Livres du poètes

Beginning with Voir Nicolas de Stael in 1953, the French poet Pierre Lecuire (born 1922) created and published over 30 books in collaboration with visual artists. Number six was the spectacular Cortège (Procession), with 25 designs from papiers collés (paper cutouts) by Andre Lanskoy (1902-1976) and pochoir color by Maurice Beaufumé (Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2003-0040F).

Lecuire insisted that he was not creating livres d’artistes (artist’s books) or livres de peintres (painter’s books) but livres du poètes or poet’s books. He said, “I make poets’ books with painters.”

He took control over all aspects of the production of his books, including paper, font, and the medium of the images. It was Lecuire, for instance, who suggested to the Russian-born artist Andre Lanskoy that he work in papiers collés or cut paper, similar to what Henri Matisse (1869-1954) used when creating is 1947 masterpiece Jazz. While Matisse worked with the pochoir studio of Edmond Variel to be sure the color was exact, Lecuire work with the studio of Beaufumé to do the same.

cortege5                    cortege4

Beaufumé’s studio began in the 1930s when he colored, among other things, a number of books for Francis Meynell and the Limited Editions Club, including several volumes of The Comedies, Histories & Tragedies of William Shakespeare (1939-1940). But in 1940, the artist was drafted and the printing and coloring of the series was moved to New York.

Printed in a huge font by Marthe Fequet and Pierre Baudier, the text of Cortège begins: [rough translation] “This book is a procession. It has its colors, action and animation. It blazes, it proclaims one knows not which passion, which justice; it flows like the course of a navigation….”


See also: Henry Bouillier and Astrid Ivask, “Pierre Lecuire or the Poem in Majesty,” World Literature Today 62, no. 1 (Winter 1988): 14-22.

See also: Pierre Lecuire (born 1922), Livres de Pierre Lecuire. [Catalogue] Édité … à l’occasion de l’exposition Livres de Pierre Lecuire au Centre national d’art contemporain … du 26 janvier au 12 mars 1973 ([Paris: Centre national d’art contemporain, 1973]). Graphic Arts Collection (GA) NC980 .L37