signature d'Odette Camp


OLIVIER SCHMITT–24-25 July 1983
ODETTE CAMP at the CARNAVALET - Drawing on memory -

In 1980, the Museum happily received a donation of forty sketches by Odette Camp which she herself assembled under the name “Bygone Paris”. Leaving aside pencils and charcoal, she invented an original technique using India ink and twigs, allowing her to portray a very black and white capital - a Paris of stone in chiaroscuro.


There is nothing here of the hackneyed Paris of guidebooks and magazines, nothing of the glittering Paris of boulevards and avenues. It is the timeless Paris tucked away behind thick walls that the artist favored. She ingeniously carried out her reconstruction with the precision of a meticulous investigator, from her finest, subtlest stroke for the Quai de la Marne, in the 19 th arrondissement, to her boldest and thickest for the high black walls of the Rue des Jardins St. Paul.


One fine day, the Viaduc d’Auteuil was demolished - she was there to bear tender witness to the removal of the bridge piers. On Rue Vilin, in the 20 th arrondissement, she took her twigs in hand to render a mansion surrounded by staircases before the winds of modernism could blow it away. Industrious Paris, the Paris of ateliers, also came under the eye of Odette Camp. The publishing houses, like those of the Passage St. Sébastien, or the printing presses, like that of the Passage des Singes; the shop of an “upholsterer- mattress -cabinetmaker”, Rue du Grenier-sur-l’Eau; a knitting factory, Rue Baudricourt; an enameller with a kiln, Place St. Blaise…


Discretely, through the detour of her sketches, Odette Camp joined the contingent of those who object to the excessive renovation of the Capital. On the wall of a condemned building awaiting demolition, Rue des Jardins St. Paul, she noted the slogan: “No to expulsion without relocation”. One of her last drawings captures the silhouette of a small house on the Rue de Romainville: stone facade, quirky upper floor, wood fencing, and a black, naked tree. There is a dream here which surprises and overwhelms. The Paris which lives in the hearts of Parisians re-emerges - it is a Paris of simplicity and modesty. The work of Odette Camp is precious, irreplaceable. A tranquil and dense memory, her art has become a necessity.

Le Provençal

Edmée SANTY – 24 août 1983
A Marseillaise who knew Paris’s deepest secrets Odette Camp at the Musée Carnavalet

The Musée Carnavalet’s ‘Paris disparu’, or Bygone Paris, is the title of an exhibition which, from 23 June ‘til the end of the month, presents a collection of forty India ink sketches by Odette Camp.


Three essential themes: the landscapes of Corsica, of Spain and other Mediterranean lands; leafless trees; and finally and especially the theme of old Paris and its former beauty: pieces which have their rightful place on the picture rails of this museum of the capital, whose vocation is, among others, to bring Paris’s historic iconography to light.


Odette Camp’s talent is obvious. It is expressed through an original technique - Indian ink and wood twigs - which gives the visitor a nostalgic yearning for this ‘Bygone Paris’; for the streets, alleys, squares and monuments of a city which had not yet been made commonplace through tourism, unbridled growth, and the madness of concrete. ‘Bygone Paris’, yes, but especially ‘Dreamlike Paris’...


Odette Camp, this woman for whom Paris held no secrets, was from Marseilles. She was born in our city in 1909; her roots on her mother’s side came from the Ardeche and Avignon. From the time she was six, Odette ‘went up to Paris’ with her parents; at an early age she began taking drawing lessons, eventually enrolling at the Beaux-Arts. As a teenager she was attracted to all forms of artistic expression, but it was opera which truly fascinated her. One day, yearning to see La Bohème, she went to the Opéra-comique, Salle Favart, in Paris, but the performance was sold out. Disappointed, and with a heavy heart, she was ready to renounce when - ô miracle! - a spectator came forward to make a seat available. In the dark of the Opera, Odette sat down next to her knight in shining armor, and at intermission thanked the stranger who gave her access to the ticket she so desired. They introduced themselves: her neighbor’s name was Henri Tomasi. Conductor, composer, about to be awarded the Prix de Rome as a sign of his success career, this young Corsican from Marseilles (born nearly at the same time as his century, in 1901), will only distractedly listen to the next episode of the Puccinian misfortunes of poor Mimi... And this is how Odette Camp became Mrs. Henri Tomasi in 1927. The couple came back to settle in Marseille at the beginning of the second World War.


Until the composer’s death in 1971, Odette would be Tomasi’s most faithful collaborator. His symphonic compositions (’Cymos’, ‘Vocero’, ‘Don Juan de Manara’... were all performed at the Opéra de Marseille in the presence of the composer), along with his Corsican folk music, ballet music, chamber music, mass, symphony, opéra‑comique ‘La rosière du village’ and three masterpieces: ‘Il poverello’, ‘Le triomphe de Jeanne’, and ‘l'Atlantide’. These works all bear witness to the grandeur and sweeping range of this exceptional personality.


Nonetheless, during this period, Odette Camp never gave up her pastime, painting and drawing. Most fortunately, in fact, since in addition to her projects designing stage scenery - notably for Tomasi’s opera ‘l’Atlantide’ - beginning in 1955 the artist devoted her talents to the nostalgic investigation of landscapes and other sites devoid of any obvious human presence. Her essentially mineral Paris has been resurrected thanks to the forty pieces drawn between 1950 and 1970 which comprise the exhibition at the Musée Carnavalet.


This fine museum can thank Claude Tomasi, son of Henri and Odette, for his generous donation in 1980 of a collection of sketches well worthy of the attention of the many visitors who come to discover Paris each summer.

presse Odette Camp