Ambroise Vollard was the first one to make a name for himself around the fin de siècle by publishing classical texts that were illustrated by distinctive contemporary artists. Sixty years later, publisher Philippe Lebaud of the Club du Livre attempted to follow in his footsteps with the series 'Gravure contemporaine'. Acccording to the elaborate prospectus, this series aspired to provide a cross-section – after Vollard's successful formula – of modern graphic art forms, and – in order to please the bibliophiles even more – to represent the current state of the art of bookbinding. The book was actually bound, but there is no mention in it of the bookbinder's name.
For the second volume of 'Gravure contemporaine', Lebaud asked Russian-born Alexandre Alexeïeff to illustrate the stories by nineteenth-century German author Hoffmann (translated into French by Clara Malraux). Alexeïeff was by that time already an accomplished book illustrator, but he was also actively involved in experimental cinema. Together with the American Claire Parker, he worked on a special technique for animated films. A number of his film advertisements are still famous among film circles.
Alexeïeff's book illustrations were characterised by their technical ingenuity. For instance, the Russian illustrator developed a special way of engraving in the 1930s that combined woodcutting with copper engraving. For Hoffmann's frightful Contes, Alexeïeff drew nocturnal scenes, foreboding shadows and suspicious puffs of fog in subtle shades of grey. In his foreword to this edition, André Billy of the Académie Goncourt stated: 'From this point on, Hoffmann will be for me, for us, the writer who was illustrated by Alexeïeff.'
|Description:||Contes / Hoffmann ; eaux-fortes originales d'Alexandre Alexeïeff ; [trad. originale de Clara Malraux]. - Paris : Club du Livre, .- 216 p. : ill. ; 35 cm. – (Gravure contemporaine ; 2)|
|Printer:||Pierre Bouchet (text)
J.J.J. Rigal (Paris) (etchings)
|This copy:||Number 138 of 375 on Rives|
|Bibliography:||Bénézit 1-190 ; Monod 6054|
|Shelf-mark:||Koopm K 297|
- Pierre Mornand, Vingt-deux artistes du livre. Paris, Le courrier graphique, 1948