dealers, critics, & anti-Semitism in Post-War Paris; Part 12: Bartering painting for meals on the place de la République (Subscriber-only content; to learn how to subscribe, e-mail paulbenitzak@gmail.com.)

 

trompevillonchair

From the Art Investment News and Arts Voyager archives: Jacques Villon (1875-1963), “Le Fauteuil (Ginestet & Pouillon 521).” Lithograph in colors, on arches. Signed and annotated artist’s proof in pencil, with the engraving guilde’s blindstamp, unframed. F. 56.5 x 38.4 cm. (22 1/4 x 15 in.); I. 49 x 30.3 cm (19 1/4 x 12 in.). ©Christie’s Images Ltd. 2012.

by and copyright Michel Ragon
Translation copyright Paul Ben-Itzak
From “Trompe-l’oeil,” published in 1956 by Éditions Albin Michel

Part 12 in the Paris Tribune / Arts Voyager exclusive English-language translation of Michel Ragon’s seminal 1956 novel taking on the world of Abstract art, artists, art collectors, art dealers, and art critics in Paris, as well as post-War anti-Semitism in France. For the first 11  parts, click here. For more on Michel Ragon, in French, click here

The thing about publishing a revue is that for every 10 people you make happy, you risk upsetting 100. The difficulty in making sure a revue survives comes precisely from the fact that those it touts forget to subscribe because they’re already comped copies, while those it ignores are either too irate to sign up or prefer to wait until you highlight them to get interested in the magazine. In any case, Fontenoy’s revue had made one person very happy: Corato.

The painter-tenor promenaded about with a dozen copies in his pockets, which he opened triumphantly to the page featuring his “atelier visit” whenever he ran into someone he knew. But his enthusiasm usually confronted an
approbation that was at best polite, at worse cantankerous. His fellow painters, whom Corato naively believed would be won over by this proof of his artistic existence, saw the article more as a species of provocation. They minimized the revue’s importance. Not figuring in the magazine’s pages themselves, they rapidly persuaded themselves that it didn’t exist and that Corato was just bluffing. To read the full episode — in English and in the V.O. franéaise — click here.

 

80 dad cover kandinsky der blaue reiter

If you thought Abstract art started with Vassily Kandinsky, whose work included this 1912 cover for his revolutionary art review “Der Blaue Reiter,” you’ve obviously never heard of Harrtmann… and need to see below. (Image from Arts  Voyager Archives.)

 

Le Feuilleton (the Serial),11: Exclusive! “Trompe-l’Oeil,” Michel Ragon’s saga of artists, dealers, critics, & anti-Semitism in Post-War Paris; Part 11: Secret Origins of Abstract Art (Subscriber-only content; to learn how to subscribe, e-mail paulbenitzak@gmail.com.)

 

by and copyright Michel Ragon
Translation copyright Paul Ben-Itzak
From “Trompe-l’oeil,” published in 1956 by Éditions Albin Michel

Part 11 in the Paris Tribune / Arts Voyager exclusive English-language translation of Michel Ragon’s seminal 1956 novel taking on the world of Abstract art, artists, art collectors, art dealers, and art critics in Paris, as well as post-War anti-Semitism in France. For the first 10  parts, click here. For more on Michel Ragon, in French, click here

That night at Le Sélect, Fontenoy and Blanche met up with Ancelin. They’d barely sat down when a hefty, obviously mature woman with an evident bone to pick planted herself in front of their table. Fontenoy immediately recognized her as the widow of Hartmann, who had been one of the founders of the Abstract art movement in around 1910.

“How could you dare publish an avant-garde revue, Monsieur Fontenoy, without even mentioning the name of the Great Master Hartmann?! Where are we heading to if the younger generation has no more memory?” For the full episode, subscribers click here. (Not a subscriber? To learn how to subscribe, e-mail paulbenitzak@gmail.com.)

