I do a lot of research in the microfilm room of the Bibliothèque Nationale. Reel after reel of newspaper pages sometimes have surprises that amuse or shock me, and make the time fly by. Sometimes I find sensational fin-de-siècle headlines about “vampires” (people with rabies), sad souls jumping from the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral, or the latest duel (a common way to resolve differences). But searching through Ici Paris, a later newspaper from the 1940s and 1950s, I found the sweetest drawings by a cartoonist named Raymond Peynet.
You may recognize his illustrations, which sometimes appears on post cards in Parisian paper shops. The theme is usually “les amoureux” with two lovers appearing in a variety of locations in a light-hearted scenarios, sometimes even akin to the floating style akin to Chagall.
Peynet (1908-1999) was born in Paris and became one of the most popular illustrators in France. He began his series of “Les amoureux” (the poet and his companion) in 1942, and later went on to draw over 6000 charming images in the series. The French singer/songwriter Georges Brassens even wrote a song inspired by the drawings, called “Les amoureux des banc publics” (“The Lovers of Public Benches”). There are two museums in France dedicated to the illustrator’s work. One in Brassac-les-Mines, and another in Antibes. The Picasso museum in Antibes (which I last visited in 2000) is closed for renovations until 2008, but the Peynet gives me a new reason to visit that Mediterranean town.
Below are some Peynet illustrations I found online, although I hope to photocopy and scan many of the ones I have found at the library. Note that, in the drawing of the gazebo, the woman is knitting! How can I not be one of the many “amoureux” of Peynet?