La garçonne
Year:
1925
Author:
Victor Margueritte
1866 to 1942
Artist:
Kees van Dongen
1877 to 1968
Publisher:
Flammarion

On 12 July 1922, the very day the French senate denied women the right to vote, the avant-garde novel La garçonne by Victor Margueritte was published. It became a huge bestseller- approximately 600,000 copies were sold- and it caused quite an uproar. A year after its publication, more than 150 articles about the novel had been published. In short: the book caused a scandal. The story's main character Monique dresses like a boy, sports a bobbed haircut, smokes cigarettes, uses drugs and has lesbian mistresses. The book was said to be pornographic, and its socio-political subject matter was ill received: equality between men and women. The tumult it raised was so big that Victor Margueritte was cast out by the Légion d'Honneur. He was 'de-knighted'.

Tomboys

The working title of this controversial novel was Toute nue ('Completely nude'), and it is therefore hardly surprising that Kees van Dongen, an artist fascinated by the female body, collaborated on an illustrated version of this work. He used the 'Pochoir' technique for the 28 colour images. This method, which was held in lower esteem as a stencil process ('procédé mécanique') than more traditional printing techniques (often referred to as 'procédés nobles') such as lithography, was chosen consciously by Van Dongen, because it allowed for the creation of sophisticated images and unusual colour progressions. It became a book of Art Deco illustrations. Van Dongen's images of slim, elegant women with short hair and large, almond-shaped eyes perfectly matched the tomboy Margueritte had described. The text and images both represent the archetypal image of women of the 1920s.

The book was printed in November 1925 for publisher Flammarion by Lahure in Paris on Japanese paper (10 copies), on Dutch paper (100 copies) and on Arches (636 copies). The Koopman Collection holds copy 145 on Arches, in a half-vellum binding. The original dust-jacket has been bound into the rear of the book.

Ironically, the year after publication – 1926 – was to hold acclaim for Van Dongen: whereas the author has previously been 'de-knighted', the artist was to receive an honourable award from the Légion d'Honneur. While La garçonne had led to disgrace for Margueritte, for Van Dongen – whose work had been removed from exhibitions because of alleged obscenity – the book coincided with the official recognition of his artistry.

Bibliographical description

Description: La garçonne / Victor Margueritte ; avec 28 hors texte de Van Dongen - [Paris] : Flammarion, 1925 (cop. 1926). - 386 p. : ill. ; 25 cm
Printer: Lahure (Paris) (text)
V. Establie (Paris) (color)
Edition: 778 copies
This copy: Number 145 of 636 on Arches
Bibliography: Bénézit 4-667-670 ; Monod 7765 ; Juffermans-JB4
Shelfnumber: Koopm A 66

References

  • Louis Chaumeil, Van Dongen: L'homme et l'artiste, la vie et l’oeuvre. Genève, Cailler, 1967
  • Jan Juffermans, Kees van Dongen: het grafische werk. Zwolle, Waanders, 2002
  • Partick de Villepin, Victor Margueritte: La vie scandaleuse de l’auteur de la Garçonne. Paris, Bourin, 1991

Title page
Title page

Title page

Page 100 and illustration by Kees van Dongen on facing page
Page 100 and illustration byKees van Dongen on facing page

Page 100 and illustration byKees van Dongen on facing page

Illustration by Kees van Dongen (facing p. 224)
Illustration by Keesvan Dongen (facing p. 224)

Illustration by Keesvan Dongen (facing p. 224)

Colophon
Colophon

Colophon