Le Feuilleton (the Serial),10: Exclusive! “Trompe-l’oeil,” Michel Ragon’s saga of artists, dealers, critics, & anti-Semitism in Post-War Paris; Part 10: Conflicts

 

Vera Molnar, Montparnasse, d'après Klee, en bleu, vert et rouge 2006

To demonstrate how the Abstract Art of which Michel Ragon was one of the first champions is very much a living tradition, where possible the Dance Insider / Paris Tribune are including art from current or recent exhibitions with our exclusive, first-ever English-language serialization of Michel Ragon’s “Trompe-l’oeil.” Above, from last year’s exhibition at the Galerie Berthet- Aittouarès (in, bien sur, Saint-Germain-des-Prés): Vera Molnar, “Montparnasse d’après Klee en bleu vert et rouge,” 2006. © Galerie Berthet-Aittouarès.

 

by and copyright Michel Ragon
Translation copyright Paul Ben-Itzak
From “Trompe-l’oeil,” published in 1956 by Éditions Albin Michel

Part 10 in the Paris Tribune / Arts Voyager exclusive English-language translation of Michel Ragon’s seminal 1956 novel taking on the world of Abstract art, artists, art collectors, art dealers, and art critics in Paris, as well as post-War anti-Semitism in France. For the first nine  parts, click here. For more on Michel Ragon, in French, click here. To learn how to support our work, e-mail artsvoyager@gmail.com . To support us through PayPal, just designate your donation to paulbenitzak@gmail.com .

Fifteen days later, in the throes of correcting the proofs of the second issue, Fontenoy felt a sudden surge of discouragement. Blanche was working in her atelier at the Cité Falguière. He dropped his work and went to see his companion. For the full episode, click here.

Le Feuilleton (the Serial), 9: Exclusive! “Trompe-l’Oeil,” Michel Ragon’s saga of art, artists, dealers, anti-Semitism, and critics in Post-war Paris; Part 9: An Art and Literary Revue is launched

Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, La Garde des anges, 1950, huile sur toile, 60 x 92 cm, Photo © Jean-Louis Losi, Courtesy Jeanne Bucher Jaeger, Paris small

From the recent exhibition at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher Jaeger in Saint-Germaine des Près: Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, “La Garde des anges,” 1950. Oil on canvas, 60 x 92 cm, Photo © Jean-Louis Losi, Courtesy Jeanne Bucher Jaeger.

Part nine in the Paris Tribune / Arts Voyager exclusive English-language translation of Michel Ragon’s seminal 1956 novel taking on the world of abstract art, artists, art collectors, art dealers, and art critics in Paris, as well as post-War anti-Semitism in France. For the first eight parts, click here. For more on Michel Ragon, in French, click here. To learn how to support our work, e-mail artsvoyager@gmail.com . To support us through PayPal, just designate your donation to paulbenitzak@gmail.com .

Ancelin asked Monsieur Mumphy to help fund the literary and artistic revue to be directed by Fontenoy.

The industrialist attempted to demure, but Ancelin was tenacious. Finally, he secured a commitment to a monthly subsidy, with one stipulation: That Charles Mumphy be mentioned in every issue. Such pretentiousness initially seemed exorbitant and inacceptable to Ancelin:

“At least wait until your son is an actual painter. He’s only 18. What could we possibly write about him now?” For the full episode, click here.

Le Feuilleton (the Serial), 8: Exclusive! “Trompe-l’Oeil,” Michel Ragon’s saga of art, artists, dealers, anti-Semitism, and critics in Post-war Paris, Part 8

 

Part eight in the Paris Tribune’s exclusive English-language translation of Michel Ragon’s seminal 1956 novel taking on the world of abstract art, artists, art collectors, art dealers, and art critics in Paris, as well as post-War anti-Semitism in France. For the first seven parts, click here. For more on Michel Ragon, in French, click here. To learn how to support our work, e-mail artsvoyager@gmail.com .

Freshly returned from New York, Ancelin took tea at the Mumphys’ pad facing the Luxembourg Gardens. Monsieur Mumphy fawned over Ancelin, showering him with compliments as he did no other artist. These bouquets were destined first and foremost for the general’s son  before they arrived at the young painter with a bright future.

No matter; regardless of who he was dealing with, Ancelin always conducted himself with an easy-going manner. His familiarity with the art dealers, the collectors, and even the most reserved of critics had the initial effect of shocking them before convincing them despite themselves to look upon Ancelin as a friend. Thanks initially to the rank of his father, then to his own cheekiness, at just 30 years old Ancelin had built up an address book that many older artists never compiled on their talent alone. For the full episode, click here.

