With its natural splendor and key geographic location, France has forever been the destination of marauding hordes—whether they be sword-wielding barbarians or camera-toting tourists. However, these Frenchmen and Frenchwomen have extended their influence outward, beyond the borders of the Hexagone, through art, invention and philosophy. C'etait magnifique, or, as deemed by the aforementioned title, fantastically French.
Fashion Designer / 1883 - 1971
According to renowned French designer Coco Chanel's biography, Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life, many of her designs fall into the category "entente cordiale"—the title of a 1904 political agreement between France and Britain, but, in Chanel's reference, "French chic adapted to English tastes and traditions." She also successfully freed women from restrictive corsets, creating more pragmatic, fashionable silhouettes. Chanel is known for revolutionizing the female shape and producing timeless designs, including the classic quilted-leather chain bag and "little black dress." and not a second goes by that she doesn't realize her impact on the fashion industry. "[My customers] are priveleged characters who are incorporated into our legend," she said in 1935. "For them this is a far greater pleasure than ordering another suit. Legend is the consecration of fame."
Animal Rights Activist, Film Actress, Pin-up / 1934 -
Known for her piled-high blonde curls, perfect pout and brilliantly gratuitous eyeliner application, Brigitte Bardot first graced a magazine cover at the tender age of 15, and later became the archetypal "sex kitten" of the 1950s. Hailing from Paris, Bardot's modeling career soon blossomed into an acting profession, with films like The Night Heaven Fell, The Truth and Viva Maria! Bardot's signature look and pose—an apathetic yet flirtacious stare—have been mimicked for decades.
Photographer, Explorer, Filmmaker, Inventor, Military Leader, Scientist / 1910 - 1997
French ocean explorer and navy officer Jacques Cousteau co-invented the Aqua-Lung, or scuba equipment. For decades, he traveled the world in research vessels. He also invented a process for using television underwater, and hosted an internationally successful TV documentary series, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau (1968–76).
Engineer / 1832 - 1923
More revealing of French sensibilities than of the man himself, Gustave Eiffel's eponymous erection caused a public outcry of indignation, leading to the creation of the Committee of Three Hundred, who protested the "ridiculous tower ... stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal." French indignation eventually gave way to haughty indifference.
Singer / 1915 - 1963
Known as "The Little Sparrow," songstress Edith Piaf became a French icon during World War II, and remains a symbol of French passion and tenacity. Born in Belleville, Paris, to an Italian cafe singer and street acrobat, Piaf was destined for the spotlight. After working as a street performer for several years, she began recording her music in the mid-1930s. Piaf is remembered today for her signature ballad, "La Vie en Rose."
Painter, Sculptor / 1848 - 1903
Born in Paris, Paul Gauguin was a pivotal figure in the Symbolist art movement of the early 1900s. His use of bold colors, exaggerated body proportions and stark contrasts as a painter set him apart from his contemporaries, and helped pave the way for the Primitivism art movement of the West. Gauguin was one of the earliest leaders of French art—which has been praised, historically, for its fearlessness, intimacy and swift progression—and he is considered today as one of history's most famous post-impressionist artists.
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profile name: Coco Chanel profile occupation: Fashion Designer
profile id: 9259496
profile name: Jacques Cousteau profile occupation: Photographer, Explorer, Filmmaker, Inventor, Military Leader, Scientist
profile id: 9285294
profile name: Gustave Eiffel profile occupation: Engineer
profile id: 9198860
profile name: Brigitte Bardot profile occupation: Animal Rights Activist, Film Actress, Pin-up
profile id: 9439893
profile name: Edith Piaf profile occupation: Singer
profile id: 9307741
profile name: Paul Gauguin profile occupation: Painter, Sculptor
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