Seen by Robinson: The tidy chaos of Paris

Reviewed on 03/25/2013 | No Reviews

Photo: © Robinson/Rizzoli

What is the best way to remember Paris once you’ve left? A photo doesn’t really capture the magic. Its smell won’t travel with you, neither its light nor its elegance.  But here is something that might work a bit better like a “Paris in a nutshell” thing. Robinson’s lovely book of pen-and-ink drawings shows it all: the tidy chaos of Paris.

Contemporary look

Here is Paris as Robinson has seen it - as a graphic beauty. The German illustrator going by the single name Robinson (his given name was Werner Kruse) caught every detail, every tiny little chimney, every tricolour flag floating over the roofs of Paris. And strangely, his drawings look as if they where done yesterday.

But Robinson, who was born in 1910 in Berlin and passed away in 1994 at the age of 83 published his pen-and-ink drawings already in the sixties. And, basically, Paris as an urban shell hasn’t really changed since then. The scene filled quite differently nowadays (take alone: less children, far more cars). But the small Place de Furstenberg, as Robinson saw it, is still the same as is the view from the Arc de Triomphe. Place Vendome and Place de la Concorde? Overwhelmingly beautiful, only the shape of the cars has changed.

Scrupulously accurate

Robinson took his name from the story of “Robinson Crusoe”. He might have felt as lonely as the stranded man on the island in the many cities he visited and sketched. His drawings, “scrupulously accurate”, as a journalist from the New York Magazine once put it, are showing the muchness without showing the people. And in this point he’s different from his French colleague Sempé.

Sometimes he practised what he called his “X-ray” style showing the buildings of the cities from outside and inside. “Paris, line by line” was the title of the original edition published in 1967, now just published by Rizzoli as “Paris par Robinson” in France or “Paris, Line by Line” in the US.

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