An exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris this summer marks 100 years since the death of the once-famous French painter Eugène Carrière. Goncourt’s Journals confirm Carrière’s prominence in the cultural life of fin-de-siècle Paris; the artist’s writings and letters reveal his part in the political issues of the day: in the Dreyfus affair alongside Clemenceau and Zola, in anti-war agitation, and a concern with women’s issues and workers’ education. He left indelible images of his contemporaries, in particular his best-known painting, a portrait of the poet Paul Verlaine.
At the entrance to a nondescript block of artists’ studios in Paris, a plaque reads, “Here lived the painter/ Eugène Carrière (1849-1906)/ Verlaine posed for him in his studio.” When the mayor of Montmartre tugged away the white sheet at its ceremonial unveiling, he revealed an added inscription, graffiti scrawled in large white letters: “Fuck off I love you”.
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