Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ex-pats on the razzle

Emeric Timar, The American Girl

The writer Henry Miller immortalised Bohemian ex-pat life in Paris in his scabrous novel-memoir Tropic of Cancer. Another ex-pat in Paris at the time was the Hungarian artist Emeric Timar (1898-1950). Anyone who has visited the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, California, will have seen copies of Timar’s marvellously energetic Expressionist lithographs inspired by Miller’s book on display there. They were made in 1949. Miller reportedly disliked them, perhaps because for the title page vignette Timar drew Miller with a penis for a nose. When I bought a suite of Timar’s lithographs, it came with three original watercolours and two drawings relating to the project. The drawings have a Surrealist edge: one shows an anthropomorphic Parisian pissoir, while the other shows a headless, one-armed, one-legged, pregnant streetwalker, reflecting an encounter with a pregnant woman of the streets which prompts Miller to reflect that, in Paris, as soon as a woman loses an incisor, an eye, or a leg, she becomes a prostitute.

Emeric Timar, Pissoir
ink drawing

Whether Timar and Miller knew each other in 1930s Paris is unclear; Timar moved to Paris in 1925, becoming a student and protégé of Jacques Villon (the brother of Marcel Duchamp and Suzanne Roger). Miller’s closest artistic ally in Paris was the photographer Brassaï, another Hungarian émigré, so it seems likely their paths would have crossed. Another Paris friend of Miller’s was the American painter John Nichols (1899-1963), satirised in Tropic of Cancer as Mark Swift, and depicted with a deliberately repulsive nude in Timar's leering lithograph The Painting.

Emeric Timar, The Painting

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