The South of France

L1060602Here’s something we found earlier…it’s a coloured photographic print of the French resort of Juan Les Pins, near Nice, in the South of France. The long landscape format is distinctive of railway carriage prints.

carriage prints were, as the name implies, displayed in railway carriages. This doesn’t make sense in relation to the aircraft seating-plans of modern trains. In the old days, the standard carriage lay-out was divided into small compartments. Thes eusually had six or eight seats with mirrors above and a luggage-rack in the ceiling.

The most practical of these kind sof carriages had a corridor down one side of the train. This allowed all passangers to move through the train and gain access, throughout the journey, to the restaurant car and facilities. Trains with these kinds of carriages are referred to as a corridor express.

Carriage prints flanked the mirrors above the seats in each carriage. That’s four prints per compartment and, with probably ten compartments per carriage, that’s abot forty prints per carriage. Accordingly, an a passenger express train might have one-hundred and fifty or so prints displayed throughout its length.

Typically, the prints would show the activities of the railway of scenic views of the various destinations served by the trains…in the first instance, these views were drawn and painted by artists. Then, there were photographic images in black and white, and then with colour added. In the last iteration of these kinds of prints the images were produced as colour photographs. Nowadays, these kinds of prints are collected by railway enthusiasts.

 

The French railway network developed at a slightly different and later epriod to its British counterpart. The associated developemnt of seaside resorts was correspondingly later too. In general, the big French resorts were developed to serve the aristocratic elites of Europe and America. Cannes, in the south, and Biarritz, in the west, were the most famous of these resorts. Dauville and Le Touquet, in the north, provided a week-end retreat for wealthy Parisians.

From the 1920s onwards, the South of France, provided a sophisticated and relatively unspoilt holiday environment. Beyond Cannes, the Cote d’Azur remained as it always had – dirt roads, mountain-top settlements and small fishing villages. This allowed the wealthy elites to play, over their summer holidays, at the simple, rustic, life…

This was the holiday as a back-to-basics reminder of the simple, pre-industrial, life. It’s a weird 20C re-casting of Marie Antoinette’s playing at being a shepherdess.

Coco Chanel even invented the perfect outfit for this, derived from traditional fisherman’s clothing. Rope sandals. baggy trousers and a horizontally-striped top. A straw beach bag, slung over the shoulder, completed the outfit. This remains a stpale of summer fashion around the world.

The French railway company, Paris Lyon Marseilles (PLM), provided luxury train services to the south…with restaurant facilities, hair-dressing salons and sleeping compartments available. The route-to-the-south was probably the most famous of trains in France.

 

Accordingly, images of the Cote d’Azur are freighted with a glamour and sophistication that eludes other coasts and resorts. The print we found is probably from the 1940s – there’s an art-deco inspired diving platform in the bay.

 

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