From the Black is beautiful. Rubens to Dumas catalogue 2008: ‘Le Bal Nègre’ in Paris

Because I receive more and more requests from abroad for the exhibition catalog Black is beautiful, Rubens to Dumas from 2008, I will publish again some of my pieces in this book. The book has become unaffordable on Amazon.

First: my writings that are related to the Modele Noir exhibition in Paris this year. This because a week ago I had a very nice conversation with Denise Murrell, curator of the exhibition, about the subject. If someone still has a spare copy of the BB catalogue in English: she is also looking for it (as I am for her Posing Modernity)

Nacht van de geschiedenis Rijksmuseum 2019 Denise Murrell
Nacht van de geschiedenis Rijksmuseum 2019: Denise Murrell

Paris Interbellum (1918-1939)

John Raedecker Bal Negre coll Centraal Museum Utrecht

John Raedecker 1885 –1956 Bal Nègre c. 1929 –1930 Pencil, watercolour and crayon, Centraal Museum Collection, Utrecht on loan from Stichting van Baaren Museum

On this drawing the words ‘Bal Negre’ can just be descried in mirror writing behind the two artistes. The entertainers, probably musicians, are depicted in a hard and almost caricatural fashion in sober colours. The picture is much severer and more dynamic in mood than other drawings by this artist which are considerably more dreamlike. The painting, for which this drawing is probably a preparatory study, turned out quite differently: the people are less caricatural in appearance, the words ‘Bal Negre’ have disappeared and the man and woman appear to be a couple rather than artistes.

Raedecker probably produced this drawing during or after a visit to the Bal Negre at 33 rue Blomet in Paris, not far from where he was living at the time.

John Raedecker Bal Negre detail

The ‘Bal’ had been opened in 1924 by Jean Rezard des Wouves of Martinique, for his compatriots in the French capital. Every Sunday the Antilleans, and anyone else, of course, could dance there. It quickly became a rendezvous for a wide variety of coloured Parisians, including many Africans and African Americans.

The ‘Bal’ was also discovered by the surrealists, becoming the favourite haunt of Parisian avant-garde artists and writers such as Pablo Picasso, Robert Desnos, Andre Masson , Alexander Calder, Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky), Moise Kisling and Joan Miro. Miro, Desnos and Masson had their studio in the same street as the ‘Bal’. Dutch artists like Piet Mondriaan and Charley Toorop also discovered the bar. It is said that Mondriaan went there almost every day, as he liked ‘negro music’ and ‘negro dancing’ so much. Around 1930 the composer and musician Ernest Leardee 1896 –1988 of Martinique introduced Biguine Jazz and Caribbean jazz here.

Although John Raedecker is chiefly known as a sculptor, he was also a fine draughtsman. Like Picasso and others he looked to the ‘primitives’ for his sculpture. Early in his career he began to collect African and Melanesian art, which he had first encountered in Paris during his time there in 1911 –1914. He admired these works not only for their beauty but also for the way in which their creators handled difficult material.

ES See for footnotes cat Black is beautiful, Rubens tot Dumas (2008)

‘Bal Negre’ on Wiki

See also > Bal Negre Jan Wiegers <

About me:

In 2008 I was guest curator of the exhibition Black is beautiful. Rubens to Dumas. Important advisors Elizabeth McGrath (Rubens and colleagues, Warburg institute Image of the Black in Western Art collection), Carl Haarnack (slavery in books), Elmer Kolfin (slavery in prints and paintings) en Adi Martis (contemporary art). Gary Schwartz made his research for The Image of the Black in Western Art available to me.

Black beautiful Rubens to Dumas cover
Black beautiful Rubens to Dumas cover

In 2014 my essay ‘Painted Blacks and Radical Imagery in the Netherlands (1900-1940)’ was published in The Image of the Black in Western Art Volume V (I). (ed. David Bindman, Henry Louis Gates jr.)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-image-of-the-black-in-western-art.jpg

In 2017 I published a book about the black servants at the Court of the Royal Van Oranje family. More than a thousand documents have been found about their lives. (only in Dutch)

Cupido en Sideron Cover 30-8-2017

All photos on this site are not intended for any commercial purpose. I have tried to trace all the rules and rights of all images. As far as I know, these images can be used in this way. If you ar a copyright holder and would like a piece of your work removed or the creditline changed then please do not hesitate to contact me.

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