 

MICHEL RAGON EST MORT — VIVE MICHEL RAGON (WITH NEW EXTRACT FROM ‘TROMPE-L’OEIL’)

baudelaire courbet small

From the DI/AV archives: Gustave Courbet, “Portrait of Baudelaire,” 1847 (?). Oil, 53 x 0.61 cm, unsigned. Musée Fabre, Montpellier. In his championing of avant-garde artists, Michel Ragon upheld the grand tradition of Baudelaire and Zola, who championed Courbet, Delacroix, and the Impressionists.

Michel Ragon — critic, curator, ambassador of art, not only champion but exponent of abstract painting, archivist of anarchists, workers, and the proletariat, defender of a new style of architecture, novelist, teacher, Seine-side bookseller, manual laborer, and husband — died February 14 in Paris, at the age of 95. What Baudelaire and Champfleury did for Courbet (whose twin investment in advancing art, as the leader of the Realism school, and social struggles, as an official of the Paris Commune, made him the perfect subject for a Ragon biography), Michel Ragon did for a whole genre, the Abstract Art school that flourished in post-war Paris. Jean-Michel Atlan was his chou-chou and friend; the COBRA group owed him their first Paris exhibition; Ragon’s tribute to Wols assured his place in the pantheon of  20th-century painters. And his incognito infiltration of the Barnes Collection made sure that neither American authors nor the French artists they hoarded were left out. The largely forgotten vectors of European anarcho-syndicalism — Victor Serge, Paul Delesalle, Nestor Makhno, Alexandra Kollontai, Louis Lecoin, Rirette Maitrejean — their rescue from the dustbin of history into which its victors, a forgetful media, and a reductive academy had swept them. If Michel Ragon is dead after nearly a century, thanks to Michel Ragon the names, combats, struggles, and moral victories of these prime movers in two worlds, society and art — Ragon always had one foot firmly implanted in each — will live on for many more. We’ll try to make our modest contribution.

… Starting with the latest installment in our serialized translation of Ragon’s seminal semi-fictional treatment of the Abstract Art movement and market in Paris in the 1950s, as well as post-war anti-Semitism in France, “Trompe-l’oeil.” A melange — or update — of both Zola’s “L’oeuvre” and Balzac’s “Lost Illusions” in its defense of the artistic genus and the artist’s soul and lacerating portrayal of the media, “Trompe-l’oeil” is most of all the love story of a journalist and art. (Merci a L.D. pour son aide precious avec l’argot….)

Michel Ragon is survived by his wife Françoise — and a legion of art aficionados. Michel Ragon est mort. Vive Michel Ragon.  — Paul Ben-Itzak

Le Feuilleton (the Serial), 7: Exclusive! “Trompe-l’Oeil,” Michel Ragon’s saga of art, artists, dealers, anti-Semitism, and critics in Post-war Paris, Part 7

 

by and copyright Michel Ragon
Translation copyright Paul Ben-Itzak
From “Trompe-l’oeil,” published in 1956 by Éditions Albin Michel

Part seven in the Paris Tribune’s exclusive English-language translation of Michel Ragon’s seminal 1956 novel taking on the world of abstract art, artists, art collectors, art dealers, and art critics in Paris, as well as post-War anti-Semitism in France. For the first six parts, click here. For more on Michel Ragon, in French, click here.

Fontenoy asked his editor at L’Artiste if he could write a “studio visit” feature on Corato.

“Which one is that?” the editor groaned.

“An abstract painter who….”

“Obviously! But, my dear young man, who’s interested in your precious Abstracts — I mean besides you? Sometimes I think you just make them up. Listen to me, Fontenoy, you’d do much better to take on some serious subjects. Ever since you’ve taken up with abstract art, your pieces feel just like that. Abstract.” For the complete excerpt, click here.

Le Feuilleton (the Serial), 6: Exclusive! “Trompe-l’Oeil,” Michel Ragon’s saga of art, artists, dealers, anti-Semitism, and critics in Post-war Paris, Part 6

by and copyright Michel Ragon
Translation copyright Paul Ben-Itzak
From “Trompe-l’oeil,” published in 1956 by Éditions Albin Michel

Part six in the Paris Tribune’s exclusive English-language translation of Michel Ragon’s seminal 1956 novel taking on the world of abstract art, artists, art collectors, art dealers, and art critics in Paris, as well as post-War anti-Semitism in France. For the first five parts, click here. Translator Paul Ben-Itzak is looking to rent digs in Paris this Spring and for the Fall. Paul Ben-Itzak cherche un sous-loc à Paris pour le printemps. Got a tip? Tuyau? E-mail him at artsvoyager@gmail.com .

