Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fractured perspectives

The first person to incorporate elements of Cubism in book illustration was probably Jean-Émile Laboureur, but others, especially in the Jazz Age, saw value in the fractured perspectives of Cubism, and also in its elements of repetition and modernity. One of these was Chas Laborde (1886-1941), who was born in Buenos Aires to French parents. One of the most brilliant illustrators of the 1920s and 30s, Laborde had been gassed in the trenches in WWI. According to his friend, the author Pierre Mac Orlan, Chas Laborde died of grief on seeing the conquering German Army march past on the Place d'Étoile in 1941. Laborde and Mac Orlan were two more regulars at the salon of Jean-Gabriel Daragnès, and the etchings below, done in 1926 for an edition of Juliette au pays des hommes by Jean Giraudoux, were printed by Roger Lacourière on Rives laid paper. 317 copies were printed, coloured à la poupée, plus 50 suites in black-and-white.

Chas Laborde, Cubist portrait
Etching, 1926

Chas Laborde, Bicyclists
Etching, 1926

Chas Laborde, Travelling by train
Etching, 1926

Chas Laborde, Juliette
Etching, 1926


Ravilious and Bawden Blog said...

These are so great - thanks for sharing Neil. I would really like to read more about French 1920s and 30s private press illustrators and publishers; can you recommend any books that provide a good overview?

Jane said...

The folk singer Dave von Ronk said (early 1960s) that "all the purists are in the audience." In the context of 'isms', I think that means that they often mean more to critics than to anyone else. That's what I thought while looking at "The Bicyclists" here. I love it! But it could as easily be included in a display of Art Deco as well as Cubism, and why not?

Neil said...

Jane, I wondered about titling this post with something like "When Art Deco collided with Cubism". But actually both were powered by the Machine Age - as the linocuts of the Grosvenor School prove.

Neil said...

Tim, I wish I could give you a simple answer. The truth is, this is a book still waiting to be written. Much of what I have pieced together on this subject I owe to booksellers' catalogues (antiquarian bookselling being an area that offers employment to scholars whose interests fall outside conventional academia). Gordon N. Ray's The Art of the French Illustrated Book, 1700 to 1914 stops just short of this era, and hasn't to my knowledge been continued by anyone else. Of course there are bibliographies. Luc Monod's two-volume Manuel de l'amateur de livres illustres modernes 1875-1975 is an indispensable guide, and there is also Leopold Carteret's five-volume Le Tresor du Bibliophile: Livres illustres modernes, 1875-1945. W. J. Strachan's The Artist and the Book in France is a brilliant overview, but very much focussed on the high-end livre d'artiste. For information on individual artists such as Chas Laborde, you may be lucky (as in his case) and discover a wonderfully informative website, but generally the best information will still be in 3 volumes edited by Pierre Mornand: Trente artistes du livre (1945), Vingt-deux artistes du livre (1948), and Vingt artistes du livre (1950). Laborde is in 22 Artistes du livre alongside Alexeieff, Bofa, Boussingault, Daragnes, Galanis, Laboureur, Dunoyer de Segonzac and others. Now we move on to books I have never seen: Clement-Janin, Essai sur la bibliophilie contemporaine de 1900 a 1928 (2 vols, 1931-32); Raymond Mahe, Bibliographie des livres de luxe, de 1900 a 1928 (3 vols, 1931-39) and Les Artistes Illustrateurs, repertoire des editions de luxe (1943); and Francois Chapon, Le peintre et le livre: l'age d'or du livre illustre en France, 1870-1970 (1987). There is so much to say on all the illustrators and publishers of this extraordinary period - and many of them do have individual monographs - but there is not to my knowledge a single authoritative source that brings all the information together and makes sense of it.