When Œdipe was published in 1931, André Gide was already in his sixties. He slowly started to make up the balance of his body of work. Gide spent a long time contemplating the life of Theseus, the Greek mythological figure. The maturation process of this symbolic autobiography – a quest for identity and wisdom – took up over ten years of his life; he finished Thésée on 21 May 1944.
Abram Krol: from car to burin
This deluxe edition of Gide's tale of Thésée was enlivened by 24 colour wood engravings by painter and engraver Abram (Abraham) Krol, who was originally Polish, with a Hasidic-Jewish background. He left for France in 1938 to study civil engineering, but then joined the Foreign Legion just before World War II, where he worked asa vehicle mechanic. From 1943 onward, Krol took his first steps into the world of fine arts; he applied to the École des Beaux-Arts in Avignon and made frequent visits to museums, for education as well as pleasure. Vincent van Gogh's paintings especially impressed him. Some time later he entered an apprenticeship with engraver Joseph Hecht. Over the course of the following years, he illustrated innumerable book editions by the likes of Oscar Wilde and Paul Valéry. Thanks to his technical background, Krol proved to be especially adept at using the burin. He compared the engraving needle to a car:'The brakes in a car must be more powerful than the engine in order to avoid accidents. The same thing applies to the burin. It takes more effort to hold it back than it does to move it forward. The burin must be controlled both at the physical and at the metaphysical level.'
Krol produced mainly copper engravings, but also wood engravings (as in Thésée), for which heused a gouge instead of a burin. They are portraits, representations of animals, or illustrations of Jewish themes. His wood engravings illustrate a clear development from coarse, thick and angular line drawings in uncomplicated compositions to the refined, elegant interplay of lines and complex, expressive illustrations. The colour wood engravings from Thésée required four blocks each: one for each of the three different colours, and one for black. The style of these engravings appears to be inspired by the black figures featured in Attic pottery. Both the characteristic perspective and the black colour of the images on these Grecian vases return in Krol's wood engravings. However, he did not copy the dark-red colour of the Attic style. Instead, he chose marine blue as the predominant colour. The blackness of the engravings connects to the deep-black impression made by the text, set in a 24-point Bodoni typeface. This edition of Thésée was published by Krol himself. The copy in the Koopman Collection is one of 23 deluxe copies printed on BFK Rives (Blanchet Frères Kléber), with a suite of the illustrations printed in black on Japanese paper.
|Description:||Thésée / André Gide ; 24 bois de Krol ; présenté par Sylvio Samama.- Paris : Krol, 1963.-  p., ill., 26×34 cm.|
|Printer:||Pierre Daynac (Poitiers) (text)
A. Krol (Paris) (wood engravings)
|This copy:||Number III of 23 on BFK Rives, with a suite of the illustrations on Japanese paper|
|Note:||Signed by Krol|
|Bibliography:||Bénézit 8-53 ; Monod 5368 ; Prout II-63-03 ; Strachan 335|
|Shelf-mark:||Koopm F 12|
- Béatrix Beck, Krol. Genève, Pierre Cailler, 1958
- Pierre Caillier, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre gravé de Abram Krol; I: 1948-1957. Genève, Editions Pierre Cailler, 1969
- 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
- Pierre Lepape, André Gide, le messager: Biographie. Paris, Seuil, 1997
- Zvih Lévy, 'André Gide entre Œdipe et Thésée', in: French studies, 44 (1990), 1 (Jan), p. 34-46
- Patrick Pollard, 'The Sources of André Gide's 'Thésée'', in: The modern language review, 65 (1970), 2 (Apr), p. 290-297
- W.J. Strachan, The artist and the book in France: The 20th century livre d'artiste. London, Owen, 1969
Titel page with publisher's emblem by Abram Krol
Wood-engraved initial (p. 11)
Colour wood engraving by Abram Krol (p. 27)
Colour wood engraving by Abram Krol (p. 39)
First signed illustration from the suite on Japanese paper