Willy Ronis (1910 – 2009), “Boulevard Sérurier, Paris,” 1948. Gelatin silver print (circa 1990), 15.95 x 12 inches, including margins. Title, date, and negative number in artist’s hand on back. Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 1,500 – 2,000 Euros. Image courtesy and copyright Artcurial.
Willy Ronis (1910 – 2009), “Le nu provencal (Provencal nude),” summer 1949. Gelatin silver print, 51 x 34.25 inches, including margins. Signed in ink at lower right. (See story for details.) Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 10,000 – 15,000 Euros. Image courtesy and copyright Artcurial.
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak
If Willy Ronis, from whom a monumental 163 lots of photographs from the 6,000 inherited by his grandson Stéphane Kovalsky spanning eight decades go on sale tonight at Artcurial in Paris (the rest went to the State on or before the photographer’s death in 2009 at age 99), is not as cloying as Robert Doisneau, crafty as Brassai, clever as André Kertesz, lucky as Henri Cartier-Bresson nor eternally naive (in the positive sense) as Jacques Lartigue, none of these worthy peers come close to him as an instinctive chronicler of a proletarian Paris which, if not completely disappeared, has at least been dispersed and upscaled in recent years: the terrain of what would become the parc Belleville before it was a well-manicured garden that closed at sunset; wide-open catty-corners in pre-BoBo (Bourgeosie Bohemian) Belleville-Menilmontant when the drying linen that was still permitted on the balconies became a stage curtain for the intricate charades of ragamuffins; a wine and liquor store that doubled as a charcoal depot before rising pollution threatened to ban chimneys from the Metropole; artisanal glassmakers and above all that ramshackle sky-line before developers started eliminating the former and blighting the latter.
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