Creative Projects: Paintings Inspired by French Literature

Last semester, I took FREN 3101W with Professor Wall-Romana. For our final project we could do anything we liked, as long as it related to our discussions and was presentable to the class. I chose to select five of our readings/films from the semester and visualize them each in small paintings. It sounded like it would be an enjoyable project (in lieu of writing yet another paper) and would help me remember what I learned in class.

One of the more memorable stories we read was Hygiène de l’assassin by Amélie Nothomb. It is quite unsettling, actually. Without trying to spoil anything, one of the pivotal points of the plot relates to a trickle of blood in a pond. I thought the red streak would really stand out against the blue background for a dramatic effect. Since I love paying attention to details, I even included a little fish at the bottom for fun.

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For the film La Noire de…, I chose to make more of a collage-style painting representing Diouana’s distinctive polka-dot dress, pearl necklace, daisy earring, and the infamous mask off to the left. The film was in black and white film from 1966, but I wanted to add just a tiny bit of color in the yellow of the daisy’s center and the brown mask. The cheery daisy counterbalances Diouana’s miserable situation.

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My painting for Le Bourgeoise Gentillhomme by Molière was also sort of a costume/character study.  The foolish Monsieur Jourdain, a middle-class man with high hopes of becoming an aristocrat, provides much of the comedy for the play, unbeknownst to him. In one scene, he learns that he has been speaking prose all of his life, and he’s incredibly proud of himself: “Par ma foi! Il y a plus de quarante ans que je dis de la prose sans que j’en susse rien!” I pictured the lofty Monsieur Jourdain as a vibrant, strutting, yet flightless peacock. The cover of the book was pink, so I used that for my background.

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The last two paintings are a bit more grotesque. We read Mademoiselle Bistouri by Baudelaire, which honestly a rather disturbing short story. One of the main characters has a fetish for surgeons and bloody scalpels, hence this image. I lined the edge of the blade with metallic silver paint to make it seem more real. Ironically, this was one of the more enjoyable paintings to do in the series, because I got to liberally splatter red paint everywhere. (Lesson learned: blood is fun, isn’t it French literature?)

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Finally, the rather disturbing eye represents Le Horla by Guy de Maupassant. Perhaps the staring eye is that of the horrifying Horla, or maybe it is the terrified and sleep-deprived eye of the man plagued by the nightmarish creature. You get to decide.

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French literature may not always be the most cheerful, but these sure were fun to paint!

– Christina Tucker

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