Perspectives
Year:
1949
Author:
Paul Éluard
1895 to 1952
Artist:
Albert Flocon
1909 to 1994
Publisher:
Maeght

Surrealist Paul Éluard had a great passion for painting and for books. He most loved to see them united in a 'livre d'artiste', or artist's book. Not only did he collaborate with legends such as Picasso, Chagall, Klee and Magritte; they even belonged to his intimate circle of friends, and they produced illustrations for his work. Éluard in turn also 'illustrated' artists' work with his poems, including some lesser-known artists who caught his attention. When Éluard encountered the work of an engraver named Albert Flocon through his publisher, with a request for him to provide his images with poems, he was initially repelled, and he put them away. After some time he happened upon the engravings again in a cardboard folder. The copper engravings now impressed him hugely, upon which he wrote ten short poems for them.

Retreat

Painter, engraver, illustrator and author Albert Flocon was born in Germany under the name of Albert Mentzel. He studied at the Bauhaus in Dessay and worked in a graphics studio in Berlin. He moved to the south of France in 1933, where he continued his work as an artist independently. He was arrested together with his wife and oldest daughter during the occupation in 1944. He survived, but his wife and little daughter were murdered in Auschwitz. Flocon retreated into his artistry, starting to engrave his experiences in highly personal works. Albert Flocon made his debut with the copper engravings from Perspectives in 1949. Flocon had great control over his burin (engraving needle), and excelled especially in his sense of spatial creation. Of the books he wrote about perspective and other topics, collector Louis Koopman owned one: L'univers des livres from 1961.

Mental escape

The edition of Perspectives was printed in 1948, but only started reaching a few bookstores on 15 June 1949 on the occasion of an exhibition organised by publisher Maeght. The engravings in Perspectives have a very sober design. They are graphic representations that are sometimes reminiscent of the work of Dutch artist M.C. Escher. Flocon and Escher did not meet until 1965, at an exhibition in Paris. Escher even called Flocon his first kindred spirit. The 'perspectives' theme is viewed as Flocon's mental escape from his experiences of 1944. The seemingly simple engravings have a mysterious quality to them. They seem to have lost all relation to a concrete reality. Flocon presents an abstract spatial world of graphic shapes and occasional abstract human figures that nevertheless express an idea. The few recognizable elements in Flocon's engravings – a human figure, a hand, a keyhole – contrast with the indefinable spatial perspectives. They are balanced on the borderline between surrealism and metaphysical realism.

Bibliographical description

Description: Perspectives: poèmes sur des gravures d'Albert Flocon / Paul Éluard. - Paris: Maeght, 1949. - [47] p. : ill. ; 33 cm
Printer: Impr. Union (text)
Atelier Georges Visat (Paris) (engravings)
Edition: 200 copies
This copy: Nummer 99 of 150 on Lana
Bibliography: Bénézit 5-524 ; Monod 4224
Shelf-mark: Koopm K 300

References

  • Jean-Charles Gateau, 'Paul Éluard', in: Dictionnaire de poésie de Baudelaire à nos jours. Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 2001, p. 232-238
  • Marcelle Elgrishi-Gautrot, 'Albert Flocon' (dossier). in: Nouvelles de l'estampe 52/53: revue bimestrielle, 1980, p. 17-23
  • Annick Lionel-Marie, Paul Éluard et ses amis peintres, 1895-1952. Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1982
  • Maxime Préaud en Lars Bo, 'Hommage à Albert Flocon (1909-1994)', in: *Nouvelles de l'estampe**138: revue bimestrielle*, 1994, p. 27-28
  • Walter John Strachan, The Artist and the Book in France: the 20th century livre d'artiste. London, Owen, 1969
  • Violaine Vanoyeke, Paul Éluard: Le poète de la liberté. Paris, Julliard, 1995

Illustration by Albert Flocon (facing French titel page)
Illustration by Albert Flocon (facing French titel page)
Illustration by Albert Flocon with poem VIII
Illustration by Albert Flocon with poem VIII
Illustration with poem X by Albert Flocon
Illustration with poem X by Albert Flocon