Spring, 1942. A young war correspondent sits on a park bench in Valence, a town in unoccupied France. He’s been asked to deliver a confidential document into the hands of a contact in front of the town’s old Victorian bandstand. The young man’s name is Raymond Peynet, and to pass the time while he waits he whips out his sketchbook. He starts to draw: a young, long-haired violinist playing alone on a step of the bandstand, while a young girl listens spellbound.
Peynet’s editor, Max Favalelli, named the boy and girl “Les Amoureux de Peynet” and published this first drawing in the French review Ric et Rac just as the second world war was coming to an end. And the rest is history. Peynet drew more pictures, and his Lovers grew in popularity during the 1950s, appearing everywhere, in newspapers, in magazines such as Vogue (which is where I came across the images in this post), on advertising posters, record covers, wine and champagne labels, porcelain and glass. Inspired by an interest in designing stage sets and costumes for the theatre, Peynet produced a series of over 200 dolls of his lovers in a variety of costumes, which sold in their millions. When the British Queen Elizabeth II made her first official visit to France in 1957, she was presented with a set of Peynet dolls as a gift for her young daughter Princess Anne.
Peynet’s lovers travelled around the world. In Japan, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in the East in 1995, a life-size bronze statue of them was unveiled at Hiroshima; the theme was Love and Peace. There are four museums worldwide
devoted to Peynet in some pretty glamorous locations: two in France – one in Antibes and the other in the Auvergne – as well as two in Japan.
Having only “discovered” Peynet last week, I thought a post on his lovers would be appropriate for Valentine’s Day. Rather than simply being pretty, his drawings have a quirky kind of whimsy. There are surreal touches that mean you find yourself looking at them twice, such as the bouquet in the picture below.
Have a quirky Valentine’s Day! :)