Marcel Marlier: Lifetime with Martine

Marcel Marlier started his artistic career with the Belgian Board of Education, illustrating a school reader called Michel et Nicole.  His work caught the eye of publishing director Pierre Servais, and in 1951 he joined Casterman.  He initially illustrated classic stories like Beauty and the Beast and the works of Alexandre Dumas.  Soon, he paired up with poet and author Gilbert Delahaye to create the first Martine story which came out in 1954.

Marcel Marlier – Martine est malade (1976)

Marcel Marlier – Martine est malade (1976)

Martine is the story of a sugar-sweet and proper girl and her many adventures together with her small dog Patapouf.  The stories are generally conservative and contain moral messages such as the value of honesty or environmental protection as in Martine se déguise or Martine protège la nature respectively.

Marcel Marlier – Debbie learns to dance (1972)

Marcel Marlier – Debbie learns to dance (1972)

The series eventually grew to include sixty titles; the first was Martine à la ferme and the final book was Martine et le prince mystérieux.  Martine was translated into sixty languages; she became known as Debbie in English, Anita in Galician, Ayşegül in Turkish, Tini in Malay and so on.  As time passed, Marlier created fresh illustrations for some of the books; Martine à la ferme was reissued with new art at least three times.

Marcel Marlier – Martine, drôles de fantômes! (2005)

Marcel Marlier – Martine drôles de fantômes! (2005)

Unfortunately, in 1997 Gilbert Delahaye passed away prematurely and Marlier’s son, Jean-Louis, took over as writer.  Marlier lived to an old age and continued to illustrate Martine until his passing in 2011.

Marcel Marlier – Martine à la fête des fleurs (1973)

Marcel Marlier – Martine à la fête des fleurs (1973)

All together there have been one-hundred-million Martine books sold—that’s a little more than Pippi Longstockings and somewhat less than Nancy Drew.  A great deal of Martine merchandise is produced today including special editions, comics, DVDs, websites and a video game in which she is called Emma.

Marcel Marlier – Jean-Lou et Sophie découvrent la mer (1969)

Marcel Marlier – Jean-Lou et Sophie découvrent la mer (1969)

Martine was not Marlier’s only project with Casterman.  Starting in 1969, he began both writing and illustrating his own series: Jean-Lou et Sophie.

Marcel Marlier – Martine petit rat de l'opéra (1972)

Marcel Marlier – Martine petit rat de l’opéra (1972)

Michael Jackson was apparently a great fan of Marcel Marlier and Martine.  Michael came across her image on a puzzle game while in Germany and then contacted the artist.  Marlier did not know who Michael was and bought some DVDs to familiarize himself with the pop-star.  Michael and Marlier met three times.  Michael was reported to have been extremely excited during his visit which initially surprised Marlier who nonetheless warmed to Michael’s personality.  Michael offered to purchase Marlier’s entire portfolio, but Marlier declined and instead supplied him with a sketch. (“Michael Jackson était comme un enfant”, Bernard Libert, SudPress.)

Marcel Marlier – Martine au zoo (1963)

Marcel Marlier – Martine au zoo (1963)

But not everyone loved Martine.  Her widespread influence on young impressionable readers together with her orthodox ladylike manner made her the subject of 1980s French feminist critique for whom she was labeled “docile”.  (“Marcel Marlier, l’illustrateur de Martine est mort”, Charlotte Pudlowski, 20 minutes.)

Marcel Marlier – J’adore mon frère (2007)

Marcel Marlier – J’adore mon frère (2007)

Most recently, Martine became a Web meme when a program went online to modify the title of the text, for example to “Martine – first space cake”, “Martine – desperate housewife” and so on.  Casterman did not feel the web site was in the spirit they envisioned for Martine and politely asked the site owners to take down their project and they obliged. (Alice Antheaume, “Martine s’offre une seconde jeunesse sur le Net”, 20 minutes.)

Marcel Marlier – Jean-Lou et Sophie en Bretagne (2002)

Marcel Marlier – Jean-Lou et Sophie en Bretagne (2002)

The Martine illustrations were created over a lifetime and by so talented an artist as Marcel Marlier that many of the works are really art, expressing social commentary about the time or seem to include deep and religious themes in the symbolism.  Even for those not so interested in children’s stories, Martine would be a joy to open.

Martine on Casterman

Martine has appeared once before on Pigtails in Paint here.

Bare Beach Babies Pt. 2: Early to Mid-20th Century

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José Júlio de Souza-Pinto – La Baignade

Charles Lhermitte’s series carries on the Neoclassical tradition in photography:

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Charles Augustin Lhermitte – Fillette nue et couronnée de fleurs debout en extension sur la rive d’un fleuve (1912)

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Charles Augustin Lhermitte – Fillette nue et couronnée de fleurs jouant sur la rive d’un fleuve (1912)

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Charles Augustin Lhermitte – Fillette nue et couronnée de fleurs marchant au bord d’un fleuve parmi les saules (1912)

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Charles Augustin Lhermitte – Fillette nue et couronnée de fleurs marchant au bord d’un fleuve parmi les saules (1912)

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Charles Augustin Lhermitte – Fillette nue et couronnée de fleurs jouant sur la rive d’un fleuve (1912)

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Charles Augustin Lhermitte – Fillette nue et couronnée de fleurs sur la berge d’un fleuve (1912)

Frans Smeers’ little boat enthusiast isn’t quite fully nude, but . . .

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Frans Smeers – Fillette au bateau (1906)

Imogen Cunningham, as a precursor to Jock Sturges, captures some of the earliest photographic images of nudist culture, notably this family with a young daughter:

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Imogen Cunningham – Family on the Beach (1910) (1)

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Imogen Cunningham – Family on the Beach (1910) (2)

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Emil Kelemen – Bathing Children

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Georges Sauveur Maury – Three Girls by the Sea

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Annelise Kretschmer – Untitled (Spiekeroog Island) (1932)

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Henri Mella – Petite Baigneuse

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Virginie Demont-Breton – Dans l’eau pure (1920s postcard)

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Eliot Elisofon – Children Bathing at Fogoloa Beach (1949, Life Magazine)

By mid-century in Europe prepubescent girls at public beaches usually donned bottoms but were not required to cover up their chest. Even today young girls covering their nipples in public remains primarily an American and British convention:
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Marcel Marlier – Martine a la mer (cover)

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Marcel Marlier (1)

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Marc Riboud – Two Girls After a Swim, France (1953)

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Anton Filkuka – Eva, the Artist’s Daughter, Bathing

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Dmytry Dmytrievich Zhilinsky – At the Sea, Family (1964)

Imogen Cunningham Trust

Wikipedia: Imogen Cunningham

Art Renewal Center: Virginie Demont-Breton

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives

Wikipedia: Marcel Marlier

Marc Riboud: Cinquante ans de photographie

Wikipedia: Marc Riboud