Éluard and Léger met each other right after World War II. Beyond their political involvement – they were both members of the communist party – they shared their pursuit of sincerity. This nucleus of their friendship also found artistic expression: in 1947 Léger painted Éluard's portrait. Éluard in turn wrote the poems Les constructeurs and A Fernand Léger for Léger. Then, in 1953, Léger illustrated Éluard's concertina book Liberté, j'écris ton nom.
The long poem Liberté, j'écris ton nom was originally titled simply Liberté. It was the first poem in the collection Poésie et vérité (1942). Éluard wrote it in the summer of 1941 and called it a poem for a special occasion ('poème de circonstance') because it gave expression to the contemporary feeling of hope in the battle for freedom. The poem became exceptionally popular. The word 'Liberté' and the recurring line of verse 'j'écris ton nom' generated so much excitement and enthusiasm that the R.A.F. – the British Royal Air Force – distributed thousands of copies across all of France.
The artworks by Fernand Léger – the son of a cattle merchant – had to be accessible to everyone, but especially to the working class, which usually had noexperience ofthe art world. Much of his work from around World War II therefore exhibits a characteristic of solidarity and social consciousness. These worksare similar to politically inflected advertising banners on which slogans are displayed in bright colours. And yet Léger developed a highly personal style after flirting briefly with Cubism and Futurism.
The generously applied colours in Léger's circus-like compositions govern the entire work. In Liberté, j'écris ton nom, the colours seem to be celebrating some event. The concertina bookedition is reminiscent of a deluxe brochure that is handed out during a circus parade for freedom. This 'poème-objet' was printed with the pochoir technique. Paul Éluard's face can be recognized on the front, resemblinga portrait painted by Léger in 1947.
|Description:||Liberté, j'écris ton nom / Paul Éluard ; [illustrations de Fernand Léger] – Paris : Seghers, 1953 – Concertina book. : ill. ; 33 cm|
|Printer:||Union à Paris (text)
Albert Jon (illustrations)
|This copy:||Number 197 of 200 on Auvergne Richard de Bas.|
|Bibliography:||Bénézit 8-441 ; Monod 4214|
|Shelf-mark:||Koopm E 65|
- Georges Bauquier, Fernand Léger: vivre dans le vrai. Paris, Maeght, 1987
- 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
- Peter De Francia, Fernand Léger. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1983
- Paul Éluard, Œuvres Complètes. Paris, Gallimard, 1968
- Annick Lionel-Marie, Paul Éluard et ses amis peintres, 1895-1952. Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1982