During the 1910s and 1920s, Paris was a hotbed of artistic experimentation. The hierarchy of artistic mediums seemed to dissolve away as painters collaborated with dancers, fashion designers with decorative artists, and—in the case of Sports et divertissements— illustrators with musicians.
The musical scores and illustrations seen here are reproductions of select pages of the folio Sports et divertissements, which was commissioned by the publishing magnate Lucien Vogel in 1914. The twenty short musical scores created around the theme of ‘sports and leisure’ are the work of famed composer Erik Satie. The pochoir illustrations by one of the era’s most sought-after illustrators, Charles Martin, merge music with fashion to reveal a glimpse into the lifestyle deemed modern and fashionable during the early twentieth century.
Although the project began in 1914, it would not be released until 1923. The years of World War I intervened. Many couture houses closed their doors as their male designers and/or employees were drafted into the war effort. Some fashion magazines halted publication. The mood in Paris turned sober as the realities of war hit home; it was not the right time for the light-hearted frivolity of Sports et divertissements.
By the 1920s however, joie de vivre had returned to Paris. The Jazz Age brought an almost unbridled pursuit of luxury and pleasure. Vogel, determined to make Sports et divertissements a reality, returned to his friend Charles Martin and commissioned him a second time to create illustrations for the title. In the intervening nine years the fashionable silhouette had changed so much that the 1914 illustrations were no longer au current !
Only 900 copies of Sports et divertissements were ever made, but three different versions were created. All were printed on fine Hollande paper and the pochoir plates painstakingly colored by hand in the studio of one of the pochoir method’s greatest practioners, Jean Saudé. The first version of the title is exquisitely rare—only 10 copies were made; this version featured Satie’s score alongside Martin’s pochoir illustrations from 1914. The second version, issued in an edition of 215, features the second set of twenty illustrations created by Martin in 1923. The third, and final, edition of Sports et divertissements makes up the remaining 675 examples. These contain the entire score, but only one of Martin’s colorful illustrations.
We recently acquired number 143 of Sports et divertissements, making the images seen here part of the limited edition of 215 copies.
If you would like to learn more about this fascinating title, please join us for a Love Your Library event on Friday, April 21st at 3pm. Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr. Mary E. Davis, will be speaking about the work—accompanied by a live piano presentation of the score. Dean Davis holds Ph.D. and A.M. degrees in musicology from Harvard University. She holds two additional master’s degrees, in musicology from the New England Conservatory of Music, and in piano from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. She has written extensively on the relationships between music, fashion, and culture. More details to come…