Summer had scattered the artists. The poorest remained in a Paris deserted and torrid. The better off found themselves on the Cote d’Azur, where they automatically took up the rhythm of their Parisian lives: gallery visits, squabbles between critics, internecine rivalries between dealers, interminable palaver in the cafés which supplanted le Select or le Dôme, the dazzling vista of the Mediterranean replacing the buzzing of the boulevard Montparnasse. For the full excerpt, click here.

LE FEUILLETON (THE SERIAL), 5: EXCLUSIVE! “TROMPE-L’OEIL,” MICHEL RAGON’S SAGA OF ART, ARTISTS, DEALERS, MARKETS, ANTI-SEMITISM, & CRITICS IN PARIS IN THE ’50S

Jean-Michel Atlan, Sans Titre, 1949, pastel sur papier, 65 x 50,5 cm, smallOften lost among the quarrel between the Abstracts and the Figuratives of the 1950s (and the critical partisans of their schools) was the achievement of work which — sometimes depending on the eye of the viewer — traversed both terrains. Thus it is no surprise that for an exhibition which by its name alone, Animal Totem, promises a degree of concreteness, the Galerie Jeanne Bucher Jaeger has rolled out some of the Abstract movement’s most accomplished exponents, including Paul Reybeyrolle , André Masson, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, and — in his Bucher Jaeger debut — Jean-Marie Atlan. To read more about Atlan from his leading critical advocate Michel Ragon, in exclusive English translation, click here. And about his epoch, see the latest episode of the Paris Tribune’s exclusive serialized English translation of Ragon’s 1956 novel “Trompe-l’oeil,” below. Animal Totem continues through March 14 at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher Jaeger’s Saint-Germain-des-Près space. Image courtesy Jeanne Bucher Jaeger, Paris. Translator Paul Ben-Itzak is looking to rent digs in Paris this Spring and for the Fall. Paul Ben-Itzak cherche un sous-loc à Paris pour le printemps. Got a tip? Tuyau? E-mail him at artsvoyager@gmail.com .

by and copyright Michel Ragon
Translation copyright Paul Ben-Itzak
From “Trompe-l’oeil,” published in 1956 by Éditions Albin Michel

Part five pf the Paris Tribune’s exclusive English-language translation of Michel Ragon’s seminal 1956 novel taking on the world of abstract art, artists, art collectors, art dealers, and art critics in Paris, as well as post-War anti-Semitism in France. 

The following Sunday, Fontenoy dropped in at Mustafa’s for an afternoon that began with stupor and concluded with a sickening feeling which owed less to the abundance of the patisseries than to the ambiance of this particular reception. For the full excerpt, click here.

EXCLUSIVE: ‘TROMPE-L’OEIL’: MICHEL RAGON’S SAGA OF ART, ARTISTS, DEALERS, MARKETS, & CRITICS IN PARIS IN THE ’50S, EPISODE 4

Feneon Matisse 22 smallHenri Matisse (1869-1954), “Interior with girl” (Reading), 1905-1906. Oil on canvas, 72.7 × 59.7 cm. New York, the Museum of Modern Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. David Rockefeller, 1991. Photo © Paige Knight. © Succession H. Matisse. Succession Matisse. On view at the Orsay Museum in Paris from October 16 through January 27 and the Museum of Modern Art in New York next Spring as part of the exhibition Félix Fénéon (1861-1944). Les temps nouveaux, de Seurat à Matisse.

by & copyright Michel Ragon, 1956, 2019
Translation copyright Paul Ben-Itzak

Fontenoy had gotten his start at L’Artiste with a reportage on Matisse. Not that he was particularly interested in this major painter, but his editor tended to ask him to write about the subjects he was the least interested in. He wasn’t trying to irritate or bully Fontenoy. The editor in chief’s dishing out of the weekly assignments to his writers was completely haphazard. What really interested Fontenoy, the new non-figurative painting, had very little chance of being mentioned in L’Artiste. Just the bare minimum coverage needed for the weekly to appear au courant without turning off the majority of its subscribers, only now discovering, with rapture, Impressionism. The editor in chief put up with the whims of his writers as long as they weren’t too glaring. Fontenoy was permitted, like his colleagues, to talk about his fads from time to time. His boss would have been surprised to learn that Fontenoy’s support for Manhès and Ancelin had not been bought and paid for by Laivit-Canne, their dealer. For the complete episode, click here.

