'One must tend one's garden, wrote Voltaire. I do it my way' - these words from Eugène Ionesco are given extra meaning by the illustrations that he made himself for his essay Le blanc et le noir from 1981. This book mainly includes illustrations of trees and bushes in a naïve, childish style. The trees have faces. The leaves on the trees have eyes, noses and ears. This unusual garden with personified and amorphous plants is depicted by Ionesco in wild black-and-white drawings.
Eugène Ionesco, the son of a French mother and a Romanian father, grew up in France and moved to Romania when he was thirteen. He studied philosophy before moving back to France for good in 1938, where he persued literary studies and English literature, andalso began to write. He developed into one of the most innovative playwrights in all of France: he was the recognised master of Absurdism, and wrote plays such as La cantatrice chauve (1950) - about the sense and nonsense of language and communication – and Le rhinnocéros (1959). In 1970 the author was made a member of the prestigious Académie française.
The emotional effect of colour
Not until he reached old age, around his seventieth year, did Ionesco apply himself to the visual arts. He started painting and drawing at a time when he was suffering from writer's block. In the essay Le blanc et le noir, Ionesco contemplates his own work as a painter. This book deals with the relationship between the black and the white, and the interplay between colours that aren't colours (the absence of all colour, black; and white, the presence of all colours combined). The painter must put himself past his initial fear of the dominance of the black in order to reach the conclusion that these two opposites, black and white, are essentially equal. The emotional effect of colour was frequently the subject of Ionesco's essays. For instance, he wrote a treatise in 1985 about black and red, and how these hostile colours could be tamed by green.
Ionesco wrote the text in 1980, and the drawings were printedlithographically in the same year - also by himself. Not until 1981 did the writer turn to thepublisher Erker, who released the work in 200 numbered copies. TheErker-Verlag, which had its origins in the Bodensee Verlag, is acombination of a bookshop and an art gallery, which has its own lithographic workshop.Jürg Janett and Franz Larese joined forces thus in1958 when they centralizedtheir respective firmsunder one roof inSankt Gallen.
Gallimard published a pocket edition of Ionesco's treatise on black and white in 1981. The copy in the Koopman Collection was signed by Ionesco in pencil, and was provided with a handwritten dedication on the title page on the occasion of a birthday. The individual lithographs are also signed by the author/artist in pencil - it is the work of a double talent.
|Description:||Le blanc et le noir / Eugène Ionesco. - Saint Gall : Erker, 1981. -  p. : ill. ; 34 cm|
|Printer:||Genossenschaftsdruckerei Zürich (text)
Ateliers Erker-Presse (lithographs)
|This copy:||Number 59 of 200 on Offset|
|Bookbinder:||Ateliers Hch. Weber (Winterthur)|
|Note:||Signed by the author and with autograph dedication from the author to Jeny Hotz|
|Shelf-mark:||Koopm K 331|
- Paul van Capelleveen, Sophie Ham, Jordy Joubij, Voices and visions. The Koopman Collection and the Art of the French Book. The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands; Zwolle, Waanders, 2009
- Erker-Presse St. Gallen, die bibliophilen Büchern. Basel, Schwabe, 2008
- Eugene Ionesco, Trouver un peu d'espoir: Fragment d'un traite pour les peintres autodidactes. St Gallen, Erker, 1985
- Marie-Claude Hubert, Eugène Ionesco. Paris, Seuil, 1990
Upper and lower cover of binding executed by Ateliers Hch. Weber
Title page with autograph dedication fromEugène Ionesco to Jeny Hotz
Page 42-43 with drawing by Eugène Ionesco
Drawing by Eugène Ionesco (p. 47)