Camille Mauclair in Bohemia (1907)
Text by Rosemary Yeoland, November 7, 2010.

The writer and arts critic, Camille Mauclair went to Czechoslovakia (Bohemia) in 1907 with Henri Le Sidaner. Whilst Le Sidaner gave an exhibition of his paintings in the same pavilion that had shown Auguste Rodin’s work earlier, Mauclair gave a series of talks. When he had asked what he should talk about, he was told by Czech officials: “Whatever you want. Our joy above all will be to hear a French writer speaking purely in French!” The two Frenchmen were very warmly welcomed, driven by car around the city and treated to an attendance at the production of the opera Libuse marking the twenty fifth anniversary of Frédéric Smetena’s death. They also attended various parties on the island of Zofin where Slovakian dances were performed.

Of the performance of Smetena’s Libuse at the Théâtre National Tchèque, Mauclair writes : “j’ai vécu là, deux des plus belles heures musicales de ma vie” and comments in his Histoire de la musique européenne  1815-1914  (Paris, 1914, p.209), that Smetena was the first to raise a national voice in Bohemia and opened the path for the future of music in this country. Mauclair’s music text was written with the aim of making his French readers more aware of the beautiful music that existed outside of France.

As for the music of Anton Dvorak, Mauclair sees the joy and suffering of the Czech people transcribed into a constant confrontation of a lamento alternating with humorous caprice creating a music of great beauty.

He also mentions the composers François Skuhersky, Charles Schebor, Charles Bendl, Josef Rozkosny, Théodor Bradsky, Edouard Napravnik and Zdenko Fibich, all unknown in France during the fin-de siècle epoch.

For Mauclair, the music of Czechoslovakia is very original; the intimate expression of Bohemia, inspired by popular Czech and Slovakian lieder, amplified orchestrally without ever losing the local colour.

References: Mauclair, Camille. Servitude et grandeur littéraires. (Paris : Ollendorff,  1922).

                     ---.                    La Religion de la musique. (Paris : Fischbacher, 1909).

                     ---.                    Histoire de la musique européenne 1815-1914. (Paris : Fischbacher, 1914).



Postcard to B, 14-05-1907.
8 days to go before Mauclair arrives!
Drawing in pencil: Charles Bridge of Prague..


Czech illustrator-painter Strimpl,
French writer and arts critic Camille Mauclair with, Czech Sculptor Bohumil Kafka.
Drawing/ Caricature by Hugo Boettinger (Dr.Desiderius). Published in the book:
Hugo Böttinger (Dr. Desiderius): Karrikatury, Praha - J.Otto - 1910.