Monday, September 28, 2009


A French Photographer’s Dream World:
The Normandy of writer Jules Amedee Barbey d’Aurevilly

Paris-based Vincent Thibert is a superbly talented and original photographer who creates dreamy, memorable photographs of interiors, people and places.

I’ve known Vincent since we worked together on my best-selling Taschen book, ‘Seaside Interiors’, published about eight years ago.

Vincent photographed a poetic house on the island of Goree, off the coast of Senegal for the book. His beautiful images and his artul compositions added to the international success of the book.

Now I’m bringing you a dramatic new photographic essay by Vincent, one of his very best.

It’s an evocation of the wild and rocky country around Cotentin in Normandy, land of the 19th-century French author, Jules-Amedee Barbey d’Aurevilly. The photographs are Vincent’s movie, in effect, a dreamscape of Barbey’s life, his characters, his surreal fiction, and his still-in-print novels.

Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly

Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly (November 2, 1808 – April 23, 1889), was a French fantaisist, novelist and short story writer. He specialized in gothic stories, and ghostly and mysterious tales that reveal hidden motivation and hinted evil bordering (but never crossing into) the supernatural. He had a decisive influence on writers such as Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Henry James and Proust.

Barbey d’Aurevilly was born in Normandy. From 1852 he became an influential literary critic at the Bonapartist paper Le Pays, effectively promoting Stendhal and Flaubert.

Barbey was a dreamer with an exquisite sense of refinement. Barbey d’Aurevilly was also known as the creator of his own image, adopting a gilded aristocratic aura and hinting at a mysterious noble past, though his parentage was provincial bourgeois nobility.

Barbey d’Aurevilly’s best-known collection is The She-Devils, which includes the cult classic Happiness in Crime and is still in print from Dedalus Books. Most recently his Une vieille maîtresse (An Elderly Mistress, 1851) was adapted to cinema by French director Catherine Breillat: its English title is The Last Mistress.

While a resident of Paris, he spent his autumns in Normandy, where Vincent Thibert’s evocative photographs were shot. It’s a moody green land with ancient castles, rugged coastlines, ghosts, and lots of rain.

‘Rain is the cosmetic of my peninsula,” said the dandy-ish Barbey.

He remained throughout his life proudly Norman in spirit and style. Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly died in Paris and was buried in the Montparnasse cemetery. In 1926 his remains were transferred to the churchyard in Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte.

Photographs above: It is on the wild windswept peninsula of Cotentin that Thibert created his homage to Barbey. Among his Normandy locations were the fortress Chateau d’Olondes, the Chateau des Ravalet- Tourlaville near Cherbourg, and the Chateau d l’Isle-Marie. He also photographed the landscapes of Le Cap de Cartaret, and the 18th-century Hotel de Beaumont in Valognes on the Cotentin peninsula.

Vincent Thibert was born in Paris on July 9, 1959. He studied painting and drawing at l’Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts Decoratifs. For the last 24 years he has been shooting editorial photography, mostly for interiors and design publications including Architectural Digest and Elle Décor.

All photographs by French photographer, Vincent Thibert, They were first published in Cote Ouest in November 2008.


P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

DDS,What an evocative post.Photographer,
novelist, intrigue, pictures. You are bringing a whole new world of original photographs from the great photographers to us- Many thanks.The single light in the chateau window is beautiful and the alcoved bed(wow)-More of that room please. GT

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Thank you. Yes...that alcoved bed. Isn't it delicious and divine.
I love also that he left the bed unmade in that shot--just a jumble and crumple of linen.
Makes me want to go to Normandy right now and tromp through the hills and green fields and chateaux.


The hand painting on the alcoved bed is magnificent. I will be using it for decorative painting inspiration... thank you!


I love how the shadows are fundamental part in his photographs. His images are so memorable and they determinately create a sophisticated sense of serenity.

Trouvais said...

What emotive photographs...hard to believe they were the environs of that thin lipped, dour, imperious man. I'm sure his bed was made up at the crack of dawn...with a penny bounce to prove it. Certainly he didn't sleep in that alcove bed, or lit a la polonaise. The game room with its curling wisp of smoke...I seem him there. Thank you for the lovely cache of wonder photos. Trish

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Hello, to my friends in Canada!
I am so pleased you love this post and the poetic photography of Vincent.
When Vincent and I were discussing his work and a potential post--he sent me the bed shot with the rumpled white linen. It captured my attention and I had to publish the story. So pleased to hear it is a design inspiration.
I love the work her has done here--and I have received emails from his French friends that they love it, too.
Stay in touch. I love to hear from you.
fondest, DIANE

Laura said...

These photos are all just so compelling. I love that he's taken photos in gloomy weather, it just somehow suits the home somehow.

DHD Design Studio said...

We are going through our seasonal loss of light in northern France which always makes me a bit melancholy. This essay is very moving with exquisite images, and so beautifully written. Many thanks