The French Connection

On a rainy Sunday night in September, my partner treated me to an enjoyable night out at the Milwaukee Art Museum. First, we browsed an incredible exhibit of French street artwork advertising 19th century events and products in Paris.

The main event of the evening was a performance by Present Music which brought to life 1946 Jean Cocteau’s film La Belle et la Bête (The Beauty and the Beast), which was shown silently on a large screen elevated high above the audience.  While the film was shown, a rousing musical score was performed live by the Present Music orchestra. The speaking parts of the film were voiced in French by four onstage readers. All of this combined to create a unique and memorable experience.

Always New: The Posters of Jules Chéret


The Milwaukee Art Museum website described the French poster exhibit as follows.

Posters by the French artist Jules Chéret (1836–1932) caused a sensation in 19th-century Paris. Known as the father of the poster, Chéret was one of the first artists to bring colorful, large-scale advertisements to Paris streets, creating what critics called a “museum in the open air.” People strolling down the boulevards were captivated not only by Chéret’s vibrant images, but also by how frequently his new designs appeared. Chéret had developed new printing methods that allowed him to meet the fast pace that advertisers demanded to promote their latest entertainments and products. The ephemeral nature of these posters contributed to the popular idea that rapid change was central to modern life.

Always New: The Posters of Jules Chéret presents 109 posters, prints, and drawings by Chéret that reflect the French interest in novelty at the end of the 19th century. Drawn from James and Susee Wiechmanns’ gift to the Museum of more than 600 works by the artist, the exhibition is organized into five sections that highlight the various pleasures his posters publicized: performances, fashion, the press, real and imagined travel, and consumer products. Always New brings Chéret into focus as a master of his medium and demonstrates how these posters reflect larger societal issues in their depictions of everyday Parisian life.

Present Music’s “French Connection”

This spectacular visual and musical performance in Windhover Hall was described as follows on the Milwaukee Art Museum website.

The Museum extends its celebration of French arts and culture with this concert by Present Music. Explore French posters before the concert begins by visiting the current exhibition Always New, from 6–7:30 p.m.

The concert will feature Jean Cocteau’s classic 1946 film La Belle et la Bête alongside live music composed by Philip Glass and the French crossover sensation Christophe Chassol.

Present Music says this about itself on their website:

Present Music is one of the nation’s leading ensembles specializing in the commissioning and performance of new music. Its mission is to engage artists and audience members in imaginative and provocative experiences with new music through ensemble performance and education. Founded and based in Milwaukee since 1982, Present Music has worked closely with many of the nation’s most exciting and important composers, and has firmly established one of the largest audiences for new music in the country.

Present Music shows the world that Milwaukee is a center for creativity, having toured extensively throughout the United States and participated in major international music festivals in Japan, New York City, Turkey, and China. Present Music is also the unprecedented, six-time winner of ASCAP/Chamber Music America’s Adventurous Programming Award.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.