The pull of Paris

Colonial Australia’s antidote to England
by
October 2021, no. 436
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French Connection: Australia’s cosmopolitan ambitions by Alexis Bergantz

NewSouth, $34.99 pb, 208 pp

The pull of Paris

Colonial Australia’s antidote to England
by
October 2021, no. 436

While France provided a relative trickle of immigrants – the French in Australia numbered only four thousand at the end of the nineteenth century – its influence in Australia was surprisingly pervasive. Some years ago, an exhibition entitled The French Presence in Victoria 1800–1901 drew together an extraordinary range of materials, including French opera libretti and school textbooks printed here, together with original Marseille tiles and sumptuous fabrics. But Alexis Bergantz’s new book, French Connection, is not concerned with the spread, or penetration, of French goods. Rather, it is a careful examination of the idea of France. It is typical of its verve and elegance that the cover captures this nicely: Fragonard’s frilly beauty swings high at the top, a world away from the bottom-left corner, where Frederick McCubbin’s bushman sits Down on His Luck. (Tom Roberts got it in one: his well-known painting of Bourke Street includes the French tricolor, flapping from a shopfront.)

Jim Davidson reviews 'French Connection: Australia’s cosmopolitan ambitions' by Alexis Bergantz

French Connection: Australia’s cosmopolitan ambitions

by Alexis Bergantz

NewSouth, $34.99 pb, 208 pp

Buy this book

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