The latest entry in NBM Publishing’s partnership with the Louvre, David Prudhomme’s sumptuous graphic survey of the hordes of tourists and art lovers crowding the illustrious museum takes people-watching to a whole new level of observation.
As one of North America’s pre-eminent graphic novel publishers – the first, as a matter of fact – NBM Publishing has always pushed the boundaries of what great comics can and should be. Boasting a diverse catalogue of books crossing any and all genres, NBM champions the art of graphic storytelling like few other publishers.
Their partnership with the iconic Louvre, the storehouse for some of the most resonant works of art in the history of, well, art, has proved to be one of their most popular collections.
With a broad mandate that allows some of the best creators from around the world to celebrate the Louvre as they see fit, there have been some real gems published under the Louvre éditions aegis, including De Crecy’s Glacial Period, Hirohaki Araki’s Rohan at the Louvre, and Yslaire and Carriere’s haunting The Sky Over the Louvre.
Published last month, Cruising Through the Louvre by David Prudhomme (Rebetiko) is the latest in this gorgeous line of books and explores the museum’s labyrinthine vaults from an entirely different angle than previous works.
Eschewing the hundreds of years of history collected within its walls, Prudhomme instead turns his attention to the vast, seemingly endless hordes of tourists and art lovers (they’re very different, as we all know!) passing through the museum’s doors each day.
This is people-watching at its finest. Prudhomme displays keen observational powers and delights in showcasing humanity in all of its inane, preening, introverted, desperate glory. And while it may seem like he’s simply looking at people looking at art, it couldn’t be more fascinating.
He relishes capturing the perfect moment when art and observer become one, when the experience becomes indelibly marked in our memories. Whether we’re pulling a face while posing beside a Rembrandt or struggling to comprehend the centuries both separating us from and connecting us to an ancient Egyptian artifact, our relationship with art is a living, changeable thing – all the more so under Prudhomme’s watchful eye.
This idea of “living art” permeates the book, bringing the Louvre itself to life as Prudhomme reproduces people and iconic works of art alike with an easy grace that belies years of refined craft. His masterful use of coloured pencils allows him to impart texture and shading with a finesse lacking in modern digital colouring.
His attention to detail extends itself into his appreciation of shape and colour, as well. Prudhomme pokes gentle fun at the similarities in shape and form between his subjects and the art they observe, appreciate, or pose beside in equal measure.
Splashes of colour draw the eye with delicious ease to the centrepiece of each panel, allowing the ever-present crowds literally to fade into the background (or foreground, as the case may be).
In an age when comics art relies heavily on the colourist to provide texture and depth, sometimes (often) creating a flat, animated visual tone, Prudhomme’s art has a refreshing tactile quality. There’s weight and mass to his painstaking rendering – something deeper and more organic than even the best digital colouring.
I’m not sure if it’s true that it takes a work of art to explore our relationship with art, but Prudhomme’s Cruising Through the Louvre makes a strong case for it. A wonderful, whimsical survey of art and the people who take pictures of it, the true gift of this particular work of art is the truth it reveals about the people holding it in their hands.
David Prudhomme (W/A) • NBM Publishing, $22.99.