© Colourful Life/Ian Wright
The talents of Londoner Ian Wright fit his city perfectly; his curiosity has kept pace with it over decades. “For me, London’s all about the people and the place, even though it’s changing more rapidly than ever. Every time I leave and return, I can look with different eyes. Right now, I think there’s this great kind of creative explosion.”
Yet Wright knows his home is becoming homogenised. R...
© A. Hughes
The luxury goods of France have always been seductive. But, to this day, nothing can outdazzle her 18th century porcelain. This “white gold” remains an art form of its own, a showcase for flawless decorative skills and technical virtuosity.
© J. Liebling
For Londoners, this is a year to celebrate the street photographer, as historic shots of their capital light up the Museum of London. Here, in precious and remarkably vivid photos, one can glimpse the very world detailed by writers like Mayhew and Dickens – as street photography commences in the Victorian era.
While most early photographers fixated on buildings and vistas, some planted equipment around the teeming streets....
© Musée du Louvre
He is famous for elegiac portraits of elegance. But Jean Antoine Watteau was not a typical high-society painter. Preceded by the heaviness of royal Baroque, followed by imitators who wallowed in the luxuries he depicted, his own works show a different type of radical talent.
By reuniting Watteau’s key drawings, London’s Royal Academy showed how and why they engineered changes in taste. Perhaps only an outsider li...
© Foundling Museum
Who gave Londoners their first picture gallery? A coalition of castaway children and high society, led by an arriviste, outspoken sea captain! Although it sounds completely improbable, this is a story you can still see for yourself. Just pay a visit to the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury.
Londoners are acutely aware of fashion and this was no different in the 18th century. Then, as the booming city’s population doubled,...
© Katharine Mac Daid
Without hats, said Christian Dior, “we would have no civilization.” The legendary couturier was well aware of the hat as pivotal to le style anglais. In Paris, since the 1770s, these three little words have stood for elegance. It was around then that French aristocrats fell in love with the riding and sporting clothes of their British counterparts. Thet were celebrated for their expert tailoring, understated style a...
© Pret A Manger
If you don’t see the City of Light as a fast-food mecca, you’re behind the current media buzz. Predictably, our “fast food explosion” corresponds to the average worker’s sinking pouvoir d’achat. Other reasons cited for the trend of eating sur le pouce (“on the go”) revolve around ‘Anglo-Saxon’ impositions: shorter lunches, long commutes and the need to use lunchtime f...
© Maison de Balzac
Before the 20th century’s muse or supermodel, Paris fashion had its own special heroine. She was la grisette, a young woman who spent her life in the service of style. Grisettes made the dresses, lingerie and hats of Paris; they also created the laces, flowers and trim which distinguished them. Despite low wages and sweatshop hours, la grisette always found the time to dance and flirt. In the 1830s, she became a public se...
© Studio Harcourt
Every autumn, Paris holds a string of events intended to honor the art of the photograph. The largest are grand and official, such as Paris Photo at the Grand Palais, the Salon de la Photo at the Porte de Versailles and the Photoquai 2011 by the Musée de Quai Branly. The latter, free to all and open 24/7, is hosting work by 46 talents from 29 countries.
Alongside such sprawling shows are others in museums, galleries and fou...
© S. Sampson
After the national holiday on 14th July, there are two kinds of Parisians; one is either a juilletiste (aka juillettiste) or an aoûtien. The former, less numerous, start their summer holiday during July while the latter choose August to depart elsewhere. Each plays a crucial role in shutting down the life of a city.
The legendary French holiday entitlement, les congés payés, is a 1936 legacy. The country’s first soc...