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Illustrations of Dreams- Interview with Manon Boudoir

It is my pleasure to introduce Julie, the talented artist behind ManonBoudoir – a beautiful shop consisting of whimsical illustrations which centre around the fictional character of Manon dreamed up from Antoine Francois Prevost’s novel Manon Lescaut (1731).

The illustrations are reminiscent of a Parisian daydream, plucked from the court of Versailles, Julie depicts Manon in an array of illustrious scenarios, which range from dreamy scenes nestled by the Eiffel Tower, ballerinas in their delicate tutus, decadent desserts from Laduree, and so much more! 

Julie’s beautiful designs are transportative and she has even created pieces which are inspired by famous paintings such as Fragonard’s The Swing and Love Letter

Julie’s paintings consist of a soft, water-colour palette, with shades of pink, blue, gold, green and lilac – gently outlined in black ink, featuring ornate details such as ribbons, ruffles and rosebuds. I was lucky enough to ask Julie a few questions about her artwork and inspiration for her creations.

Picture credit: Sophie Jones

When and how did you begin creating your beautiful illustrations – did you attend an art school to establish your technique? 

I began creating my illustrations several years ago when my husband and I moved to Saint-Petersburg. I was absolutely mesmerized by its history and architecture, the beauty of its gardens and the grandeur of its palaces. I spent days at the Hermitage museum, nights at the Mariinsky and the Mikhailovsky Theatre, the city has become my constant inspiration. I didn’t attend any art school and learnt everything by trial and error. I wouldn’t say it was a cloudless journey but it was my choice and looking back I wouldn’t change a thing since working by myself gave me complete artistic freedom.

Julie’s homage to Fragonard’s The Swing
Picture credit: Sophie Jones

I have always admired the way you look at classic pieces of art, like Frangord’s The Swing, and re-create them in your own artistic style. Do you have particular paintings or artists you look to for inspiration?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved art and art history. My mother used to bring me these magazines about artists and I spent hours reading about their lives and techniques. So when it comes to artists and paintings I admire and look to for inspiration, my tastes are extremely eclectic. I love the French art of the 18th century and the work of Fragonard, Watteau, Boucher and VigéeLe Brun. I’m also a huge fan of 19th-century art and the Belle Epoque (period between 1871 and 1914. ed.) and find a lot of inspiration in the paintings of Manet, Degas, Beraud, Morisot and Helleux. My other passion is the fine art of pochoir: the work of Paul Iribe and Georges Lepape, George Barbier and Umberto Brunelleschi really mesmerize me with its attention to detail and refined artistry.

Julie’s homage to Fragonard’s The Love Letter
Picture credit: Sophie Jones

Do you have any books or films which you recommend which are inspired by or embody the Parisian elements you capture in your artwork?

Some of the films that embody the Parisian spirit for me are Marie Antoinette (2006), Love in the Afternoon (1957), Gigi (1958), Midnight in Paris (2011), La Traviata (1983) and Dangerous Liaisons (1988). They are all different in mood and style, but never fail to transport me to Paris. As for the books, a few of my all-time favourites that I enjoy re-reading are La Dame Aux Camelias (The Lady of The Camellias), Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons), Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut (The story of the Chevalier des Grieux and of Manon Lescaut) the main heroine of the latter was an inspiration behind the character I created and the name of my shop.

Favourite spots to visit in Paris?

There are so many! Besides the Louvre, Musee D’Orsay and other must-see landmarks of the City of Lights, I would name Musée Jacquemart-André, Musée Nissim de Camondo, Musée Cognacq-Jay, Palais Galliera, Musée Rodin, Musée Carnavalet and Musée de la Vie Romantique. My favorite Parisian cafes to enjoy a French pastry are Café Pouchkine, Ladurée on the Champs Élysées, Nina’s Marie-Antoinette, Stohrer and Angelina’s Tea Room. Some of my favorite Parisian boutiques are Maison Fifi Chachnil and Chantal Thomass for the ultra feminine attire, lingerie and accessories, Caron, Rose Desgranges and Guerlain – for beauty accessories and perfumes, and L’Officine Universelle Buly and Cire Trudon for exquisite home fragrances and decor.

Picture credit: Sophie Jones

What is your favourite thing about creating your works in watercolour? Do they offer something unique which you cannot achieve, in a medium like acrylics? 

I happened to work with watercolour on accident. One day I just came across a pack of watercolours in my drawers and decided to give it a try. I loved the delicacy and versatility of this medium. There is both a charm and a challenge in how unpredictable it can be. Also compared to the oil paint, it’s much less expensive and way more portable which makes it a great medium for beginners.

Picture of the artist
Picture credit: Instagram

Where are your favourite places to shop for your beautiful Parisian, Old Hollywood inspired wardrobe?

I love supporting small businesses and when shopping for a vintage-inspired wardrobe certainly prefer quality over quantity even though it might be pretty challenging. You have to be extremely patient when building a well-curated wardrobe because most of the pieces are rather expensive. My wardrobe is still a work in progress but I absolutely adore and treasure every piece I managed to get so far. Some of my favourite garments and accessories come from Ginger Jackie Tailorshop and Maison Fifi Chachnil.

Do you have a favourite painting which you have created? 

One of my favourite paintings I created is probably ‘Petite Ballerina’ as it incorporates my love of classical ballet and is inspired by one of my favorite Manet’s paintings, ‘Nana’. I also love the combination of baby blue and pink hues as well as the little details on her vanity. I’m also happy with the peach and pink colour palette of my last works: ‘la Plus Belle Rose du Jardin’ and ‘The Swing’ and the details on the ‘Retail therapy’ which I created during the first lockdown after rewatching Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette for what it seems like a hundred times.

Picture credit: Sophie Jones

What are your favourite ballets and operas to see? 

My favourite ballets are The Lady of the Camellias and Manon, Giselle and Chopiniana, The Legend of Love and The Jewels. As for the opera, I am a huge admirer of Giacomo Puccini and adore almost every masterpiece he created: Tosca, La Boheme, Madama Butterfly and Turandot always make my heart sing.

Are there any places or buildings in Russia which provide you with the most inspiration for your pieces?

Places that always provide me with inspiration in Russia are The Winter Palace housing the marvellous collection of the Hermitage Museum, and the splendid Imperial residences like Catherine Palace, Pavlovsk, Peterhof and Alexandria. What I particularly admire about the latter is the perfect harmony of nature and man-made beauty. The history there is almost tangible and the atmosphere is absolutely magical.

Where to find Julie: 

Her Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ManonBoudoir 

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/manonboudoir 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/manonboudoir/