The Sky Over The Louvre (Louvre Collection)

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Press:NBM NBM Publishing, Inc. (April 1, 2011)
Publication Date:2011-4-28
ISBN:9781561636020
Author Name:Jean-Claude Carriere,Bernard Yslaire
Pages:66
Language:English

Content

In the next volume in co-edition with the Louvre museum we go back to the very origins of the Louvre as a museum: the tumultuous years of the French revolution. 
It’s the story of a painting of the Supreme Being, ordered by Robespierre from the famous painter David.
A painting which was never made.
It’s also the story of another painting, that of the young Bara, a 13 year old martyr of the Republic.
From the inauguration of the Louvre, former royal palace, as the museum for the people, to the death of Robespierre, this is also the portrayal of the face to face of two major actors of a revolution in a great hurry.
Robespierre appears equally enlightened and lost while David accomplishes his destiny: a painter torn between political engagement and artistic ambition.
Yslaire, one the great stars of French comics, delivers a stunning masterwork in an epic and disturbing graphic novel seeped in a dramatic and fascinating period of history.

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  •     It is the Eighth of Thermidor Year I and the French Revolution finds itself in a quandary. The old order -- the monarchy, the aristocracy, the Church and pagan culture have been -- persecuted and destroyed: leaving a wound in nation and psyche of the French people. It is up to Robespierre and the artist David to fill the void that the revolutionaries have created. They must turn the wound in France into a womb for a new kind of artistic and spiritual life. Robespierre wants to use this to canonize the "Martyrs of the Revolution": Marat and the young soldier Bara. He also wants to create a rational-spiritual conception of an ideal called the Supreme Being. The Revolutionary leader tasks David with the creation of painting the Being and Bara: as well as creating a festival to celebrate "a religion of reason and human secularism."It is an experiment on a grand and national scale: an attempt to create a whole new human society using France as a canvass and a bloody workshop. It is a challenge for the Revolutionaries to "make something better" from the remnants of what they have supposedly destroyed and replaced.The Louvre itself is an example of this ideal: an old palace made into a museum that is not only to all French Citizens but it is also a place of creation for many of the Revolution's artists and is, in the end, the artificial workshop wound-womb where this ultimate creation will commence. Yet as the narrative continues -- an elegant pastiche of the comics form and an illustrated novel -- it becomes clear that the only thing that will be born from the blood-soaked soil from The Terror, the only divinity that gains from the sacrifice of many Citizens, is Madame Guillotine and Death.The Sky Over the Louvre is an excellent book that speaks on more than one level. It is a story about an ideal that is warped and twisted by the actions of its adherents to the point of a Frankensteinian parody of life. The drawing style makes the Citizens portrayed -- mostly men -- look somehow both sensual and grim. David himself is inspired by paintings of idealized male beauty from the Renaissance and it is supposed to be the dominant art-form of the Revolution proper at this time. The characters themselves and the panels look like paintings in themselves and are somehow very effeminate in their beauty: almost disturbingly so given what happens within the narrative.The Louvre itself as an institution co-published this work: which is very fascinating. Also, this may well be the third in a series in which the first is supposedly The Sky Over Brussels: and although I'm not sure if there is an English translation of this yet, the very symmetrical, silvery and strange Athenian- featured boy Jules Stern also makes an appearance in it. The words in this book flow very well and compliment their associated images. Ultimately, The Sky Over the Louvre is a story of not only the Louvre itself, but also of The Terror, aborted attempts to create secular human gods amid shattered and forgotten pieces of art, and a search for the Supreme Being that takes an artist to both grotesque and surprising places.
  •     If you get to page 830 of Simon Schama's "Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution," you know that Robespierre decided that the Revolution required an image to replace the discarded idea of God, so he asked Jacques-Louis David to produce a painting of the new "Supreme Being."This story would make a lively chapter in the endless battle between art as personal expression and art as propaganda, but Schama doesn't tell how it played out. David was obsessed with the features of Joseph Bara, a 13-year-old "martyr" of the Revolution. This was, he knew, not what Robespierre wanted, so he dawdled. Robespierre grew impatient --- he began dropping hints that the ideal visage for such a figure was his own. Fortunately for David, the political compass twirled and Robespierre discovered firsthand the unpleasantness of the guillotine blade.There's more --- a splendidly ironic punch line.But if you want the