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Collection of the week: French Magazines

Amongst the enticing rows of bound volumes of various age, shape and size populating the lower archive floor of the Mary Evans Picture Library, one of the largest single sources of illustrative content is our bound French magazine collection. Long runs of quality illustrated weekly news publications sit alongside shorter more specific publications and journals covering a wide variety of subjects from fashion and the theatre to visual arts, humour, world topography and satire. A large proportion of this collection was hand-picked and purchased by Hilary and Mary during time spent in France, with sought-after missing volumes discovered in the green metal boxes of the Paris quais, while others were rescued from dusty bookshelves and flea markets in provincial towns.

Three examples from over sixty individual titles within this collection are Le Petit Journal, La Baïonnette and La Vie Parisienne.

First published in 1863, Le Petit Journal was initially a conservative daily Parisian newspaper founded by Moïse Polydore Millaud. In 1884, new owners introduced the Supplément illustré, a weekly Sunday supplement that was the first to feature full-page and full-colour illustrations. The supplement became so popular that by 1895, one million copies were being produced every week. By the mid-1910s, a less popular political editorial stance and increasing competition (from rivals such as Le Petit Parisien) saw readership fall, and the final issue was published in August 1944.

La Baïonnette (The Bayonet) was a satirical magazine on the First World War. The magazine is fiercely patriotic, but mainly seen from the point of view of the common foot-soldier, housewife, or French worker. In spite of the impressive number of artists who worked for La Baïonnette, it was never elitist or meant for high society; the contributing artists originated from the so-called Montmartre group with Willette, Poulbot, Steinlen, and AbelFaivre, supplemented by already-renowned illustrators in Paris such as Fabiano and Chéri Herouard.

La Vie Parisienne was a French weekly magazine founded in 1863, and published without interruption until 1970. In 1905, new editor Charles Saglio changed the magazine format to better suit a more modern readership and the title soon evolved into a mildly-risqué erotic publication. During World War I, American General Pershing personally warned servicemen against purchasing the magazine, which (somewhat inevitably!) greatly boosted its popularity in the United States. The success of La Vie Parisienne was down to its frivolous mix of short stories, gossip and fashion, accompanied by beautiful cartoons and full-page colour pictures by leading French artists and illustrators of the period including George Barbier, Gerda Wegener, Georges Léonnec and Maurice Milliere.

For a gallop through our Gallic holdings, click here to see a selection from these three titles as well as other French magazines forming part of the collection.

We hope you're continuing to enjoy our regular Collection of the Week emails. Do drop us a line if you need help with anything picture-related by emailing pictures@maryevans.com or calling 020 8318 0034.

Mary Evans Picture Library Ltd.  59 Tranquil Vale  Blackheath  London  SE3 0BS. United Kingdom.
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