Florie
Year:
1946
Author:
Colette
1893 to 1954
Artist:
Louis Touchagues
1893 to 1974
Publisher:
Éditions de la Joie de vivre

When two stories by Colette first appeared in print in 1946, they were already seven years old: both had been written just before World War II. The first of these stories takes place in the world Colette knew so well from her own experience: the theatre, the revue. Florie, a veteran of thirty years, falls in love with a juggler many years her junior, but their love fails to survive. Not because the young man doesn't answer her feelings for him- because he does. Not because the age difference raises too many eyebrows- that is no problem. The problem is that he neglected his work as a result of his infatuation. Colette allows her own sense of discipline to resound in Florie's: work comes before all else, and Florie breaks off the relationship.

Colette herself worked hard all her life. At first- under pressure from her first husband- on a long series of popular novels about the romantic life of the adolescent Claudine, and later- after her divorce - as an actress. She even performed as a pantomime dancer in the famous nightclub Moulin Rouge, a performance that led to police intervention due to her lesbian behaviour. These lesbian adventures were in part the result of machinations on the part of her husband Henri Gauthier-Villars (known as Willy), who took pleasure in witnessing such scenes. Colette often became involved in provocative and unusual situations: during her second marriage to Henri de Jouvenal, for instance, she took his son Bertrand as her lover. Hers was a life full of memories, which she didn't always document believably later in life.

Sensuality and aging of the body

Colette documented the sensuality of women and the aging of the body for eternity. The second, short story in this 'edition originale' (first edition) deals with the rivalry between two women, the friends Clara and Antoinette, only one of whom could win. At stake were the favours of a man: Antoinette is victorious and goes travelling, after which Clara grows bored. It is completely unimportant that she fails to win over the man, but the fact that she now must miss the stimulating sense of rivalry with her friend makes her deeply sad.

Florie was published by the Éditions de la Joie de vivre in 1946. Colette never referred to it in her correspondence from that period. The edition contains ten etchings by Louis Touchagues. Touchagues hailed from the Rhône area, and after studying in Lyon, he started to train as a draughtsman, did an internship with an architect, and learned how to design decorations and fabrics, which he would produce for many plays and operas. He debuted as an illustrator on an exhibition initiated by Gus Bofa, focusing on deluxe and semi-deluxe books. His style was defined by a certain form of abstraction and black-and-white contrasts, inspired by various artists such as Watteau, Frogonard and Toulouse Lautrec. He also produced portraits of prominent Parisians.

No admission

Touchagues received the Légion d'honneur in 1948, an award that Colette had already received in 1920 (even becoming 'grand officier' in 1953). But another honour escaped her. Although she was made a member and even president of the Académie Goncourt in 1945, and had previously- in 1935- joined the Académie royale de Belgique, she was not admitted to the Académie française because she was a woman. France would have to wait for any woman to be admitted to that group until 1980, when Marguerite Yourcenar was granted membership. Just as she documented women's aging process, the photographers and artists documented Colette as she grew older. Whoever looks at the Album Pleïade- that unmatched iconographic series from publisher Gallimard- will see her changing from a good little girl into a seductive woman with flowers in her pinned-up hair, and from a scantily clad stage phenomenon into a grand old lady with a sharp look under a fluffy and impressive hairdo.

Bibliographical description

Description: Florie / Colette ; eaux-fortes de Louis Touchagues. - Cap d'Antibes : Éditions de la Joie de vivre, 1946. - [55] p. : ill. ; 32 cm
Printer: Audin (Lyon)
Edition: 950 copies
This copy: Number 460 of 930 on Johannot
Bibliography: In liefde verzameld-201 ; Monod 3005
Shelfnumber: Koopm A 578

References

  • Colette, Oeuvres, IV. Paris, Gallimard, 2001. (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade; 481)
  • Hortense Dufour, Colette la vagabonde assise. Monaco, Rocher, 2000
  • Nicole Ferrier-Caverivière, Colette l’authentique. Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1997
  • Adele King, French women novelists: Defining a female style. Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1989
  • Claude Pichois, Vincenette Pichois, Album Colette. Paris, Gallimard, 1984

Etching by Louis Touchagues (p. [9])
Etching by Louis Touchagues (p. [9])
Etching by Louis Touchagues (p. [25])
Etching by Louis Touchagues (p. [25])
Etching by Louis Touchagues (p. [36])
Etching by Louis Touchagues (p. [36])