full account, you need to read a comic book.Excuse me: a graphic novel.Another surprise: This one has A-list credentials.The sponsor is the Louvre. The artist is the esteemed French cartoonist Bernar Yslaire. The writer is Jean-Claude Carrière, the favorite collaborator of Luis Buñuel; he wrote the screenplays for "Belle de Jour," "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" and "That Obscure Object of Desire," among others.But still...a graphic novel?If you're Old School like me, you haven't jumped into this craze. At best, you think it's a good idea for wired kids who grew up on comics and don't have the attention span for real books. But for adults, a reasonable response to graphic novels would be: well....why?"The Sky Over The Louvre" provokes a different response. Interest, for one. Understanding --- even mastery --- of a fascinating historical/art episode, for another. A powerful and enjoyable esthetic experience, for a third. And then, just to be shallow, there's the cool factor --- on a coffee table, this book makes you look good.In a mere 66 pages, Yslaire and Carrière pack in a book's worth of information. They start with David painting the portrait of Marat, murdered by Charlotte Corday. Marat is, David says, "like Jesus on the cross." But that comparison no longer works - the Revolution has done away with religion. "There's no longer any angel in Heaven," David tells Robespierre. "The new Heaven is empty."Heaven, like Nature, abhors a vacuum. To Paris now comes a young Slavic boy. He has long, straight blonde hair --- he looks like an androgynous blend of David Bowie and Iggy Pop. He meets Jacques-Louis David, who is taken by his looks. And this is not a small thing. David not only lives and works in the Louvre, he is a member of the Public Safety Committee --- he has the power to send people to their deaths. For an artist, David is a deft politician; though he has received commissions from the discarded, despised nobility, his neck seems safe. And so he begins to paint this boy.The plot is a thriller --- what kind of portrait will David make, and will it be "correct" enough to please Robespierre? But along the way, the thrills are intellectual. What can be celebrated when traditional forms no longer apply? Does the invisible need "to be made flesh?" Witch hunts and executions --- at what point does the killing become addictive? And what is it about extremism that attracts the irrational and the violent?David acknowledges he can never paint a Supreme Being. He doesn't respond to Robespierre when his friend's life is in danger ("I have a terrible cold, can't you see?"). And after he survives the bloodletting, he ---- oops, there's that great twist in the ending.Was I self-conscious reading this book? Not once.Did I get a better sense of David and Robespierre? Yes, and quickly.Was I grateful for the art history lesson? Yes, and also for the way the paintings in this book are accurately copied and for two pages of artistic references.And, almost accidentally, I came away with the same conclusion that Schama reached --- history may jumpstart because of high food prices or some other economic event, but human personality is the biggest factor in the making of leaders. Quite a heady idea, considering the form in which these ideas are presented.More smart, beautiful hardcover comic books for grownups, please.
  •     This graphic novel is like a piece of fine art. The story by Jean-Claude Carrière was moving and the art by Bernar Yslaire fit perfectly.
  •     This a wonderful series...the stories are all taken place in the Louvre. They all have great storylines and have a strange story that I loved. Of course I love the art in each book also. You can find all the books in the series on amazon.com. This one I got in just a few days and in mint condition would use the vendor again.It is a great series and very affordable from this vendor and of course amazon.com.
  •     I read this book several days ago and am still haunted by it. It is beautiful and devastating. The emotional impact of the final events is unspeakable.Though set during the French Revolution, episodes in The Sky over the Louvre strike chords augmented by events of our own time. The use made of Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman are contemporary echoes of the use made of the murdered boy, Bara, by the French revolutionaries, to point out just one resonance between this book and the current wars, uprisings and revolutions. What must be sacrificed for an ideal? What are the consequences of exerting control through terror? Without truth, what IS beauty? If these questions and others of similar depth are of concern to you, read this book.I have to mention that I am very disappointed at the scarcity of Yslaire's work available in English translation. As far as I can tell, this book is it. However, a brief internet search hints at a linked masterwork, beginning with Sambre and continuing through and beyond Le ciel au-dessus de Bruxelles (in which a Khazar youth called Jules Engell Stern appears) to The Sky over the Louvre (which features the Khazar Jules Stern). I will have to try to read more in the original French. I think any English-only readers must be missing out on an astonishing body of work.
 

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