2008.487.177 Jules Grandjouan
Bubu de Montparnasse, 1901, color lithograph (collotype)
Author: Ethan Wahla
A broad expanse of a bustling street in the Parisian neighborhood of Montparnasse occupies the majority of Jules Grandjouan’s cover art for Charles-Louis Philippe’s novel, interrupted only by a figure, the titular character Bubu, jutting out of the foreground. The movement of figures occupying the background creates a sense of action and liveliness, providing audiences with a view into the street-level nightlife of this busy neighborhood at the turn of the twentieth century.
While the bulk of this image depicts a street filled with festive carousers, Grandjouan clearly intended for the man in the front to garner a majority of the attention. A former baker, Bubu forces his girlfriend into a life of prostitution, then lives off of her earnings. The couple struggles, however, with the pressures of earning a living wage and fears of disease and violence. Bubu stands with a confidence unmatched anywhere else in the piece. Dressed in black from head to toe, donning a bowler cap and a thin moustache, the man commands our presence with authority. He appears comfortable with his hands resting in his pockets and a slight lean to one side. By foregrounding this man, Grandjouan implies that he has control over the scene depicted behind him. Bubu’s prominence on this cover relates to his main role in Philippe’s novel.
This print is unlike much of Grandjouan’s other works. Jules Grandjouan regularly addressed subjects such as anti-militarism, anti-patriotism, and anti-clericalism, but did on occasion illustrate novels and short stories. Bubu de Montparnasse adheres to this latter genre. Here, the artist adhered closely to the novel’s narrative in creating a compelling book jacket designed to capture a buyer’s attention.