Bohèmes: Myth, art and reality

By Béa Aaronson

George de La Tour the fortune teller 1630

You’ve all heard of la vie bohème! Maybe through Puccini’s opera La Bohème, or maybe through reading Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Balzac and Zola! The artistic anti-bourgeois way of life, making love amidst canvases, colors and brushes, wine-stained music scores and poems on the floor, happy in a cold attic room, with a meager fire burning in an old poêle, candlelight and a plate of watery soup and bread? A romanticized view of poverty and creativity if there is one! In this lecture, I invite you to meet the first ones, the real ones, les gens du voyage, the itinerant Bohemians, the nomadic Gypsies.

“Bohèmes: Myth, Art and Reality —
the Representation of Gypsies, Gitanos, Tsiganes, the Rom”
Wed, Apr 9, 4:30 and 6:30pm
La Ostra Roja
A Casa Verde Annex
San Jorge 45
Colonia San Antonio
(off Refugio Sur)
130 pesos
121-1026 or

There are many questions. Why and when artists, poets, musicians were called Bohemians in the first place? Who are the Bohemians? Is it the appropriate term? And then what about the Gypsies, the Gitanos, the Tsiganes, the Cingany, the Manouches, the Rom? Who are these people? Where do they come from? How are they perceived and represented?

Art can indeed create myths and stereotypes. This lecture will help dispel the myths and reveal the reality about the Gypsies, erroneously named because there were believed to descend from Egyptians!

Through a vastly documented lecture, numerous art works from the 15th century until today, including Leonardo da Vinci, Georges de la Tour, Caravaggio, Goya, Gainsborough, Courbet, Cézanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, Lautrec, Degas, Picasso, Mueller and less famous others, as well as archival historical photographs, I shall unravel for you the power of art in creating and sustaining myths. I shall reveal the reality about these resilient, awe-inspiring travelers who today still suffer the malevolent blows of prejudice.

From the fortune teller, thief, dirty, to the untouchable stereotyped images created throughout centuries by governments and artists, from the 19th century romanticized and alluring image of the sexual Bohémienne to the persecution of Gypsies during the Holocaust, from the glory days of Django Reinhardt, Manitas de Plata and the merchandizing of the Gypsy image in the 20th century, to the socio-political status of the Rom today, I will attempt to offer you a truthful panoramic understanding of these lovers of freedom and life. This lecture will harmonize together art, cultural, social and political history. Be ready for an emotional journey!


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