Last Thursday, our friend, Alain Philippe, invited a small group of us to visit 49, rue Montparnasse in the 14th arrondissement, a quiet street between the bustling Boulevard Montparnasse and Boulevard Edgar Quinet. The fairly nondescript, tall brown street door opened into a passageway at the end of which another door revealed a messy reception area: piles of stone, lumber, tools and lots of dust. Here our host greeted us and led us through an even bigger door, where, as we stepped through, we stepped back in time and all of us, quite literally, gasped out loud.
"Welcome to Idem" said Alain.
...ready to be checked for color and alignment.
It's an extraordinary, time-honored process that, unbelievably, is today no longer offered to art students at the Beaux Arts schools in Paris! One of Idem's many goals is to set up courses for students to come in small groups and learn from the master printers and colorists how to work with paper and stone, to pass on the knowledge and keep the art form alive. As the Idem website so poignantly points out, it would be hard to name one major artist who has not wanted to express his or her oeuvre on fine art paper.
But my favorite -- a bit the worse for wear, bent at the edges, tucked away in a little corner upstairs -- was this 1935 poster advertising the biggest horse race in France, le Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Look at that design, those colors, that quality! It tells the whole story of the race.
Here, we devoured their signature oysters, onion soup, fresh fish, sitting under this highly ornamental milk glass ceiling.
To find out more about L'Imprimerie d'Art Idem à Montparnasse, the hopes and dreams of its founders and its artists, check out their website: www.lesamisdidem.org. Their efforts to preserve this singular art form are truly inspiring.