signature d'Odette Camp

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.

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