Friday, 25 October 2013

Milking the days

Henri Gabriël Ibels

French painter, illustrator, 
poster and printmaker.

(left: portrait by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec)

was one of the first French artists to embrace and integrate the Japanese art and style of printmaking with his friend Count Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). In the last decade of the 19th century. Ibels attended the Académie Julian in Paris meeting Pierre Bonnard en Eduard Vuillard and founding the group called les Nabis (the profets). Googling these artists and "Nabis" will definitely enlighten your day. Much has been published and written.

I stumbled over Ibels' lithographic drawing of a kissing peasant couple some  time ago and was immediately taken in by its great charm. And by it's warmth, simplicity, originality and its roots deep into Flemish history and tradition. All the way back to the 16th century Flemish Brueghel family (Pieter de Younger and his father Pieter the Elder)  
Looking at Ibels' designs the simple outlines of his figures making him a very recognizable artist. Hanging out in the many theaters, circus and bars of Paris with his close friend drawing many of the same scenes Toulouse Lautrec gained his to this day worldwide success and fame with. The inspiration for the kissing peasant couple probably came from this theatrical Pierrot scene Ibels used as an exclusive book illustration in 1895.

      In this journal cover the dramatic silence and compassion is tangible,  soldiers lead by an officer passing by on their way to certain death. "l'Escarmouche" or a small group of soldiers was send to the front to test enemy vigilance, common practice and tactics euphemistically called "a skirmish". Few ever returned. 

Some examples of Ibels' many brilliant designs and compositions but unlike Toulouse-Lautrec he never achieved the glorious status of his friend. 
 Left Ibels, right Toulouse-Lautrec

Very Flemish writer Felix Timmermans (1886-1947) wrote the very Flemish novel about Pallieter (publ. 1916), the life long role model of my late father in law. The immortal simpleton who falls in love with the daughter of his housekeeper, marries her and is rewarded triplet girls (the author fathered three girls). It is a glorious  account of one year in the Flemish countryside, enjoying, embracing, dancing and soaking up all simple and free earthly pleasures, the seasons, the warmth and the cold, the clouds and the landscape, the birds, sounds, smells, tastes ......... Reading this wonderful classic novel, will change you for ever, I promise. It's a tribute, a celebration and a hymn to nature and our short stay on planet Earth.

Timmermans created the word for it only known in Flemish and to those who've read the book: Dagmelker. Pallieter, the day milker. Enjoying the simple pleasures from every day life, the way you extract milk from a cow. It takes some time, some effort and willpower and some skill but being aware they are there ready to enjoy for we who knows how to milk the day is the message. Pallieter was cast in bronze in 1986 by Jan Alphons Keustermans (1940-) and he stands in Lierse, Timmerman's and Pallieters' hometown. 

And from the back of my mind these sculptures by Israeli artist Rony Ben-Nachum surfaced. I wonder if he knew the posters of Ibels or maybe read Timmermans' novel. 
I have no idea about the lifes of Pallieter and the love of his life Marieken or the triplets after that year in the country but Im confident they all lived happy and simple lives. I can't help thinking I've even seen a picture of Marieken later in life. Living in dairy country I enjoy collecting vintage images (photographs, paintings) of hand milking girls and farmers.

Marieken ?

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