Fernand Leger – “Arthur Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations, Preface by Henry Miller, Lausanne;Edition des Gaules. Lausanne”


15 original lithographs–of which 6 with original pochoir colors under direction of L. Grosclaude, all on handmade vellum paper, 13 x 10 inches (33 x 25 cms)

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Fifteen (15) original lithographs, of which 6 have pochoir color by Grosclaude under the artist’s supervision, published in a limited edition numbered 239/395, signed by Léger and by Grosclaude on the colophon.

Note (in French):

En feuilles 36 x 27, étui plein papier d’édition numéroté à la mine de plomb, chemise demi parchemin titré or (dos défraîchi). L’un des 275 exemplaires numérotés sur vélin pur chiffon de Lana à Docelles, signé par l’illustrateur et l’éditeur. 15 lithographies originales de Fernand Léger, tirées par Roth & Sauter, dont 6 colorées au pochoir (il en existerait des exemplaires avec 8, 10, 12, 13 ou même 15) et au pinceau “sous la direction de Louis Grosclaude”. Un ouvrage complexe, résultant de nombreux défis et de quelques compromis, dont un copieux compte-rendu historique figure référencé dans le livre de Saphire.On y suit Léger lourdement impliqué dans le processus éditorial, regrettant notamment que les pochoirs recouvre une partie de l’impression lithographique en noir ; pour satisfaire aux exigences de l’artiste, certaines planches seront retouchées au pochoir en noir. La coloration des exemplaires a été faite de concert au pinceau à main levée par une équipe d’artisans (il y avait 4’000 planches à colorer !), ce dont témoigne la variété des teintes et de la touche, de l’épaisseur de la gouache et même des formes (la 35 présente deux variantes complètement différentes). Outre le nombre d’épreuves colorées, certaines de façon très différente par ailleurs, cet ouvrage témoigne d’une diversité de ce qu’on pourrait appeler l’artisanat bibliophiliques.C’est ici le moment de souligner l’important travail d’insertion de textes en typographie manuscrite de l’illustrateur avec vigueur , poésie et cohérence.Sur demande nous disposons également d’un exemplaire en reliure présumée d’éditeur, enrichi de tirages d’essai non coupés des lithographies en noir provenant des archives du tireur Carl Sauter.[Saphire 24-38].


Fernand Léger was born in Argentan, Orne, Lower Normandy, where his father raised cattle; he initially trained as an architect from 1897 to 1899, before moving in 1900 to Paris, where he supported himself as an architectural draftsman. After military service in Versailles, Yvelines, in 1902–1903, he enrolled at the School of Decorative Arts after his application to the École des Beaux-Arts was rejected. He nevertheless attended the Beaux-Arts as a non-enrolled student, spending what he described as “three empty and useless years” studying with Gérôme and others, while also studying at the Académie Julian.

He began to work seriously as a painter only at the age of 25. At this point his work showed the influence of impressionism; most paintings from this period he later destroyed. A new emphasis on drawing and geometry appeared in Léger’s work after he saw the Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne in 1907. In these more typical early works he created a personal form of cubism (known as “tubism”) which he gradually modified into a more figurative, populist style. His boldly simplified treatment of modern subject matter has some regarding his work as a forerunner of pop art.

During World War II Léger lived in the United States. He taught at Yale University, and found inspiration for a new series of paintings in the novel sight of industrial refuse in the landscape. The shock of juxtaposed natural forms and mechanical elements, the “tons of abandoned machines with flowers cropping up from within, and birds perching on top of them” exemplified what he called the “law of contrast”. During his American sojourn, Léger began making paintings in which freely arranged bands of color are juxtaposed with figures and objects outlined in black. Léger credited the neon lights of New York City as the source of this innovation: “I was struck by the neon advertisements flashing all over Broadway. You are there, you talk to someone, and all of a sudden he turns blue. Then the color fades—another one comes and turns him red or yellow.”t

Upon his return to France in 1945, he joined the Communist Party. During this period his work became less abstract, and he produced many monumental figure compositions depicting scenes of popular life featuring acrobats, builders, divers, and country outings. Art historian Charlotta Kotik has written that Léger’s “determination to depict the common man, as well as to create for him, was a result of socialist theories widespread among the avant-garde both before and after World War II. Léger’s social conscience was not that of a fierce Marxist, but of a passionate humanist”. His varied projects included book illustrations, murals, stained-glass windows, mosaics, polychrome ceramic sculptures, and set and costume designs. These illustrations by Légerfor one of Arthur Rimbaud’s most famous and deranged works, “Les Illuminations,” are compelling; the volume is now quite rare.