LE FEUILLETON (THE SERIAL), 3: “TROMPE-L’ŒIL,” MICHEL RAGON’S GROUNDBREAKING 1956 SATIRE OF THE CONTEMPORARY ART MARKET (IN FRENCH AND ENGLISH), EPISODE 3

VIEIRA10Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, “Playing Cards,” 1937. Oil on canvas with pencil tracing, 73 x 92 cm. Courtesy Galerie Jeanne Bucher Jaeger, Paris. On view at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher Jaeger, Marais, in Paris through November 16; the Waddington Custot gallery in London, November 29 – February 29; and Di Donna Galleries, New York, March 26 – May 29, 2020. Vieira da Silva is one of the many real artists who appear in or are referenced in Michel Ragon’s “Trompe-l-oeil.”

By and copyright Michel Ragon
Translation copyright Paul Ben-Itzak

Manhès lived in an atelier behind the Montparnasse train station, on a narrow street as muddy in the winter as the Lithuanian ghetto back alley where he was raised. Between the train tracks and the bustling neighborhood around the avenue Maine subsisted a practically rural little island, where automobile and even foot traffic was rare. Little by little this island was being devoured by the expanding dependences of the train station. All that remained were a few hovels, several rows of dilapidated ateliers in which a handful of artists lived in constant fear of expropriation. For the complete episode, click here.

LE FEUILLETON (THE SERIAL), 2 : “TROMPE-L’ŒIL” — MICHEL RAGON’S GROUND-BREAKING 1956 SATIRE OF THE CONTEMPORARY ART MARKET (IN FRENCH AND ENGLISH), EPISODE 2

By and copyright Michel Ragon
Translation copyright Paul Ben-Itzak

(Original French version follows English translation.)

Charles was entering his 18th year. He’d only remotely followed the metamorphosis of his parents and was astonished. His father and mother’s sudden passion for Modern Art bewildered him. By nature a bit slow, a good boy with a below average intelligence, he had trouble keeping up with the evolution of his family. When his father praised Klee to the detriment of Kandinsky, he might as well have still been comparing Mumphy underwear to Rasural underwear.

Charles was not subject to this fever which had consumed his loved ones since the adventure of the Paul Klee paintings had begun: it should be pointed out that speculation wasn’t the only engine driving Monsieur Mumfy’s new attitude. If Monsieur Mumfy had become obsessed with abstract painting, it wasn’t just because he was counting on it — following the example of the Klees — to centuple in value, but also because he liked it. In her role as a good spouse, Madame Mumfy accompanied him in this conversion. She who previously had never set foot in a museum these days wouldn’t miss a single vernissage or cocktail if it had anything to do with abstract art. She even tried her hand at a variety of smaller works about which she didn’t make a big deal, even though some galleries wanted to expose them.

When it was decided that Charles would become a painter, Monsieur and Madame Mumfy threw a cocktail party to which they invited all the critics, dealers, and collectors. For the complete episode, click here

“TROMPE-L’ŒIL,” BY MICHEL RAGON (EXTRACT; TRANSLATION FOLLOWED BY ORIGINAL VERSION), EPISODE 1

By and copyright Michel Ragon
Translation copyright Paul Ben-Itzak

In the très chic Parisian salon of Monsieur Mumfy — the very same Mumfy of the famous underwear ads — “with Mumfy, you’re always comfy” — a Family Conference was underway. The plethora of Plexiglas and the multitude of apertures in the porous Oscar furniture eliminated any idea of intimacy in the vast square room, whose walls were ornamented with a sizable collection of Klees. The quality of these paintings had earned their proprietor the high regard and hosannas, frequently expressed, of the leading art critics of Paris as well as art aficionados. For the complete episode, click here.