Today is the 20th anniversary of the death of Serge Gainsbourg. I had almost forgotten that I was living in France when he passed away. I was a student at l’École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Marseille, so it seems incredible that I don’t remember this event more clearly. In fact, by Gainsbourg’s standards the school was not very bohemian, and I must admit that in those days I was largely ignorant of the man and his work.
I’m still no Serge expert, but I have a little appreciation of his music in the context of the Francophone tradition of chanson, something which has fascinated me in the subsequent years. In the last few months the combined forces of Spotify and illustrator Jonathan Edwards have conspired to reveal the breadth of Gainsbourg’s output. As well as being an enormously talented artist, Jonathan is the curator of Draw Serge! – a blog which inspired this portrait. The likeness isn’t great but I think it has a bit of the melancholy I perceive in Serge’s face.
On Twitter today, @feltmistress linked to this Youtube clip. About half a minute in there’s a close-up of Serge which suggests real vulnerability in his vulpine eyes. That’s the side of him I was going for with this second portrait, of a younger Serge.
In remembering Serge Gainsbourg I should thank my friend Pete Hawkins for patiently explaining chanson to me, Jonathan for growing my interest in Gainsbourg’s music and most of all Lucien Ginsburg himself for much inspiration. One day I hope to articulate the inextricable connection I feel between music heard and artwork created, but I’m not there yet. I’ll end this post with a portrait by another artist, Alison Sampson, (who runs the wonderful website Space In Text, another source of inspiration). Alison’s drawing is tiny, only an inch high, and yet it is undoubtedly Serge – quite an achievement.