Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Thirty Six Views of the Eiffel Tower


I was on the lower level of the Queensland Art Gallery last week when I was surprised to see a display case containing some books. Inside was a new acquisition for the QAG, a copy of the original 1902 edition of Henri Riviere's book of lithographs called Les Trente-Six Vues de la Tour Eiffel. Nine of the lithographs were also framed and displayed on an adjoining wall.

I was quite excited to see this as I have a copy of the book reprinted by Chronicle books and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 2010 which I bought from the bookshop in the Louvre when I was staying with a Parisian friend in 2011. I was enchanted by these thirty six lithographs of Paris from the 1880's and 1890's.  

While visiting this friend in 2010 I had purchased a little flip book of illustrations of the Eiffel Tower being constructed.  My friend was surprised that I would want this little book as for her the Eiffel Tower is an abomination and she expressed disgust that this monstrosity had become the symbol and most famous monument of her city, and was known all over the world.

It was always a contentious structure with Parisians from the time building commenced in 1887 and I was intrigued to find that this attitude remained over 100 years later.

I left Paris and even France because the Eiffel Tower just annoyed me too much. 
Not only did you see it from everywhere, you found it everywhere made out of every known material, displayed in all the shop windows, an unavoidable and horrible nightmare.
Guy de Maupassant, La Vie Errante, 1890

Riviere's thirty six views of the Eiffel Tower were inspired by the Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji, thirty six woodcuts by Hokusai, made from 1831-1834.  As I was in Paris for a month I felt inspired to investigate all of Riviere's locations to discover how many still existed and still offered a view of the Eiffel Tower.  I wanted to see how much it dominated the skyline in 2011, if at all, and I hoped to have enough material to make a book of my own photographs - hopefully thirty six.  Many of the locations had disappeared or been renamed and many others no longer offered even a glimpse of the tower.  Along with the views of Riviere's that I was able to reproduce, I discovered many alternative views of my own and was able to make a 2011 version of Thirty Six Views.

The Thirty Six Views by Helen Malone

             Here are a couple of the views I was able to match. 
 In Riviere's lithographs the tower is not always easy to spot and my images are similar.

Riviere's first image

My first image taken at Place Charles de Gaulle-Etoile

                                                  Riviere's view from Quai de Passy

                                               My view from Quai de Passy 2011

                                                   Riviere's view Over the Rooftops

                                      My view over the Rooftops from Montmartre 2011

Riviere's image of the Quai du Javel

My view of Quai du Javel 2011

     A couple of the alternative images of the Eiffel Tower I discovered

From the Australian Embassy, Rue Jean Rey

Inside the Eiffel Tower

A bunch of Eiffel Towers held by a souvenir seller
in Avenue Gustave Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower glimpsed through the Arc de Triomphe

I wish I could always find such an absorbing and interesting project to work on while on holidays.


dinahmow said...

Well, you hit a rich vein with this one!
Was it de Maupassant who used to dine in the restaurant at the base of the Tower "because it's the one place in Paris where I don't have to look at the wretched thing!"?

Amanda said...

Oh-ho! What a fun project to undertake while in Paris! Naturally, I'm totally hooked by your "conversation" with Riviere. Looking forward to seeing it in the flesh.

Helen M said...

Yes Di, you're right about de Maupassant - he must have really hated la Tour.

Helen M said...

It's a wonder I haven't told you about this project Amanda, but I'd love to show you the two books when I next see you.

Jack Oudyn said...

Another lovely chance encounter atQAG. I too look forward to catching up with this one when we meet next time.

Helen M said...

Definitely another chance happening at QAG Jack.