Musée d'Orsay: André Devambez Concert Colonne

André Devambez
Concert Colonne

Concert Colonne
André Devambez (1867-1944)
Concert Colonne
Oil on canvas
H. 72.5; W. 55.5 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Concert Colonne

In 1873, Judas Colonna, known as Edouard Colonne (1838-1910), a violinist and conductor, founded the Association Artistique des Concerts Colonne, whose aim was to make music accessible to the widest possible audience. This initiative followed the Concerts for the People and the National Concert in which Colonne had already participated.
The Concerts Colonne were held at the Chatelet Theatre, then one of the biggest auditoriums in Paris, which enabled seats to be sold at an inexpensive price. An audience of students and people from modest backgrounds filled the upper circles. It was these spectators that Devambez depicted from a viewpoint up in the gods.

Contrary to many Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists - Eva Gonzalès, Pierre Auguste Renoir and Pierre Bonnard – who had used the theme of the box to evoke theatres and the social life linked to entertainment, Devambez presented the whole auditorium looking down from the top. This technique enabled him to merge into one compact mass both the spectators in the upper circles and those in the stalls, without featuring the stage itself. Thus, the painter offered a new way of looking at the event. In marked contrast to the regular audience at the Paris Opera, who went to see and be seen, these theatregoers have come together just for the pleasure of the music, and without any social considerations. In this way, Devambez demonstrated that France had just accomplished the "musical revolution" that Jules-Etienne Pasdeloup (founder of the Concerts populaires) had wished for, when he proclaimed the "equality of French people before music".

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