Robert Doisneau scènes de musique de Paris

Welcome all! This is “Music Monday” for March 29 🙂

Ah Paris. Beautiful, intoxicating, captivating Paris. A city of seductions and charms, hot fun, beguiling people, and joie de vivre. Paris is a great music city. It’s also a great love city, a great art city and a great city to photograph. Robert Doisneau knew this as well as anyone. The French photographer specialized in candid black and white shots of Paris life in the streets, cafes, nightclubs, and markets, capturing those moments in a good-humored, playful, documentary style. Children were a particularly favorite subject, as were couples kissing. Lots and lots of attractive Parisian couples kissing can be found in Doisneau’s portfolio.

But the passions and inhibitions of Parisians are found not just in public makeout sessions, but in many settings. Music is an essential element of Paris city life, and brings out the exuberance and colorful character of it people. Lucky for us, Robert Doisneau had his camera on hand to record such moments.

Traditional French music features a lot of accordion, an instrument which gets little respect in other places. But Parisians apply its unique sounds to charming, atmospheric songs which are thoroughly imbued with “Frenchness”. Listening to these tunes transports you into a Paris state-of-mind.

Doisneau’s The Accordionist:

A French accordion classic, this is Flambee Montalbanaise, performed by Gus Viseur:

Parisians have always embraced jazz music with open arms. They are, to this day, some of the most ardent jazz fans in the world. A musical import from America, jazz found a warmly welcoming audience in the French capital, and many jazz musicians claimed to have felt right at home there, even more so than in the United States. Jazz returned the favor by “saving” the spirit of Paris during the tumultuous, war-torn decades of the 20th century. Given so much turmoil and upheaval, the people of France deserved every opportunity to cut loose and forget their troubles.

Jazz venues and nightclubs thrived in Paris in the 1920s and 30s, until the Nazis invaded and condemned jazz as “degenerate music”. The clubs either shut down or were driven underground. Then in the Postwar years, jazz rose up again.

This Doisneau photograph was taken in Club Saint Germain, a cave-like basement space that opened in 1947. In a terrific shot of two patrons dancing, Doisneau seems to have captured them in mid-step. And I love the girl’s shoes!

Parisians don’t need to be inside a club to hoof it up. Dancing in the streets is just as fun. Doisneau was in the right place at the right time to snap a picture of this young couple, enjoying a twirl under the stars:

The couples above could well have been dancing to the music of Sidney Bechet, the American saxophonist/clarinetist whose New Orleans style jazz was wildly popular in Paris during the war years. Bechet himself is practically a hero in France, and he even moved there in 1950 where he remained until his death in 1959.

From the album “Jazz in Paris, Volume 22” this is Sidney Bechet and his orchestra performing Honeysuckle Rose:

This last picture is in the top five of my favorite photographs list. I’m even tempted to order a print of this marvelous image, Doisneau’s Musician in the Rain. How ideal is this picture for this blog’s “Music Monday” series? Perfect! It shows not only the cellist, but an artist at his easel in the background. Music and art together, immortalized by the great Doisneau.

“The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.”

– Robert Doisneau

Visit the Robert Doisneau website for more images.

10 thoughts on “Robert Doisneau scènes de musique de Paris

  1. Andrew says:

    Robert Doisneau is an excellent choice for a Museworthy feature. My favorites are his candid shots of kids just being kids in post-war France.

  2. Fred says:

    Of course the cello gets the umbrella while the cellist gets rained on!

  3. Jennifer says:

    If I wasn’t about to come to New York, these photos would make me want to jump on the Eurostar train to Paris! 🙂

  4. Mark Waikien says:

    I’ve never known of an art model who was as enthusiastic and knowledgeable about art as you. You’re quite amazing. You should see the look of disbelief and awe on my face. I came across your blog searching for Maxfield Parrish! Consider me ‘subscribed.’

    • artmodel says:


      Oh my god, thank you! Your comments are incredibly kind. I just hope I deserve them!

      I’m delighted you found this blog and even more delighted that you are “subscribed”. Welcome, welcome! Wonderful to have you 🙂


  5. CIel says:

    How lovely! Thank you for sharing this collection of charming photos and accompanying music clips. I stumbled across blog post after Googling “Doisneau” out of curiousity (he’s the subject of today’s Google Doodle).

    • artmodel says:

      Ciel, thank you! That Google Doodle brought a lot of people to this old Museworthy post! Nothing wrong with a little more blog traffic.

      Glad you enjoyed the music and images!


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