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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Parisian life

Sunday, April 9th., Rue de Calais, Paris.

Cornillier called yesterday morning, and I was telling him about a good early picture by Tissot that Ullman had bought for 200 francs.

Pierre-Émile Cornillier (1862-1933) was a French painter and writer . He married Anna Lyon, a U.S. citizen March 20, 1901 in Paris. His workshop was at 21 Rue Guénégaud in the sixth arrondissement. He exhibited for the first time at the show in 1885 and was included in exhibitions of the National Society of Fine Arts until the beginning of the First World War .

He said that a long time ago Tissot had a mistress, with whom he had continued relations for a considerable period. He decided to break the liaison, and he wrote one letter to his mistress, giving her the gentlest possible hint that the affair must ultimately come to an end, and another letter to an intimate friend, a man, saying brutally that he was sick of the thing and wanted to marry. he mixed the letters up, and the mistress received the wrong one. She committed suicide. Tissot was deeply affected, regarded himself as her murderer, and became devot. This was really the origin of his journeys to Palestine, and the ruin of his art.

Jacques-Joseph Tissot was born in 1836, in Nantes in a seaport on the French coast. In 1856 Tissot went to Paris to train as a painter. Here, at the Ecole des Beaux Arts the young Tissot met the young James McNiell Whistler (1834-1903), one of the most celebrated and unusual figures in 19th century art. At about this time Tissot also met, and became a friend of Degas (1834-1917) the Impressionist painter. In 1873, the painter bought the house in St John's Wood where he was to live for the rest of his time in London. In the mid 1870s Tissot met Kathleen Newton (1854-1882), an Irish divorcee with a distinctly colourful past who became his model, muse, mistress, and the great love of his life. In 1882, the desperately ill Kathleen cheated consumption by committing suicide, and Tissot was devastated by his loss, and never really recovered from it.

In the evening I went with Ullman to Antoine, and saw "Les Avaries", which is an extremely good sermon, and an extremely bad play; and "La Parisienne". I was more enthusiastic than ever about the latter. I can recall no portrait of a woman which is at once so true and so brilliant. But what a storm it would raise in England! Henri Becque, one of the greatest dramatists of the nineteenth century, and certainly the greatest realistic French dramatist, died at the close of the century in all the odour of obliquity. His work is now the chief literary topic in Paris; it has indeed rivalled the Portuguese revolution and the French railway strike as a subject of conversation among people who talk like sheep run. This dizzy popularity has been due to an accident, but it is, nevertheless, a triumph for Becque, who until recently had won the esteem only of the handful of people who think for themselves. The most fantastic and the most exotic foreign plays have been performed in England, but I doubt if the London curtain has ever yet risen on a play of Becque's. Once in Soho, a historic and highly ceremonious repast took place. I entertained a personage to afternoon tea in a restaurant where afternoon tea had never been served before. This personage was the President of the Incorporated Stage Society. He asked me if I knew anything about a French play called "La Parisienne." I replied that I had seen it oftener than any other modern play, and that it was the greatest modern play of my acquaintance. He then inquired whether I would translate it for the Stage Society. I said I should be delighted to translate it for the Stage Society. He expressed joy and said the Committee would sit on the project. I never heard any more.
See also, Being 'in it' or 'out of it', December 2nd. <http://earnoldbennett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/being-in-it-or-out-of-it.html>

"La Parisienne," which had its first performance in 1885, was for other reasons a bitter pill to the public. Nobody questioned its wit. It was admitted that the diabolically clever dialogue of the first scene, leading up to the thunderbolt discovery of the audience thatLafont is not Clotilde's husband, but her lover, was alone worth the price of admission. But the critics, most of them, thought that Becque had slandered the Parisian woman. Someone said that the title of the play should be changed from "La Parisienne" to "Une Parisienne"; but what the temper of the time could not forgive was the ruthlessness with which Henry Becque tore the veil of romance from illicit love--from adultery, if you please--and put it on the prosaic basis of every-day marriage. That was too much. However, as Mr. James Huneker remarks in his delightful essay on Becque, the conventional naughty triangle of the French theatre, after the presentation of "La Parisienne," was done forever.

I met the Ullmans last year and have become very friendly with them. I meet a lot of Americans at their home, including women who are pretty with an American prettiness; but none of them could be called really intelligent except Mrs. Ullman, formerly Alice Woods an author of some popularity in America. Occasionally I visit Ullman's studio (he has Sunday morning receptions) and there have found some magnificent pictures, and much praise of my books.

Ullman by William Merritt Chase
Eugene Paul Ullman, American painter, born in New York on March 27, 1877; died in Paris, France, on April 26, 1953. His portrait of the Arnold Bennetts at home, with the famous writer in the background playing the piano while his wife reads a book in the foreground, was reproduced in the fourth volume of the novelist’s letters. Bennett mentions in his Journals the news of Eugene’s marriage to Alice Woods, daughter of Judge William Allen Woods of the Seventh District Court, novelist, short-story writer, and a student of Chase’s. It was through her literary connections that he got to know the Bennetts and Margaret Cravens, who in 1911 commissioned him to do Ezra Pound’s portrait.

I enjoyed myself at the theatre and as I walked home, I thought how fine Paris was, and that in old age, or even earlier, if I quitted it, I should look back on these days and perceive that I had been happy.

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