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Topolski's Paris

Topolski sketched numerous pen and ink studies of Parisian street life and cafe society during the late 1930s, producing over 200 drawings by the end of 1938. Something approaching one half of these trenchantly-drawn "snapshots" of Parisian life were destined for publication in 1939 as Paris Scenes and Secrets, but were stranded in Topolski's native Warsaw at the outbreak of war. The story of how they were seized by the Germans and disappeared in the turmoil of war and its aftermath, only to be restored unexpectedly to the artist in the 1960s, is recounted in the introduction by Jonathan Stone to Paris Lost, the illustrated volume in which selected works from the series were eventually published in 1973.  In his autobiography, Fourteen Letters, Topolski lists some of the venues where before the war he had observed and recorded Parisian society, both high and low: the Rue St-Denis, Le Concert Mayol, Le Bal Tabarin, Le Casino de Paris, Les Halles, la Place de la Bastille, Le Café du Dôme, La Coupole, the Hôtel George V, Le Café de la Paix, Chez Nina, Le Lapin Agile... 

SOURCES AND FURTHER READING

  • Feliks Topolski, Fourteen Letters. London, Faber & Faber, 1988.

  • Feliks Topolski, Paris Lost: A Sketchbook of the Thirties, with an introduction by Jonathan Stone. London: Hutchinson, 1973.

 

Feliks Topolski (1907-1989)
Feliks Topolski (1907-1989)

"Chez le Père Gerôme aux Halles"

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Pen, brush and ink, heightened with gouache, on paper laid on card, 13 x 17.5 cm, signed in pencil with initials and inscribed with title. Exhibited: Rutland Gallery, "Paris Lost", Nov-Dec 1973, catalogue No 154 (gallery label transferred from previous backboard). Price: £750

Topolski has deftly sketched the local characters inside a cafe or bistro in the Les Halles central marketplace district of the French capital. The stout, aproned figure in the centre of the composition - a market trader, or perhaps even the owner of the establishment (the Père Gerôme of the title) - has planted himself proprietorially near the bar where he chats to a customer while staring fixedly in the direction of the artist who is observing him. 

 

Feliks Topolski

 Feliks Topolski (1907-1989)
Feliks Topolski (1907-1989)

​"Les anglais dans une 'boîte'"

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Pen, brush and ink on paper laid on card, 13 x 17.5 cm, signed in pencil with initials and inscribed with title. Exhibited: possibly Rutland Gallery, "Paris Lost", Nov-Dec 1973, catalogue No 132 (number inscribed in pencil on backing mount). Price: £725

 

 

 

​In a Parisian night club, the anglais of the title sit a little aloofly at their table, staring fastidiously at a press of couples on the dance floor. 

 

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Feliks Topolski (1907-1989)
Feliks Topolski (1907-1989)

"Dans une boîte de nuit"​

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​Pen, brush and ink on paper laid on card, 13 x 14.7 cm, signed in pencil with initials and inscribed with title. Published: Paris Lost: A Sketchbook of the Thirties. London: Hutchinson, 1973, plate 31. Exhibited: possibly Rutland Gallery, "Paris Lost", Nov-Dec 1973, catalogue No 186 (number inscribed in pencil on backing mount). Price: £680

 

 



​A finger puppeteer performs for the amusement of an unseen audience in a Parisian nightspot, the formality of his appearance and the lugubriousness of his demeanour providing an ironic foil for his apparently louche routines.