On whimsy and monochromatics

Combat de nègres dans une cave pendant la nuit

My previous post on Cohl led me to the French avant-garde of the 1880s and 1890s. Above is what is now generally held to be the first monochrome painting, rendered here in an appropriated version by Allais.

Here is the background:

Paul Bilhaud (born in Allichamps, December 31, 1854 – Avon, 1933) was a French poet and dramatist who belonged to the avant-garde group the Incoherents. He is the author of an all-black painting called Negroes Fighting in a Cellar at Night.

On October 1 1882 the “Exposition des Arts Incohérents” in Paris featured a black painting by the poet Paul Bilhaud titled Combat de nègres dans une cave pendant la nuit, which was appropriated in 1887 by the French humorist Alphonse Allais, in an album of monochrome pictures of various colors, with uniformly ornamental frames, each bearing a comical title. Allais called his all-red painting Tomato Harvest by Apoplectic Cardinals on the Shore of the Red Sea.

Negroes Fighting in a Cellar at Night predates Malevich‘s, Black Square on a White Field by 31 years.

Compiling this documentation, I stumbled on Il Giornale Nuovo’s post on Allais: Primo-Avrilesque and on Monochrome (une enquête) by L’Alamblog.

4 thoughts on “On whimsy and monochromatics

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