Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes' twenty concise, cryptic poems in Cryptogrammes do not need to be solved as in a cryptogram. They do however lead one to reflect on the many associations they invite. Grand themes such as Life, Death, Being and the Void are all featured herein, strengthened by any number of mythical and Biblical allusions.
Provocateur and painter by profession
In 1904, Ribemont-Dessaignes met one of the prominent figures of Dadaism, Francis Picabia, who always refused to let himself be pigeonholed. He became a role model to Ribemont-Dessaignes, who occupied himself with dramaturgy after their first meeting, started writing poems and began composing. He also became a provocateur who dealt with themes like cruelty and violence in his poetry.
At the age of sixteen, Ribemont-Dessaignes had already decided to dedicate his life to the art of painting. He was admitted to the Académie Julian, which was a popular private art academy in Paris around 1900. He was trained to become a professional painter. But a crisis he experienced in 1913 made him turn his back on art completely. Painting had lost all of its meaning for him. He would pick up his brush again six years later, and Picabia would once again figure as a source of inspiration. Directly after returning from the United States, he showed Ribemont-Dessaignes his typically Dadaist 'dessins mécanomorphes', which combined text fragments with drawings. Picabia's innovative drawings affected Ribemont-Dessaignes deeply.
Pierre Chave was the publisher of Cryptogrammes: cahier no. 1, and also published Cryptogrammes II. Together with his wife, he continued his work at the Galerie Alphonse Chave, which had been founded in 1947 by an art-loving relative in the small town of Vence in the south of France. Besides his work as a gallery owner he published works by and about Dadaist and surrealist artists such as Henri Michaux, Fred Deux, Max Ernst and Jacques Prévert.
Iris colours on Japanese paper
Chave's edition is rather unique. It is number VIII of 10 on Japanese iris paper with a mother-of-pearl gloss, a soft texture and clearly visible paper fibres. The twenty lithographs in this edition each have their own gradual dissipation of colour. This shows Ribbemont-Dessaignes' predilection for Japanese aquarelles, which also make frequent use of flowing iris colours. The drawings from Cryptogrammes have a minimalist, unspecific character that seems to resemble impressionism's empty landscapes. At first glance, they do not seem to be all that remarkable, but closer observation will yield strange, poetic images in a theatrical setting: an eye in a moon, looking down upon a cricket; a heart on rocks with butterflies perched upon it; a head as a flower pot and tree trunks that resemble women or chopped-off limbs.
|Description:||Cryptogrammes : cahier no. 1 / Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes. – Vence: Pierre Chave, 1968. -  p. : ill. ; 29 cm|
|Printer:||Pierre Chave (Vence)|
|This copy:||Nummer VIII of 10 on Japon nacré|
|Note:||Signed by the author-artist|
|Note:||With a suite of five signed lithographs and three signed original drawings.|
|Shelf-mark:||Koopm K 328|
- Franck Jotterand, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes. Paris, Seghers, 1966
- Victoria Nes Kirby, 'Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes', in: The drama review, 16 (1972), 1 (march), p. 104-109
- Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, Pierre Chave présente un hommage à G. R. D. Vence, Galerie Alphonse Chave, 1975